The American Foundation for the Blind Announces Third Access and Commitment Report, Observing the Impact of COVID-19 as Visually Impaired Students Return to Personal Education

 

Qualitative research highlights experiences with technology, learning progress and the socio-emotional impact of the pandemic

WASHINGTON, June 23, 2022 / PRNewswire / – The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) today announced the release of its third Access and Engagement research report, which examines the continuing negative impact of systemic and COVID-19-specific issues on the education of students who are blind or have low vision. The report is based on focus groups and brief surveys with the families of these students and the professionals who serve them as the 2020-2021 school year ends.

Access and Commitment III: Reflecting on the Educational Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic serves as a follow-up to two previous studies conducted earlier in the pandemic. The firstAccess and commitment Iinvestigated the effects of the rapid transition from personal to distance education early in the pandemic. Access and Commitment II gathered data in November 2020recording the experiences of children, families and teachers in a patchwork of different educational delivery models.

Access and Commitment III adds to these previous findings and continues the story as schools gradually returned to interpersonal teaching. In addition to teacher research data, the current study includes qualitative findings from focus groups and interviews, sharing personal reports of challenges, successes, and concerns about the potential long-term effects of the pandemic. These findings suggest both systemic and COVID-specific issues that limit the educational success of children who are blind or visually impaired. The study also highlights perspectives that were not specifically included in the first two studies — information shared by school administrators for blind students, families of children with multiple disabilities, and Spanish-speaking families of blind and visually impaired children.

“While it became clear that the pandemic would have a lasting impact on students, families and teachers, it also provided us with important lessons that can guide the future education of students who are blind or visually impaired, including those with additional disabilities. ” he said Ariel SilvermanPh.D., AFB Director of Research.

The Access and Commitment III The study focuses on three areas of concern that have emerged from previous studies: access to technology, impact on educational progress, and the socio-emotional impact of the pandemic on blind or visually impaired children, their families, and teachers. Key findings include:

  • Inaccessibility of Educational Technology: Parents and educators reported that many of the digital learning platforms used during the pandemic were not fully accessible or usable. As a result, students often needed support to access their classrooms and could not access everything their peers could. As one parent put it, “I’m very angry when I’re done. ADA has been a law for 30 years and some people do not care.”
  • Lack of reliable Internet access: Of the educators surveyed, 43% rated the difficulty of connecting to the internet as one of the three biggest technological challenges they faced during the pandemic. Students living in homes with piecemeal Internet access could not always have full access to distance education.
  • Learning loss: Parents and educators reported that some subjects, such as Orientation and Mobility (O&M), were difficult to teach online. Students approaching high school graduation sometimes missed opportunities to gain work experience or develop skills in the community before graduation, while very young children sometimes missed out on basic services to help with early development.
  • Socio-emotional effects: 90% of the teachers surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that the 2020-2021 school year was more emotionally demanding than a typical school year. Some of the emotional challenges parents described included their children feeling lonely, fears about COVID, or children preferring not to be socialized. Some parents also felt overwhelmed by all the changes in the routine and the need to provide more support to their children at home.
  • Attitude changes: During the pandemic, some parents decided to educate their children at home or enroll their children in a school for the blind as they discovered gaps in the services their children received. One parent, who decided to go home, shared: “I saw how quickly my daughter’s education fell to a very low priority for the area when things closed. When things get tough my kids will be one of the first to “Education will fall. Once you know that, it’s hard to go back.”
  • Language challenges: Hispanic parents reported that most communications from schools were in English only. Bilingual educators have been instrumental in helping them fully support their children, especially during the pandemic.

As with the previous one Access and Commitment The report also includes a number of recommendations, such as emphasizing the importance of thorough communication between school staff and families (including bilingual families), ensuring full access to all software and hardware learning tools and legislation, to name just a few.

The American Foundation for the Blind is grateful to the Lavelle Foundation for the Blind for funding research reports. The full report is available online at AFB.org/AE3.

About the American Foundation for the Blind

The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) mobilizes leaders, promotes understanding, and advocates for impactful policies and practices using research and data. Publisher of Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness For more than a century and more, the AFB has also been proud to manage the accessible Helen Keller Archive, honoring the legacy of our most famous ambassador. The AFB’s mission is to expand the paths to leadership, education, inclusive technology and career opportunities to create a limitless world for the blind, the deaf or the visually impaired. To learn more, visit www.afb.org.

SOURCE American Foundation for the Blind

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