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How is education impacted for people with disabilities in the “Pandemic Mode?”

chica con lentes oscuro poniendo atención a lo que escucha con sus audífonos. A su lado una ventana flotante con cálculos matemáticos junto a una profesora explicando. De la profesora sale una burbuja de texto con icono de accesibilidad.

The challenge is that all teachers, students, parents and guardians must assume there are changes that go beyond a classroom and a computer.

Hybrid or online? These are dilemmas that have become common in the context of the pandemic, specifically when we talk about education for children and young people, whether they are taught in schools or higher education centers. 

The new methods of learning and imparting information online with a screen are gaining ground, along with the health situations in each country, although with various nuances. These are mainly focused on the socioeconomic aspects of students and their families, which in many cases is the result of the adverse effects of Covid-19. They simply don’t have the basic resources to connect every day from their cities or homes.

Another aspect is the ability of each student to tackle the subjects in question, an issue that is decisive when evaluating intermediate or final exams, and determining how much they actually learned. It is not a matter of qualifications but rather of the usefulness of the knowledge and whether it advances the integral development of a child or young person, which finally translates into possibilities for better personal and professional performance in their lives as adults. 

But a new concern in this area needs to be addressed. It is regarding online education for students with specific needs, in cases where there is a physical or cognitive disability. 

Opinions are diverse in this area. However there is one that caught our attention. It is the testimony of Camilo Ortiz, who is a professor of Spanish and Philosophy, and who also has a master’s degree in Psychological Intervention of Development and Education.

For Camilo, the problems with the greatest impact have to do with the economic situation in the home, where parents generally have only one device connected to the Internet that they take to work, and due to this their children cannot participate in classes. 

He also points out there are difficulties from the pedagogical point of view, which are explained by the lack of concentration that affects especially the youngest students, given the impossibility of delivering content in a personalized manner: “It is extremely complicated that with the teacher only on a screen the child learns to read, add and subtract, in addition to other tasks that require more personalized support, an issue that is difficult to address in virtuality and in the absence of parents who many times have to work. Worse still if the school only delivers guides and does not hold online classes, since the guides, being only a written medium, are usually difficult to understand without direct explanations and in the moment.”

The experience of those who live in a situation of disability is even more complex, which according to Camilo Ortiz most of the time goes hand in hand with economic vulnerability: 

“The population in a situation of disability is usually from a vulnerable origin, either due to precarious salaries of the parents, the denial of this reality or simply because they do not know how to support them. Along with this component of vulnerability, there is also the need to use computers with screen readers, joysticks and software for managing the PC with sight and other variants depending on the type of disability, tools that not everyone can count on,” emphasized Camilo Ortiz. 

If we review some of the data, for example in countries like Chile, the first cycle of school dropouts so far in 2021 is 140,000 male and female students. According to organizations linked to childhood issues, such as UNESCO, this is a concerning figure, as “The gap in education that already exists in developing countries widened as a result of the pandemic.”

By analyzing information and case studies, Lazarillo also seeks to provide an environment by which the community of users who are currently studying can have alternatives. For example, public and private organizations, linked to education and disability issues, can deliver announcements about online courses, as well as options to obtain technical aids that strengthen the teaching processes in each area where the application is present. 

On the other hand, if we envision a hybrid system that combines face-to-face and virtual classes, there are tools with which each study center can be geolocated, with a route map and also with an internal navigation system. This would be a great help for people who are blind, with low vision and reduced mobility, and students in general who for a long time could not normally go to these places. 

Finally, by acknowledging the current health situation, each educational community can deliver messages of self-care and prevention of infections by Covid-19 through the Lazarillo App, promoting an educational modality during this time of change, which is essential to start adapting to. 

We invite educational centers, authorities from each country and communities in general to learn about our work, review the usability alternatives offered by the Lazarillo application, along with the possibility of delivering messages with our platforms and configuring accessible environments, preparing for the beginning of a new post-pandemic era. 

Visit our website and connect with us: https://www.lazarillo.app