Since early March 2020, when the United States and Canada quickly shifted how children, including those with visual impairments, additional disabilities, and deafblindness, were being educated because of the COVID-19 pandemic, AFB’s research team has led three research studies.
The most recent, Access and Engagement III adds to these earlier findings and continues the story as schools gradually returned to in-person teaching. In addition to survey data from educators, this study features qualitative findings, obtained through focus groups and interviews, sharing personal accounts of challenges, successes, and reflections on the potential long-term impacts of the pandemic. These findings point to both systemic and COVID-specific issues limiting the educational success of children who are blind or have low vision. The study also highlights perspectives that were not specifically included in the first two studies—information shared by administrators of schools for blind students, families of children with multiple disabilities, and Spanish-speaking families of blind and low-vision children.
Access and Engagement II, collected data from 662 family members, teachers of students with visual impairments, and O&M specialists to understand the challenges and successes in the patchwork of education occurring throughout the United States and Canada. The Executive Summary provides a snapshot of the finding and recommendations. The full report notes the challenges with digital learning tools, instruction for students with additional disabilities, mental health concerns, but also the successes and collaboration that have occurred as the pandemic has impacted education throughout the 2020-2021 school year.
These two studies, coupled with the first Access and Engagement study conducted in Spring 2020 with data from 1,921 family members and professionals tell the story of how the pandemic has impacted our students’ education. The Executive Summary highlights the key points of the study. The full report has more than 50 quotes giving voice to the concerns being experienced as the pandemic first impacted education.
One of the key findings from these research studies has been the problems that students face with inaccessible technology resources. Resources to help ed tech product managers, school procurement officials, and teachers get started with accessibility were published in June 2022.
Based on findings from the three studies, we have published a series of toolkits for students, families, general education teachers, vision professionals, and school administrators with concrete tips to foster full inclusion in the classroom.
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