Schools perform many functions outside of education. They provide a safe haven, a social arena, and, for families with children with special needs, they offer vital one-to-one support. Online learning, by comparison, is simply not up to the task. So what about their right to an education?
Many websites and programmes are simply not accessible for blind or deaf students. As the 2020 GEM Report on inclusion will show, we have the technology to ensure that visually impaired students can study in mainstream schools and to use online studying materials in different formats, such as scanned versions that convert texts into sound or Braille characters – and some countries already do this. But, with schools closed around the world, some teachers are going the extra mile, using video conferencing to try and teach Braille, as this example from Canada describes, this is the exception rather than the rule. And it is not sustainable.
Aside from technology matters, for children with even mild learning difficulties, such as attention deficit disorders, finding the self-motivation to work independently in front of a computer is a major challenge. Learning aside, losing the daily routine that school provides adds a significant layer of difficulty for learners with disabilities who are sensitive to change, such as those with autism spectrum disorder. To combat this, in Argentina, despite the lock down, special dispensation is given to parents of children with autism who are allowed to take their children on short car rides. But is this enough? Continue reading