About the Project

Inclusion is defined as:
being a part of a group or a part of something
learning to live together
treasuring diversity sharing gifts and abilities

There have been numerous demands from individuals with disabilities living in the community who are tired of being denied or ignored by a society that does not honor their right to participate in all aspects of community living.

The goal of the Inclusion Project is to increase awareness so people can begin to become sensitive to people with disabilities.

Disability is natural, and aperson’s capabilities, values,beliefs, and perspectives about life, are not aligned with a diagnosis or label placed upon them.

By seeing and respecting each other’s capacities and abilities, we embrace a whole community. Familiarity and understanding brings us closer, decreasing incidents of bullying, particularly targeted to students with disabilities.

As a community, we need to:

  1. Raise awareness about the importance of including individuals with disabilities in all facets of community living
  2. Build a community of people committed to supporting disability awareness and inclusion with real and everyday life experiences
  3. Embrace similarities and share life’s opportunities

The Inclusion Project was led by a dedicated group of youth leaders with disabilities from Virginia’s Youth Leadership Forum (www.vaboard.org) and I’m Determined Project (www.imdetermined.org) who were concerned about what they perceived as a lack of general awareness of disabilities in schools by peers, educators and staff. These youth successfully pushed for a Disability History and Awareness Month (DHAM) which was introduced and passed in February 2009 by the Virginia General Assembly. In Virginia, DHAM is officially celebrated in Virginia Public Schools and Institutions of Higher Education across the Commonwealth during the month of October.

The same group of youth leaders with disabilities approached the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) in 2012, and asked “what could be done in the Commonwealths K-12 schools to increase awareness of individuals with disabilities year round to call attention to their capacity to make significant contributions?” The group of youth was asked by VDOE to develop a proposal with their own ideas. The result was the Inclusion Project. The youth leadership team felt strongly that an activity-based approach with students directly involved in hands-on activities would increase awareness and education in schools, and would be an integral part of Virginia’s celebration of DHAM.

The materials found in this guide were prepared by youth leaders with disabilities as part of a three year grant from the VDOE. This grant is coordinated by the Partnership for People with Disabilities at Virginia Commonwealth University.

The Partnership wishes to acknowledge the following individuals and agencies represented on the Inclusion Project Steering Committee:

  • Lanett Brailey, VDOE Training & Technical Assistance Center at VCU
  • Zachary Brown, Youth Leader, Hopewell
  • Annie Downing, Youth Leader, Williamsburg
  • Makenna Elliott, Youth Leader, Spotsylvania
  • Martha Hicks, Northumberland County Public Schools
  • Katherine Lawson, Virginia Board for People with Disabilities
  • Aaron Miller, Youth Leader, Radford
  • Marianne Moore, Virginia Department of Education
  • Maria Rivas, Youth Leader, Manassas
  • Matthew Shapiro, Youth Leader, Henrico
  • Nicholas Silvey, Youth Leader, Franklin
  • Cameron Wilmer, Youth Leader, Charlottesville
  • Dana Yarbrough, Partnership for People with Disabilities

Individuals and agencies that contributed to the Inclusion Project:

  • Teri Barker-Morgan, Virginia Board for People with Disabilities
  • Jack M. Brandt, Inclusion Project Coordinator, VCU Partnership for People with Disabilities
  • Cynthia George, Inclusion Project Evaluator, VCU Partnership for People with Disabilities
  • Susan Murdock, Inclusion Project Evaluator, VCU Partnership for People with Disabilities
  • Martha Hicks, Northumberland County Public Schools
  • Katherine Lawson, Virginia Board for People with Disabilities

Inclusion Project Sample Activities Work Groups

  • Elementary School Work Group

  • Cameron Wilmer, Leader
  • Zachary Brown, Team Member
  • Makenna Elliott, Team Member
  • Doniella Kissinger, Team Member
  • Caroline Tobe, Team Member
  • Rachel Loria, Group Support
  • Marianne Moore, Group Support
  • Middle School Work Group

  • Aaron Miller, Leader
  • Nic Silver, Leader
  • Hilda Gonzales, Team Member
  • Allie Pinson, Team Member
  • Keri Vandeberg, Team Member
  • Lanett Brailey, Group Support
  • Martha Hicks, Group Support
  • High School Work Group

  • Annie Downing, Leader
  • Matthew Shaprio, Leader
  • Kevin Alvarenga, Team Member
  • Tim Coleman, Team Member
  • Maria Rivas, Team Member
  • Kara White, Group Support

The goal of this planning guide is to give you practical information as you go through the process of putting together a successful Inclusion Project event and to provide resources, activities, and support as you plan and implement your ideas. If you need technical assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us for support.

This guide is intended to be used as a resource primarily for local education agencies (LEA’s). You may envision investing in hosting an Inclusion Project Event. It is recommended that you take an integrated approach, taking advantage of the rich resources within your entire community. Any organization or agency you partner with could also use the information in this guide to host an Inclusion Event lasting a day or week. You may wish to launch a series of events within the school and broader community.

This guide is divided into three sections:

Please contact one of the following for more information: