Adult education programs have always served learners with disabilities and learning differences. Whether or not they have a formal disability diagnosis, each learner has their own unique  way of learning that may be informed by disabilities, neurodivergence, and/or trauma. 

ACLS policy and the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) require that programs serve all learners, including those with disabilities. The reality is, though, that all learners benefit from inclusive programs. Strategies that promote disability inclusion normalize differences in working and learning. They prepare programs to respond to the needs of all learners, which leads to increased persistence and better outcomes for everyone. 

Fostering disability inclusion in your program may take some learning, and it certainly requires everyone’s participation and collaboration. You have an important part to play regardless of your role. Here are some resources and action steps to get started or grow your practice.

Note: The Program Support PD Center has resources, PD, and coaching for you on program compliance and disability inclusion. Contact Dani Scherer at if you have questions or would like coaching. 

How Do I Learn More?

To address some of your most common questions, we developed the Basic Disability Screening for Adult Education Programs (BDSAE). This document addresses questions about disabilities, assessments, accommodations, inclusive practices, and compliance.

Here’s what you’ll find inside:

  • Introduction: What should you know about disabilities? What does the research say? 
  • Tools, templates, and forms: Use these tools to assess your program, screen learners, identify accommodations, and plan program improvements.  
  • Ways to learn more: Our appendix section includes key referral sources, and where to visit to learn more about specific disabilities and accommodations. 

What Can I Do? 

There are a lot of things you can do as an adult educator. We recommend focusing on these four program-based strategies:

Take action to foster a disability-inclusive program

Remember, fostering disability inclusion requires program-wide cooperation and collaboration. Here are three suggested steps for having program-wide conversations using the BDSAE:

  1. Complete the Basic Accessibility Checklist for ADA Coordinators and Administrators (p. 22). Don’t go it alone! Include as many other people from your program as you can. 
  2. Use the results to have a conversation with your colleagues about your program’s ADA compliance and disability-conscious program administration. How are you preparing to welcome all learners, including those with disabilities?
  3. Complete the Transition Plan for ADA Compliance (p. 25) to identify the changes your program is ready to make to become more inclusive. 

Screening for disabilities

Having some data will help you better support all your learners. 

  1. Ask yourself about the purpose of the screening. What is it you want to know about a learner, and why? What are their goals, and yours? 
  2. For interested learners, use the Basic Disability Screening (p. 14) to start the conversation about disabilities, barriers, and facilitators of learning.
  3. Based on the results of the screening, consider whether formal accommodations or referrals to further testing are warranted. 

Provide accommodations

Keep in mind that while accommodations are necessary in certain cases, Universal Design for Learning reminds us to always be thinking about accessibility for all learners. 

  1. Use the Preferred Accommodations Plan (p. 21) to summarize preferred accommodations for teaching and learning. The learner may choose to share this plan with relevant program staff.
  2. Review A Selection of Instructional Strategies (p. 34) to implement instructional strategies that benefit all learners, following the principles of UDL.

Keep learning

This is a journey and will take time, but you don't need to do it alone. The SABES Program Support PD Center provides support and resources for disability inclusion through our ADA Resources and Training priority area. You can:

The PSPDC is here to support you! For questions and support please contact Dani Scherer at

Topic Area
ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act)
ADEI (anti-racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion)
ADEI Professional Growth
Education Leadership & Program Management
Learning Disabilities / Differences
Media Type
Resource Type
PD Center
SABES Program Support PD Center
Action Type