WVU Extension Service

Working with Individuals with Disabilities

Question: What is a disability?

The Department of Labor describes disability as: a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of a person’s major life activities (for example, caring for one’s self, speaking, breathing, or learning). americans with disabilities logo A disability need not be obvious; such conditions as learning disabilities, psychological illnesses, asthma, or infection with HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) may qualify as disabilities under the law.

Strategies for Inclusion

Communication is key

  • Without it, strategies needed are unknown
Person-first language
  • Do not say “disabled child” or “autistic boy”
  • Use “the CHILD with a disability” or “BOY with autism”
Remember labels are debilitating
  • Using labels makes individuals more aware of their differences not their similarities
Acknowledge those who are different positively
  • Find ways to celebrate/include the differences when possible
Ensure facilities are accessible to ALL
  • Be sure to provide for reasonable accommodations
Do not be afraid to seek help
  • You may contact me for training/strategies/additional information on specific disabilities, etc.
Assess participants’ needs PRIOR to their arrival
  • Ask for as much information as possible on registration forms to ensure you are prepared



ADA Best Practices Tool Kit for State and Local Governments
JOE article on cooperative extension and ADA
People With Disabilities: A Communication Guidesmall pdf icon

Youth Specific

Helping grandchildren with special needs