WSU launches program for students with intellectual, developmental disabilities

Brenda Barrio in profile
Brenda Barrio

PULLMAN, Wash — The Washington State University College of Education has launched a new on-campus program in Pullman, aimed at providing educational opportunities and a college experience to young adults from around the country with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

The two-year post-secondary program is called ROAR (Responsibility, Opportunity, Advocacy, and Re­spect) and its co-founders say it closely follows WSU’s land-grant mission of access, engagement, and service to the community.

Program co-founder Brenda Barrio, an assistant professor of special education, said ROAR will use work­shops, specialized training seminars, career development, and perhaps most important, on-campus living, to help empower program students to become self-determined, independent adults.

“With this program, we want to provide young adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities, and their families, similar opportunities that many other same-aged peers get to experience: be a college student and continue developing their skills to pursue a career and independence,” Barrio said. “We have done the research and learned through other programs like ROAR, but we feel that the voices of students with disabilities and their families are the most important ones to learn from. That is why we have worked really hard to provide them with this opportunity and experience. We can only continue learning from them through this program.”

Paula Groves Price, the college’s associate dean for diversity and international programs, said ROAR is a great example of the college’s commitment to inclusive excellence.

“The program is about intentional engagement with diversity, but above all, it provides access and training opportunities for young adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities to experience WSU and improve the quality of their lives,” she said. “WSU has been working hard to be an inclusive campus community, and now we have the opportunity to open our arms and hearts to a population who has his­torically been shut out, but can teach us all about our humanity.”

Further, Barrio said the three-year effort to begin the program would not only help ROAR students, but would also educate people who work with the students.

The ROAR program will accept applications starting April 1 of this year and will welcome its first cohort of four students in the fall semester. Cohorts of 10 students will be accepted in years thereafter.

Students will be admitted from anywhere across the nation as out-of-state tuition will not be a barrier for ROAR students.

For More Information:

Contact Brenda L. Barrio – Assistant Professor of Special Education – 509-335-2525 –


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