image of Brandon, an autistic young man

Resources to Support Students with Disabilities

Nov 30, 2020

Did you know that the Americans with Disabilities Act signed into law in July of 1990 turned 30 years old in 2020? Signed into law on July 26, 1990, former Iowa Senator Tom Harkin was one of the authors. Frank Harkin, the senator's brother, had lost his hearing at a young age. Because of his own personal experiences growing up with his brother Senator Harkin was interested in the quality of life for people with disabilities.

Iowa has a long-standing history and tradition for helping students and adults with cognitive and physical disabilities. In 1854, Iowa’s School for the Deaf opened in Iowa City. The school moved from Iowa City to Council Bluffs in 1870, allowing students across Iowa to access the school more easily by railroad. In 1852, Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School (now Iowa Educational Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired) opened to blind and low-vision students. Iowa Braille School is Iowa's second oldest education institution. Mary Ingalls, one of their most famous students, graduated from the school in 1889.

In 2018, 365,620 (11.7%) of Iowans reported having a disability and 30,237 (4.1%) of young Iowans reported that they have a disability.* Finding quality resources to support different needs of students may be challenging. Where do you find materials to support students with disabilities in your classroom? Where do you find stories about successful individuals that also have a disability?

The Americans with Disabilities Act amplified the voice of Iowans with disabilities. Iowa PBS takes pride in being able to bring their stories and voice to you.

Classroom Supports

We have several PBS LearningMedia collections that you might find useful when working with students with disabilities.

English Language Arts Strategies for Students with Significant Cognitive Disabilities
This collection features strategies for comprehensive literacy instruction for students with significant cognitive disabilities. The purpose of the collection is to support educators and families in understanding how all students can learn and make progress in Common Core English Language Arts standards.

In each video, classroom educators demonstrate research-based instructional strategies in literacy, language and communication, including the use of augmentative and alternative communication systems. The videos feature students in both inclusive general education classrooms and self-contained settings.

This collection was developed through a collaborative partnership with the Iowa Department of Education; the University of Northern Iowa’s Center for Literacy Disabilities Studies, UNC Chapel Hill; and general and special education teachers across Iowa.

Move to Include
This collection of videos and activities, targeting grades 5-12, comes from Move to Include, the national public media initiative designed to promote inclusion for people with intellectual and physical disabilities. The initiative looks to inspire and motivate people to embrace different abilities and include all people in every aspect of community life. Move to Include also seeks to elevate the voices of people with different abilities in telling their own stories.

Each segment has been carefully selected to engage viewers in concepts of inclusion across the curriculum, and incorporates activities, online resources, and videos to address topics and standards across science, technology, engineering, English language arts, health and physical education, the arts and more. Topics include: Assistive Technologies, Education, Careers, Disabilities and Different Abilities, The Arts & Music, and Sports & Recreation.

Iowa PBS was proud to contribute Iowans’ stories to this national collection. To see Iowans featured in the collection as well as others living and thriving on the Autism spectrum, check out The Life Autistic.

[* stats provided by the State Data Center of Iowa - A program of the State Library of Iowa and The Office of Persons with Disabilities]