What is a Disability?

This lesson helps students increase knowledge about people with disabilities and explore ways to sensitively communicate with people with disabilities.
Grade Level


Activities will help students:

  • Increase knowledge about people with disabilities  
  • Explore ways to sensitively communicate with people with disabilities
Essential Questions
  • What are some disabilities?
  • What are appropriate ways to communicate sensitively with people with disabilities?
  • What are some ways to support and encourage others to sensitively communicate?


disability [dis-uh-bil-i-tee] (noun) a condition of having a physical or mental impairment



  1. Have you ever seen a person that may have a special need? Maybe you’ve seen a person in a wheelchair. Or perhaps you’ve seen someone walking with a service animal, a dog who goes everywhere with them. Some people have disabilities and need special help. Read the handout Learning about Some Disabilities(Note: For younger students, you may want to read this short article aloud.)
  2. Do you know someone with a disability? Share your story with the class. (Note: Encourage students to talk about the people with disabilities in their families and communities. You may want to begin by telling a story of your own to help set the tone for the sharing session.)
  3. Do you have questions about disabilities? Now is your chance to learn more about people who may seem different from you. Create a list of questions that you have about disabilities. (Note: Record the questions on chart paper and post them around the room. Take time to answer each question to the best of your ability. If questions come up that you cannot answer, let students know that you will look up the answer and get back to them.)
  4. While it is true that there can be differences among people, there are also lots of things that are the same. All people want to be treated with kindness and respect. Work as a class to come up with some ways that you can be kind and respectful to others. (Note: You may want to include the following to help get the class started: Be patient when speaking with others and give them time to speak. Look people in the eye and smile while you’re talking to them. If you see a kid playing alone, invite him or her to join your group of friends. Tell a teacher if you see a kid being bullied by others.)


Extension Activity

  1. Create posters that show kids helping and including other kids. Hang the posters around your school.
  2. Ask a parent to help you learn more about a disability that you don’t know much about.
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