March is Disability Awareness Month, which means it’s an excellent time to educate your students about disabilities and promote a community of acceptance and inclusivity! But March isn’t the only month you can run these lessons; use these 30 disability awareness activities throughout the school year to expand your student’s empathy and awareness!
1. Teach About Invisible Disabilities
Some disabilities are invisible. People with invisible disabilities may face more stigma because their condition is not overt. You can teach your students about the different types of invisible disabilities to help shine a light on the diversity of disabilities that exist.
Learn More: Rick Hansen Foundation
2. Independent Study Project
Disabilities impact all of us! That’s why it’s so important to spread awareness and knowledge. Your students can take on an independent study project based on a disability of their choice. You can find a list of different disabilities at the link below!
Learn More: CDC
3. Teach About The Disability Rights Movement
You can teach your students about the disability rights movement. People with disabilities have faced a long history of discrimination. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), prohibiting such discrimination, was signed in 1990. However, today there are still issues of injustice and inaccessibility.
Learn More: National Park Service
4. How To Talk About Disability
How should we talk about disability? Use people-first language! This means putting the person before the disability. You can encourage your students to say “person with a disability”, instead of “disabled person”. You can learn how to use other disability terms in the resource below!
Learn More: UDS Foundation
5. Simulation of Motor Disabilities
You can simulate a motor disability, such as cerebral palsy, by having your students repeatedly spin around with closed eyes. Then, they can open their eyes and try walking down a marked straight line. Please ensure that all simulation exercises are conducted with respect.
Learn More: Classroom
6. One-Handed Buttoning
You can simulate the physical disability of having one working hand by placing a sock on one of your student’s hands. Are they able to button up a shirt? Fortunately, new techniques and tools can assist with these sorts of tasks.
Learn More: OT Dude
7. Lip Reading Exercise
Many people who are deaf or have hearing loss rely heavily on lip reading to communicate with others. You can give your students some allotted time to practice lip reading with each other. Is it more challenging than they imagined?
Learn More: National Geographic
8. Learn American Sign Language (ASL)
How about a lesson on American Sign Language (ASL)? This is another communication tool that people with deafness can use. This video teaches 38 ASL signs. If your students enjoy this activity, you can consider teaching them some more!
Learn More: ASL Kids
9. Self Recorded Monologue
If your class gets deep into learning ASL, you can consider this final challenge. Your students can self-record a monologue introducing themselves using ASL.
Learn More: Teaching Expertise
10. Auditory Processing Disorder Simulation
Auditory processing disorder is characterized by hearing problems from difficulties processing sounds (especially speech sounds). Your students can listen to this recorded simulation with headphones to simulate what it’s like living with this disorder.
Learn More: Melanie DesRoches
11. Guess the Item
This hands-on activity can give your students an idea of what it’s like to live with visual impairment or blindness. You can fill up a bag with different items and have your students reach in and try to guess what the item is without looking.
Learn More: Kids Activities Blog
12. Learn Braille
Braille is a reading technique that relies on touching raised surface bumps. You may have seen braille in an elevator next to the floor number signs. You can teach your students the braille alphabet for a disability awareness class activity.
Learn More: Nelson Dellis
13. Spelling with Braille
After learning braille, your students can try this hands-on spelling activity. You can print out sheets that have the braille spelling already marked or, for added difficulty, print out only the regular English spelling. Your students can then glue on bump dots to match the spelling.
Learn More: The Homeschool Scientist
14. Write Your Name in Braille
Following the previous exercise, your students can try to write their names in braille. Learning these techniques that people with blindness or visual impairment use can help shine a light on disabilities.
Learn More: Twinkl
15. Autism True or False
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is one of the more common invisible disabilities. Here is an autism awareness activity your students can try to learn more about the disorder and its misconceptions. Your students can guess true or false for the various provided statements about ASD.
Learn More: The Autism Helper
16. Sensory Toys for ASD
Some people with ASD can experience sensitivity to the environment. Sensory toys can be used to help them cope with these symptoms. You can collect some for your students to explore and play with it. You can check out other ASD awareness activities in my other post!
Learn More: Stages Learning
17. Study a Public Disability Figure
Your students can study a famous public figure who has a disability. They can research how the nature of the person’s disability, how it impacted their life, and the contributions they made to society.
Learn More: We Capable
18. Watch the Paralympics
The Paralympics is an international athletic competition, like the Olympics, but with participants who have a disability. Your students can learn about the history of this competition and watch recaps of the events from previous years. The next one won’t be held until 2024!
Learn More: International Paralympic Committee
19. Adaptive Sports Day
Hosting an adaptive sports day can be a great activity to integrate students with disabilities and able-bodied students. Your able-bodied students can see what it’s like to participate in adaptive sports, such as wheelchair basketball, goalball, and beep baseball.
Learn More: Rutgers University
20. Meet Service Dogs
You can invite some service dogs and trainers to class for your students to learn about their responsibilities and how they assist people with disabilities. They can also learn the proper etiquette for interacting with service dogs when they are in public.
Learn More: Service Dog Certifications
21. Disability Workshop
One of the best ways to learn about disabilities is to learn directly from people with disabilities. You can hire a workshop run by a disability organization to teach your students about the misconceptions of disabilities, disability etiquette, and more.
Learn More: Let’s Talk Disability
22. Read “Can Bears Ski?”
This children’s book brings some light to the experience of this young bear who is discovering his deafness. Reading about the experiences of people with disabilities can help your students to increase their awareness and understanding of disabilities. There are various book options for other disabilities too.
Learn More: Amazon
23. Pledge to Spread Inclusion
What does it mean to be inclusive? It means to accept, respect, and include other people regardless of any disability they may have. You and your students can take a pledge to spread inclusivity at school and in the community.
Learn More: Spread the Word Inclusion
24. Host a Student Panel Discussion
You can host a panel discussion of students with disabilities to hear directly about school experiences as someone with a disability. Example questions can include asking about accessibility issues, experiences of exclusion, and things they wish their peers knew.
25. Donate to a Disability Organization
Which disability organization should you donate to? Impactful Ninja created a list of the 9 best charities that support people living with disabilities. You can encourage your students to donate or you can consider hosting a class fundraiser.
Learn More: Impactful Ninja
26. Host a Disability Awareness Day
Consider hosting a school-wide Disability Awareness Day to showcase all of these worthwhile activities. Your students can help with setting up and managing the event. Perhaps they can come up with some special activities themselves.
Learn More: The Bender Bunch
27. Put Up Decorations
Consider adding some decorations to your classroom like a banner that promotes disability awareness. This banner is about Disability Awareness Day but you can find other options online!
Learn More: Twinkl
28. Disability Awareness Activities Bundle
Maybe you’re looking for a set of activities about various disabilities. This bundle includes awareness activities for autism, cerebral palsy, and down syndrome. For each disability, there are two versions of a storybook and coloring pages.
Learn More: Teachers Pay Teachers
29. Meet Friends with Disabilities Package
Here’s another activity bundle! In this set, your students can meet 10 friends who have different disabilities. There are also worksheet activities included for your students to think about ways to be good friends and support inclusivity in the community.
Learn More: Teachers Pay Teachers
30. Watch a Video
A video can be a great learning resource to fall back on if you have limited time to prep! In this video, your students can hear directly from people with disabilities about the things they wish other people knew.
Learn More: BuzzFeed Video