As schools around the country navigate how and when students might safely be able to return to school, given the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Foundation for the Blind encourages legislators, educators, administrators, superintendents, and parents to ask the following questions:
- Some students have individualized education programs (IEPs) that require instruction from a Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments or an Orientation and Mobility Specialist on specialized skills such as learning to read and write braille, travel with a white cane, and use a computer with screen reading software. How are schools planning for and preparing to provide compensatory services for students with disabilities who may not have had full access to the curriculum or their needed services during school closures?
- For students who have complex disabilities, what procedures and safeguards will be in place to ensure their safety and access to education and the safety of others at the school site? For example, how are educators preparing to equitably and safely handle situations in which a student may have cognitive, physical, or behavioral challenges with meeting new safety rules, such as wearing a mask?
- How are schools proactively ensuring that all virtual platforms and resources are fully accessible to students with disabilities, including visual disabilities?
- How can reopening policies ensure that students with disabilities receive equitable education, particularly if an individual student needs a different proportion of remote learning than their peers, whether due to the services required by their IEP or being at high risk for complications from COVID-19?
- For students who require individualized direct instruction using strategies such as hand-over-hand modeling and tactile signing, how can their learning progress virtually and on the school site with social distancing?
- How are students who use human guide techniques, that requires physical contact, going to be able to travel safely in the school with social distancing practices in place?
- Some special education services, such as orientation and mobility instruction that teaches students to travel in a school, city, or home environment, have been difficult to provide virtually. As schools begin to reopen, how are schools ensuring that teachers and instructors are equipped to provide such services remotely, especially if a student must or chooses to remain in a virtual environment during the coming school year?
- What resources are being developed to ensure that students receive high quality instruction on their IEP goals if they are being served on-campus, remotely, or a combination of both models?
Transition and Graduation
- How are schools working together with vocational rehabilitation to ensure that students with disabilities have the opportunity to finish training and skill development that was interrupted or postponed in their final months of school, especially for students who may have graduated this spring?
The American Foundation for the Blind, along with a total of 19 collaborating organizations, have undertaken a research project called Access and Engagement, which investigated the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the education of children and youth with visual impairments, including those with multiple disabilities and deafblindness. We anticipate providing updates on the results throughout the month of June 2020. Please bookmark the Access and Engagement Survey Results page for preliminary findings.
AFB continues to bring the concerns and needs of students with visual impairments to the attention of education policymakers and legislators at the federal level.