What is literacy?
People with extensive needs for support represent the last group of people routinely denied opportunities for
literacy instruction. One of the major reasons for this lack of opportunity can be related to limited definitions of
what constitutes literacy as a whole and reading and writing in particular. This article will explore the way in
which definitions of literacy impact literacy opportunities for individuals with extensive needs for supports. We
propose a set of core definitional principles and make explicit the assumptions underlying their inclusion. Our
hope is that this will lead to a dialogue about how we define literacy and the implications this holds for the lives
of people with extensive needs for support. Our work is based on the assumption that all individuals with
extensive needs for support are fully capable of benefiting from literacy instruction and further that our field as a
whole could benefit from a more optimistic and inclusive approach to literacy instruction. We conclude that the way
in which we define literacy is powerful and essential to opening the final frontier of literacy opportunities to
include people with extensive needs for support.