The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) just released the Access and Engagement research report. If you haven’t heard of this project, it’s worth making some time to take a look. During the spring of 2020 some 1,432 U.S. and Canadian participants responded to a survey on how COVID-19 social-distancing decisions were affecting educational access for children with visual impairments between the ages birth-21 years. This included participation of families who provided information on the experiences of 455 children. Additionally, 710 teachers of students with visual impairments (TVIs), 138 orientation and mobility (O&M) specialists, and 180 dual-certified professionals shared how they tried to meet the learning needs of children with visual impairments during the early days of socially-distanced teaching. Findings from the Access and Engagement report highlight the challenges experienced in education in late spring 2020 as the shift was made from education in school buildings to remote education, or in some cases no education.
In a recent AFB press release, Dr. L. Penny Rosenblum, AFB Director of Research reflected on how COVID-19 and socially-distanced learning affected children and youth with visual impairments “Like it has in so many other facets of our lives, COVID-19 has had a tremendous impact on education of children with visual impairments, especially our youngest children, those with additional disabilities, and those who are deafblind.” Dr. Rosenblum added that the Access and Engagement study allowed “us to capture this historic time, but more importantly to use what we have learned, and will continue to learn through our next survey, to develop solutions to ensure all students have accessible, engaging, and inclusive educational opportunities.”
You can learn more about the Access and Engagement study results by joining Dr. Rosenblum, along with Drs. Tina S. Herzberg and Tiffany Wild, at 2 PM Eastern on November 10 for the third in a Town Hall series sponsored by AFB. They will be addressing questions about education across the lifespan.
There’s still time to get involved: If you are a family member of a young child or student with a visual impairment, or if you are a vision professional working with children and students, the Access and Engagement research team would love to hear from you for the second Access and Engagement survey. With the start of a new school year, the research team will gather additional information on the impact of the various models (e.g., hybrid, online, low-tech, in person) being implemented across the US and Canada. They will also look at the accessibility of specific learning tools, the psychological impact during COVID-19 on participants, and much more. The Access and Engagement research team looks forward to hearing from all family members, guardians, TVIs, and O&M specialists.
Both Access and Engagement surveys were made possible thanks to the collaboration among 22 organizations and companies concerned about how COVID-19 is impacting education and access for students with visual impairments. They are asking for special help in recruiting participants who represent the diverse community of families of children with visual impairments and the professionals who work with them.