Our Mission
Understanding Our Differences’ mission is to educate communities to value and accept people of all abilities through school-based, interactive disability awareness programs.

Understanding Our Differences (UOD) is a nationally recognized, award-winning program that uses a hands-on, participatory curriculum to foster respect, acceptance, and inclusion for people of all abilities in elementary schools and communities at large.

The UOD approach is grounded in the belief that children are naturally curious about differences, and that accurate information can be the difference between acceptance and discrimination. The UOD program teaches students to be more inclusive and friendly, and to become allies of people with disabilities.

The program consists of ten unit topics covering a range of physical, sensory and developmental disabilities and is designed to seamlessly fit into a typical 3rd to 5th grade curriculum. Each unit is structured to provide accurate information, hands-on activities, and opportunities to meet guest speakers with disabilities.

The UOD program is usually taught by trained, volunteer instructors from the communities in which it is presented. This inter-generational approach educates and informs adults as well as children and creates inclusive schools and respectful communities.

The staff, Board of Directors and teams of educators, health professionals, representatives of disability organizations, people with disabilities, and parents of children with disabilities continually review the program materials to ensure medical accuracy, state-of-the-art technology, and a clear anti-bullying message that promotes inclusion.

How Understanding Our Differences Benefits Children

  • Children learn to be more inclusive and friendly;
  • Children become more accepting and allies of those with disabilities;
  • Children with disabilities and their siblings are less likely to be bullied, teased or isolated;
  • Children meet and learn from individuals with disabilities;
  • Children become more comfortable around people with all kinds of disabilities.


In 1978, a group of parents of children with disabilities in Newton, Massachusetts founded Understanding Our Differences as a nonprofit organization to increase information, understanding and inclusion of people with disabilities. We invite you to view the presentation below to learn more about UOD’s history and founding, and also to click here.

The Understanding Our Differences disability awareness curriculum has grown over the years and has been disseminated to hundreds of schools and youth organizations in Massachusetts and beyond. More than 30,000 elementary school students have been educated and some 8,000 adult, high school and college students have participated as trained, volunteer instructors.