Project Inclusion: Help Improve Courses in Special Education at the University of Oregon

Too often, the lived experience of disability is not at the forefront of undergraduate learning, but a new effort is underway at the University of Oregon with support from The Tom and Carol Williams Fund for Undergraduate Education. The project is seeking the participation of community members such as individuals experiencing disability, educators, personal support workers, and advocates.

Cognitopia is partnering with Special Education and Clinical Sciences & the Center on Human Development at the University of Oregon to produce a series of eight videos that will be used to enhance course content through: (1) presenting the lived experience of disability, and (2) helping students explore cultures, life experiences, and worldviews different from their own.

Given the name “Project Inclusion,” the primary objective of the initiative is to augment the current instructional curriculum for three courses: Introduction to Behavioral Disorders, Foundations of Disability, and Supporting Students with Low-Incidence Disabilities.

Created in tandem with an inclusive media team that provides paid employment opportunities for individuals who experience autism and intellectual disabilities, each video will be aligned with one or more course content objectives and feature relevant stakeholders in the special education community. 

“These videos will capture the lived experiences of individuals with disabilities, parents/caregivers, educators, and other service providers to augment undergraduate student access to situational or ‘real world’ perspectives not possible to achieve within the confines of a campus classroom,” explained Chris Knowles, grant recipient and Instructor in the Department of Special and Clinical Sciences and Research Associate at the Center on Human Development. “We are looking to interview individuals experiencing disability, educators, personal support workers, and advocates, to name a few.” 

From a technical standpoint, Project Inclusion allows one or more individuals with disabilities to gain supported practical work experience in the areas of videography, set design, sound engineering, digital editing, and multimedia production and promotion. Including persons with disabilities in both the videos and the development process is an essential experience in addition to the creation of the final products. University of Oregon students are also encouraged to participate in the video production process—the experience provides an opportunity to participate in something innovative and build their resumes. 

Knowles added, “Project Inclusion is an innovative example of implementing the social model of disability (i.e., contextual factors as the disabling condition instead of the person being disabled) in the design and development of higher education curriculum. It also demonstrates the idea that giving something back to the community is an important college outcome, and that working with community partners is good preparation to curate positive, solution-based approaches to citizenship, work, and life.”

Opportunity to Participate. As noted above, the project is seeking the participation of individuals experiencing disability, educators, personal support workers, and advocates. Due to COVID-19, the initial project interviews will take place over Zoom. Participants will earn a $25 gift card in appreciation of their time. 

For more information and to participate, email Chris Knowles at cknowles@uoregon.edu.

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