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 each Fall and Spring semester 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 (Wednesdays, 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.

  • 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