Accessibility for Distance Learning

Students across Nebraska are adjusting to at-home learning. Likewise, families are attempting to assist their kids with lessons provided by schools. Accessibility issues challenge blind parents and students as they learn to navigate this new normal. 

Districts distribute packets of print material so that students can maintain the curriculum and advance to the next grade level for the 20-21 school year. 

Technology offers a variety of accessibility options these days from OCR like Seeing AI to services like AIRA that provide sighted agents to access visual mediums via smart devices. Nonetheless, this is not direct access to the material.

Often, districts simultaneously post the print material via websites, but it’s not always accessible. Scholastic and ABC Mouse and PBS Kids also offer e-learning opportunities, but accessing these sites with a screen reader like JAWS or MVDA is not always an option. 

The Department of Education insists that IDEA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act are to be upheld as schools shift to remote learning, but sometimes, despite best efforts, accessibility remains a struggle.

Visually impaired children and parents/guardians need direct access to lessons and tools so educational endeavors can continue. Here are some resources making online learning accessible.

Virtual Expanded Core Education Learning (EXCEL)Academy for Students with Visual Impairments

Virtual Expanded Core Education Learning (EXCEL) Academy for Students with Visual Impairments offers free daily lessons for blind and visually impaired students. Qualified teachers of visually impaired students across the United States will present a range of lessons.

VISTAS Education Partners Inc. 

VISTAS Education Partners Inc. Teachers of the visually impaired and advocates for the blind set up a national hotline for blind and visually impaired students to provide Q and A for K through 12th grades.

Breezy Special Ed

Breezy Special Ed supply distance learning material for disabled students.

Accessibyte Online

Accessibyte Online currently allows free access to its entire platform of apps for disabled students.

Working Together to Support Students with Visual Impairments to Access Curriculum

The American Foundation for the Blind created a group of volunteers to assist students and families with distance learning. So far, 48 volunteers are available to provide educational support.

The National Federation of the Blind now offers Interactive Lessons for Blind Children and their Families on Thursday mornings via Zoom.

AIRA

AIRA now permits free access to its platform for all visually impaired college students.

Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youth and Adults

The Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youth and Adults made their online classes free of charge through May 31.

Reading resources for visually impaired children

Many reading resources are available for blind and visually impaired children. Two popular digital libraries provide books in electronic braille and audio formats for visually impaired and print disabled users–Bookshare and the National Library Service for the Blind and 

Print Disabled–also known as NLS. Bookshare is a subscription service, while NLS requires proof of disability before granting access to their books.

 Audible currently offers free downloads for children. Check out our accessible reading apps blog for additional reading resources.

As we all stay safe at home, it’s important we do our best to keep up with educational goals. We hope these resources are making online learning accessible.  Contact Outlook Enrichment if you have additional questions about distance learning resources.

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