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New Educational Tool Promotes Inclusion

Oct. 23, 2014

The Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC) has introduced an online K-12 curriculum that promotes inclusion and is intended for the entire school community. It is available for Vermont schools to use at no cost.

Include! ( is a curriculum that was developed by the SILC with the help of teachers, family members and individuals with disabilities. The purpose of the program is to bring disability pride to students with and without disabilities. The materials are available free to interested schools. Schools and educators can use Include! as a separate curriculum, but many choose specific lesson plans and materials that they incorporate into their antibias and diversity activities.

Include! was unveiled at the State House on Oct. 21. Many people attended the event, including members of the Shumlin administration and representatives from the offices of each member of Vermont’s congressional delegation.

The curriculum was developed by the SILC with the goal of inspiring students of all ages to promote the principles of equality, dignity and respect for all in their classrooms, homes and communities.

The Include! curriculum:

• Complies with Vermont Learning Standards.
• Includes ready to use lesson plans for elementary, middle and high school classes.
• Is easily integrated into different grade levels and subject areas.
• Provides additional resources and activities to enhance classroom experiences.
• Links disability awareness work to other diversity and anti-bias education.
• Encourages student, parent and community involvement in school-based disability awareness activities.
• Explores disability as a social experience similar to other multicultural, women’s rights and civil rights movements in America.

This second edition (formerly titled PRIDE) was principally authored by Deborah Lisi-Baker, a longtime advocate for disability rights and former executive director of the Vermont Center for Independent Living. Under direction from the SILC education committee, Lisi-Baker and her team integrated over 180 pictures and illustrations into four distinct units of learning, each with applications and activities for all ages. The four Learning Units are titled “Identity and Belonging,” “Disability Awareness,” “Civil Rights and Social Change” and “Exploring Disability Experience through Literature.”

VCIL civil rights manager Kim Brittenham said, “Schools can meet their mission statements by actively involving students and community members with disabilities in their curriculum and programs – not for the benefit of students with disabilities, but for the benefit of students without disabilities. Currently, many students are being denied access to brilliant educators and problem solvers and artists who may be Blind, Deaf, or Autistic. Children are missing out on enriching perspectives and resources until schools adopt curricula like Include!”

Interested schools are urged to contact SILC Executive Director Peter Kriff at for information on how to get started with Include!

The Vermont Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC) exists to enhance the equality with which people with disabilities enjoy, participate in and contribute to the lives of their communities, family and friends. The Federal Rehabilitation Act requires each state to maintain a Statewide Independent Living Council to monitor programs that help disabled people live with independence and dignity in their own homes (as opposed to nursing homes or other institutions).