IDASL Program increases awareness

October 9, 2015 by Sue Reeves

By Talia Pratte

Image of students in the AT lab

IDASL students meet in the AT lab for a tour.

The Interdisciplinary Disability and Service Learning Program, or IDASL, is a two-semester course inviting students from all majors and levels to learn about the issues people with disabilities face every day. In the weekly class, students watch presentations, listen to guest speakers, and participate in lead discussions. The class is facilitated by Jeanie Peck and Alma Burgess, two CPD employees.

Peck has been working with the program since its inception in 2001 and her favorite part of the class is seeing how far the students have come at the end of the class in May.

The students write three papers in the IDASL class. The preflection essay is written at the beginning of fall semester and two defining moments papers are assigned at the end of the semester. For both facilitators, reading these papers is one of their favorite parts of the class.

“The thing I like to see most,” Peck said, “is where people are at, the beginning of fall semester and where they’re at in the spring and their awareness and understanding of the history of disability.”

For Burgess, “It’s really nice when a student goes, ‘aha! I got it!’”

Another component of the class is learning about advocacy. Fall semester provides background information and an overview of the history of disability law. In spring, the students follow a bill in the state of Utah and advocate for it.

“We do individual advocacy, group advocacy, and legislative advocacy, so they are presented with some skills that they can learn and take into their lives,” Burgess said.

He said that advocacy is important because, “The person themselves will either develop a disability, or a family member or they’ll work with or interact with someone who has a disability.”

Another component of the class is the service-learning aspect. Students have eight locations in which they can perform their service hours:

  • The Assistive Technology (AT) Lab focuses on building, modifying and repairing assistive technology such as wheel chairs, walkers, and scooters.
  • The Child Care Nutrition Program is an extension of the School Lunch Program dedicated to ensuring that adequate nutrition is available to children.
  • Common Ground Outdoor Adventures takes people with disabilities on outdoor excursions such as canoeing, rock climbing, and biking
  • Developmental Skills Laboratory (DSL) provides day training, life skills practice, and helps individuals with severe disabilities to increase their independence.
  • OPTIONS for Independence, a nonresidential Independent Living Center that promotes independence and choices for people with disabilities.
  • Project PEER facilitates the transition out of the public school system for students with cognitive disabilities between 18 and 21.
  • Top Sports provides recreational opportunities for children and youth with disabilities.
  • Up To 3 Program provides services for children under three with disabilities such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech/language therapy, eating and nutrition services, hearing and vision consultation, and specialized instruction for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Kayla Currier is taking the class as part of her graduate assistantship.

“The best part for me,” Currier said, “is being introduced to many agencies and being able to network with different people that provide services.”

Celesti Neilson is another participant in the class. She thinks the class is important because it increases awareness about people with disabilities and their daily lives.

Neilson said, “I think my favorite part is to learn about the people’s disabilities from other perspectives besides mine.”

“It doesn’t matter what your major is, this is a class that would benefit you,” Peck said.

College credit and stipends are available depending on attendance and volunteer hours completed. Click here for more information.


Class offers disability awareness

April 3, 2015 by Sue Reeves

Two students in a classroom.

IDASL students participate in a class exercise designed to let them experience sensory differences.

The Interdisciplinary Disability Awareness and Service Learning (IDASL) Program at the Center for Persons with Disabilities offers USU students opportunities from a variety of disciplines to increase their awareness, knowledge and understanding of people with disabilities and their families across the life span. The interdisciplinary focus can benefit all students as they begin their careers.

The program is currently recruiting students for the 2015-2016 school year. There are stipends available for students who will participate both fall and spring semester in the seminar (Friday afternoons, 1-4 p.m.) and complete additional service learning hours at community agencies that provide activities for children or adults with disabilities. Students are not required to register for course credit to receive a stipend.

Students will participate in seminars and hands on activities with parents of children with disabilities and students or other adults with disabilities.  The instructors and guest lecturers for the program are from several different fields of study.  For more information visit or call Alma Burgess at 797-0253.


CPD collaborates with English department on project

November 11, 2014 by Sue Reeves

Jared Colton

Jared Colton

An assistant professor of English who teaches classes in technical communication is working with Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities to create a series of accessible videos related to the disability experience.

Jared Colton came to Utah State from Clemson University in Fall 2014. His research examines the intersection of social justice and technical communication. A topic that has come up recently has shown a need for research into technical communication and disability studies, Colton said, and to create accessible information in a way that is not only legal, but engaging to people with disabilities.

Colton was at a conference last summer where theories on rhetoric and technical communication were being discussed. One topic in particular—“how terrible closed captions are”—motivated him to develop this collaborative project.

First he contacted USU’s Disability Resource Center, who in turn directed him to Judith Holt, director of the CPD’s Interdisciplinary Training Division.  She suggested that he work with the Interdisciplinary Disability Awareness and Service Learning (IDASL) class, which is housed at the CPD and offered to upper level undergraduate students.

“I felt like, in a weird way, that worked out better,” Colton said. His students—advanced undergraduates in the Studies in Writing for Digital Media class—will turn IDASL lectures into a series of videos that integrate not only closed captions, but the technical communication design principles of plot, clarity, proximity, contrast and repetition.

“We want to try to incorporate knowledge of people with disabilities to produce technical communication, and not as an afterthought,” Colton said.  “As an instructor, I want the students to be engaging in some of those same problems. Some students want to have this ethical motive in their lives. Some don’t. It challenged some, and some have just grabbed it.”

Colton wants to encourage a relationship between his students and the CPD.

“I want to spread the word in whatever way we can,” he said.


URLEND, IDASL trainees attend conference

October 24, 2012 by Sue Reeves

Trainees from two projects with the Center for Persons with Disabilities attended a major conference in Houston, Tex., last week without ever leaving home. The two-day conference, originating from Baylor Medical Center, focused on challenges and supports available to transition youth with significant medical issues from pediatric to adult care, said Dr. Judith Holt, co-director of the Utah Regional Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (URLEND) project. Significant medical issues, Holt said, could include chronic medical conditions such as cystic fibrosis or cardiac problems to developmental issues like autism.

“Attendance at the conference was not required, but the trainees can use the hours toward meeting their overall hour requirement,” Holt said. “It’s an example of the opportunities the trainees have here at the Center for Persons with Disabilities.”

According to Holt, only a few members of the 2012 cohort of 48 trainees attended portions of the conference in the CPD’s distance learning room, but many more viewed it from eight different URLEND sites in five states. Trainees from the CPD’s Interdisciplinary Disability Awareness and Service Learning (IDASL) project also attended.

URLEND trainees participated in the 13th annual conference by invitation, Holt said, and the program was able to utilize a single access code for all of the sites because the trainees were so spread out.

“I was really very impressed with it,” Holt said. “The speakers were excellent. It’s another opportunity for trainees in our programs to participate in high-level conferences on significant topics.”

URLEND trainees from a variety of disciplines are brought together with faculty and families of children with special health care needs to form an interdisciplinary learning cohort. Each long-term trainee participates in didactic (classroom) learning, leadership research, and clinical learning. Disciplines include pediatric medicine, genetics, and dentistry; psychology; social work; nursing; audiology; pediatric audiology; health administration; nutrition; special education; speech and language pathology; occupation therapy; and physical therapy.

IDASL provides opportunities for students, as well as individuals with disabilities and family members of children with disabilities, to become part of interdisciplinary teams. These teams, with faculty mentors, provide services and supports to children with disabilities and their families, as well as adults with disabilities.

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