Business & Society

USU's Institute for Disability Celebrates 50th Anniversary

By JoLynne Lyon |

Video by Taylor Emerson, Digital Journalist, University Marketing & Communications

In 1972, the Institute for Disability Research, Policy & Practice opened at Utah State University. This year, the Institute celebrates its 50th anniversary and five decades of growth in the disability field.

“We are proud of our history and our tradition of excellence,” said IDRPP Executive Director Matthew Wappett. “We look forward to the next 50 years.”

At its founding, IDRPP was on the forefront of efforts to move people with disabilities out of institutions and into their communities at a time when some of them were seldom even seen. The institute began as a center for excellence in developmental disabilities, welcoming children who were often turned away at the schoolhouse door. In the early years, Utah children who had long been denied an education began their learning journeys at the center.

“We were working with parents who had insisted that their children did not need to be institutionalized but should have services in the community,” said Sarah Rule, a former executive director. “And those parents were at the forefront of assuring deinstitutionalization, moving into the community, and advocating for services.”

As the disability movement grew, school districts integrated students with disabilities into their regular classrooms.

“Those children that they (the parents) were advocating for grew up,” Rule said. “Now it's the people with disabilities who are advocating for themselves.”

The institute turned to research, policy work and services for people with disabilities across the lifespan.

Services and training provided by IDRPP benefit the community but also provide training opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students.

“When we look back at the history of the IDRPP, it is humbling to note the many contributions that researchers and staff have made over the years,” Wappett said. “Thousands of students and professionals have participated in IDRPP training programs and are out in the field making a difference every day."

The institute has made groundbreaking contributions, Wappett said, in fields including web accessibility, disability and special education policy, assistive technology, evidence-based interventions, genetic research, autism supports, home and community-based services, employment, transition, health care, and mental health for children and adults with disabilities.

The IDRPP is remembering some of its pioneers with a 50th Anniversary playlist and posting more about its history on its website. More will be added in the coming months. More info on what the IDRPP is doing now, can be found on its blog, Facebook page, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.


JoLynne Lyon
Public Relations Specialist
Institute for Disability Research, Policy & Practice


Matthew Wappett
Executive Director
Institute for Disability Research, Policy, & Practice


Research 834stories Diversity & Inclusion 218stories Hands-on Learning 190stories Disabilities 70stories IDRPP 36stories Accessibility 15stories

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