No Boundaries

6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

We're all the same in one basic way: We all want other people to understand us. In this lesson, youth learn about needs of differently abled children in their school or community and take a step toward removing barriers. They use the persuasive power of communication to raise awareness of ways to understand and show respect for people with disabilities through a service project. 

Photo Credit: Shazam! Super Standing Kid! by EasyStand is licensed under CC by 4.0 

PrintOne 45-Minute Session, plus time for research and a service project

The learners will...

  • explore definitions of disability and respectful terminology. 
  • gain awareness of diverse abilities.
  • take action to remove a barrier at their school or in the community. 
Teacher Preparation 

Make contact with a person or agency in town in advance of this lesson: Invite a guest to the classroom to talk about ways to show respect for people with disabilities.

  • accessible: available for people with disabilities, however, some technology may bring benefits to everyone whether they have a disability or not
  • disability: a physical or mental condition that limits a person's movements, senses, or activities

Read about the service-learning project called The Green Team Herd by Oklahoma students who were taught using this No Boundaries lesson to guide student learning and action.


Center for Persons with Disabilities, Utah State University



  1. Anticipatory Set

    If you have invited an expert to speak to the class, have them share stories and information about the abilities and challenges of people who are differently abled.

    If you don't have a guest speaker, share stories of famous people with a variety of disabilities, such as Stephen Hawking, Helen Keller, Temple Grandin, and FDR. Talk about their contributions to society. Show one of the videos linked above. 

  2. Review the handout "Disability Awareness." Brainstorm definitions of disability with a partner or small group, then with the whole group. 

    Note: Disability does not mean a person “can’t do something/anything.”  It means they may need accommodations or equipment (large size print, voice activated computer, appropriate space to maneuver a wheelchair, etc.)  Perhaps describe/discuss how an accommodation helps them be successful. 

  3. Share this quote and discuss:

    “The worst thing about a disability is that people see it before they see you.” –Easter Seals

    Discuss why it is essential to treat everyone with respect. Discuss what that looks like. For example, be curious and ask respectful questions rather than assuming someone needs help. It is respectful when talking about someone who is blind to say "a man who is blind," rather than “a blind man.” This puts the person ahead of the disability.

    Questions to guide small-group or large-group discussion, journaling, or with chart paper and sticky notes:

    1. How do our attitudes impact how we interact with others?
    2. How do we learn about and raise awareness of the strengths and challenges of people with disabilities?
  4. Project Overview:

    1. The learners can walk around the school, campus, and community, and look for barriers to using the facilities fully. They can interview leadership at the school and at a local nonprofit about the needs of people who have disabilities. For example, is there someone at your school who is deaf? 
    2. Take action to remove a barrier or to accommodate a special need. For example, if there is a person who is deaf at the school, teach others American Sign Language for hand spelling the alphabet. 
    3. Communication: Write a statement about acting with respect related to people with disabilities. (It may be a quote.) This can be shared in a decorated poster or in social media. ​
  5. Alternative (longer-term) Project: Start a Best Buddies chapter

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark MS.2 Describe the importance of hearing all voices in a community and respecting their right to be heard.
      2. Benchmark E.2 Discuss the importance of respect for others.
      3. Benchmark HS.2 Give examples from history of how intolerance of ideas, religion, and minorities contributed to social disintegration.
      4. Benchmark MS.4 Identify civil society organizations that protect and speak for minority viewpoints.
      5. Benchmark MS.5 Discuss examples of groups denied their rights in history.
    2. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark HS.11 Discuss why organizations in the civil society sector work to protect minority voices.
      2. Benchmark E.9 Describe how philanthropic activities can bring about social change.
  2. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 01. Needs Assessment
      1. Benchmark E.1 Identify a need in the school, local community, state, nation, or world.
      2. Benchmark MS.1 Identify a need in the school, local community, state, nation, or world.
      3. Benchmark HS.1 Identify a need in the school, local community, state, nation, or world.
      4. Benchmark E.2 Research the need in the school, neighborhood, local community, state, nation, or world.
    2. Standard VS 02. Service and Learning
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Select a service project based on interests, abilities, and research.