Interdisciplinary Disability Awareness and Community-Engaged Learning (IDACEL)

The Interdisciplinary Disability Awareness and Community-Engaged Learning (IDACEL--SPED 5500) course is part of a Disability Studies Minor offered through the Department of Special Education at Utah State University and is taught by staff from the Institute for Disability Research, Policy & Practice (IDRPP). This class provides opportunities for students from a variety of disciplines to increase their awareness, knowledge, and understanding of individuals with disabilities and their families across the life span. Taking advantage of this program will broaden a student's experience and promote interaction with individuals with disabilities. IDACEL gives opportunities to use a student's growing expertise to benefit individuals with a variety of disabilities from birth to seniors.

IDACEL Program Components

1. Didactic (In-Class Discussions)

People with disabilities, in addition to faculty and professionals from a variety of disciplines, conduct a series of interactive seminars and presentations (Mondays, 1:00 - 3:50 PM). These seminars use a collaborative, solution-focused approach in resolving the real issues faced by individuals with disabilities and their families in achieving full community participation.

2. Community-Enaged Learning

All students participate in a wide range of community-engaged learning activities that provide examples of interdisciplinary community-based and family-centered services. Students will participate in a minimum of 20 hours at any combination of the following sites (preferrably a minimum of 5 hours in any given site). Students can add additional sites and activities with the instructor's prior approval.

  • Aggies Elevated offers a two-year certificate in Integrated College and Community Studies for young adults with intellectual disabilities.
  • Common Ground Outdoor Adventures offers outdoor recreation to people with disabilities.
  • Jump the Moon Art Studio and Gallery brings the expressive power of art to adults and children with a variety of disabilities.
  • OPTIONS for Independence offers services that promote independence and choice to people with disabilities as a nonresidential Independent Living Center.
  • Project PEER supports students with cognitive disabilities, aged 18-21, and facilitates transition from the public school system.
  • Stride Services provides day training and support for individuals with severe disabilities.
  • Top Sports addresses the recreational and leisure activity needs of children and youth with disabilities living in the Cache Valley area.
  • Utah Assistive Technology Project (UATP) supplies training in the fabrication, modification, and repair of assistive technology products.
  • Up To 3 Program benefits infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families.


The IDACEL Program is one semester. Each student will be expected to attend all seminars (Wednesdays, 1:00 - 3:50 PM) and complete assignments.

Time Commitments

Students are expected to attend all course seminars and complete all class assignments. Class participants will focus on disability-related knowledge and awareness with an interdisciplinary emphasis. Students will complete approximately 80 hours of classroom and community-engaged learning at a variety of community sites.

Instructor: Mary Ellen Heiner
Office: IDRPP 111
Phone: 435-797-0088