Understanding Disabilities

Materials in this section have been gathered to provide visitors with a better understanding of the disability movement and assist families in navigating the journey associated with raising a child with disabilities.

Basic Information

Life is a journey. Sometimes the journey follows a carefully laid out map and sometimes it takes us down paths we didn’t even know existed. Whether you’ve found your way to this website by random stumbling or careful searching, we’re glad you’re here. You’ve found a place of welcome, understanding and acceptance. Travel with us awhile – there are items here that can fill your suitcase or help lighten your load. 

Awareness and History

Materials in this section provide an introduction to the world of disabilities through stories and simple resources.

 New to Disability? Web icon web
Center for Parent Information and Resources (CPIR) webpage that provides a quick roadmap for those whose lives have been touched by a child’s disability.

Disability History Museum Web icon web
An online library of images, texts and other artifacts related to disability history. Materials represent all disability categories across the life span and have been collected to expand knowledge and understanding about the history of people with disabilities in the U.S.

Categories of Diverse Disabilities PDF icon .pdf
Explanations of terms often used in special education, disability rights and medical literature to describe various groups of disabilities.

It’s the Person First PDF icon .pdf
Tip sheet describing language that emphasizes who a person is instead of his or her disability.


These materials provide an introduction to the world of special education. Resources to help understand terminology are included.

IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) Web icon web
Center for Parent Information and Resources (CPIR) webpage that provides an overview of the history and content of this important law.

Alphabet Soup: Disability & Special Education Acronyms Web icon web
This list from CPIR provides abbreviations for many terms families often hear.

Telling Classmates about Your Child’s DisabilityPDF icon .pdf
Helpful article with suggestions for helping friends understand your child better.

Going Deeper Link


Going Deeper

Exploring resources in this section will further increase your knowledge and understanding of key disability issues.

Laws, Rights and Legal Issues

The following resources all come from Center for Parent Information and Resources (CPIR). Each one links to a webpage containing explanations and materials related to legislation that impacts individuals with disabilities.  

IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act)  Web icon web
Provides both an overview and detailed information of the history and content of this important law. 

School Inclusion  Web icon web
Contains information and resources related to educating children with and without disabilities in classrooms together. 

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)  Web icon web
Presents summaries of this law with a special section on how its provisions impact the education of students with disabilities.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act  Web icon web
The definition of disability in this legislation is broader than the definition in IDEA and may children with disabilities be eligible for special education and related services. This resource provides some helpful information.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)  Web icon web
This legislation, first passed in 1990, protects the civil rights of people with disabilities. Learn more about it from this collection of resources.

Access for All

Assistive Technology Act  Web icon web
Overview of this legislation, which is aimed at helping people with disabilities participate more fully in education, employment and daily activities. Includes definitions and links to additional resources.

Assistive Technology 101  Web icon web
Overview from the Family Center on Technology and Disability.

Family Information Guides  Web icon web
Links to resources available to help families learn how assistive technology may help a child, including information about assessment and funding.

Family Information Guide to Assistive Technology and Transition Planning  Web icon web
Provided to help students and families plan how to move successfully from school to adult life with continued access to necessary technology aids.  

National Center on Accessible Educational Materials  Web icon Web
Web resource for educators, parents and others interested in learning about and implementing AEM (a component of IDEA) and NIMAS (National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard).

Looking for Answers

Finding information can be overwhelming. This section contains resources that have been collected by people who have supported families through the years and organized into manageable chunks. They can help you dig deeper to uncover answers to your questions.

State Agencies Addressing Disabilities  Web icon web
Explains various types of state agencies and provides guidance in locating resources relevant to particular family needs. 

Wrights Law Topics   Web icon web
A list of topics from this popular website where parents, educators and advocates find accurate, reliable information about special education law and advocacy.

Rare Disorders  Web icon web
Helpful resources related to rare diseases and conditions.

Multiple disabilities  Web icon web
Information to increase understanding about the implications of multiple disabilities, including definitions, resources and tips.

Training Tool Link


Training Tools

This section offers a menu of materials that trainers can use when conducting general disability workshops or trainings. Trainers will also want to contact their state Parent Training and Information Center. These centers are funded by the federal government to educate and support families. They offer local and regional trainings related to various disability topics and are also available to present in other settings. PTI services are available free of charge.

Awareness and History

Disability History Museum Web icon web
Online collection of items related to disability history that contains activities and lesson plans.

Tell Us About Your Child  Document icon .doc
Worksheet to introduce a child with deaf-blindness to other parents; can be adapted for other disabilities

Etiology Research  Document icon .doc
Worksheet for partnering with another family member to explore an unfamiliar diagnosis or condition

History of disability in brief  PDF icon .pdf
Three-page overview of events and attitudes tracing back to ancient times. 

Access and Opportunities: A Guide to Disability Awareness  PDF icon .pdf 
Informational tool to increase understanding of disability issues, clarify myths and facts, and provide tips for social etiquette and positive interactions. 

You Are Not Alone   PDF icon .pdf
Written by a parent to other parents to describe feelings and reactions that go along with finding out their child has a disability.

Disability Etiquette  PDF icon .pdf
Information sheet offering things to keep in mind when interacting with people with disabilities.

Laws, Rights and Legal Issues

Wrights Law Topics  Web icon web
List of topics covered on this popular website where parents, educators and advocates find accurate, reliable information about special education law and advocacy.

State Agencies Addressing Disabilities Web icon web
CPIR webpage that explains various types of state agencies and provides guidance in locating resources relevant to particular family needs.

Publications catalog  Web icon web
Links to materials translated into Spanish, Hmong and SE Asian, Somali

Important Dates in the Disability Rights Movement  Web icon web
Important events dating back to 1817.

Disability History: An Important Part of America’s Heritage   PDF icon .pdf
Four page document focused on employment policy

Assistive Technology

 Presentations from the Family Center on Technology & Disability (FCTD):  

1.    AT Information for Families  Presentation icon .ppt
Information from FCTD’s "Family Information Guide to Assistive Technology", including examples of devices, using AT in schools, funding, tips from parents and additional annotated resources.

2.    Early Childhood and AT Presentation icon .ppt
Assistive technology can be a powerful tool for young children and this presentation provides a range of appropriate examples along with issues to be considered.

3.    Assistive Technology in the Classroom Presentation icon .ppt
Primarily developed for teachers, this powerpoint provides information about how to help students with disabilities be more fully included into the general education classroom through the use of assistive technology.  

Learning Packets Link

Learning Packets

Our learning packets are “grab & go” materials designed with trainers in mind, but can also be useful tools for the interested parent. Each packet focuses on a specific topic or aspect of parent advocacy and leadership.

Learning packetsDisability Awareness

Learning packetsUnderstanding Deaf-Blindness

Learning packetsAccess for All

Learning packetsSpecial Education

Learning packetsAssistive Technology

Learning packetsLaws, Rights and Legal Issues