Due to COVID-19, parents around the world are adapting to lockdown orders while balancing simultaneously working remotely and homeschooling their children. At the Autosomal Dominant Optic Atrophy Association (ADOAA), we know that having a child with low vision can make this situation even more complicated. And we want to help. There are several organizations providing resources to assist families as they navigate this unique time. We’ve looked into those resources for you and detailed what we’ve found to be the most useful below.
The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) put together a thorough list of educational resources for parents, students, and teachers that they are continuing to update. Some highlights include:
Free educational activities and lessons that the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) is collecting as part of their #AtHomeWithAPH initiative
A new virtual academy for students with visual impairments, the Expanded Core Education Learning (ExCEL) program
Free access to Accessibyte’s cloud platform that contains educational apps and games for visually impaired students
And much more!
The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) is also maintaining an extensive list of resources for blind and visually impaired students. These include educational resources such as weekly interactive lessons that are held via Zoom and then posted on YouTube for future use. Additionally, NFB posted each state’s specific guidance for special education during COVID-19. This is a critical resource for parents wondering what types of support your child should be receiving from their school during this lockdown.
For example, in 2017, Darcie Whelan Kortan wrote an article for the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults’ magazine Future Reflections. Though written pre-pandemic, this article highlights important information for parents who are now homeschooling their children. Kortan specifically lists the educational equipment that the New York State Commission for the Blind requires the school district of a visually impaired student to pay for, even if the child is homeschooled. In Kortan’s son’s case, this includes a laptop with a 15-inch field of view, a 27-inch touchscreen monitor to increase field of view, screen magnifier software, and more. Each state has different requirements, so it’s important that parents do their research and understand how their school districts should be supporting them.
The American Bar Association also held a 90-minute panel last month called “Learning for Students with Disabilities in the Time of COVID-19.” This webinar featured panelist Carlton Anne Cook Walker, the President of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC), who provided insights into her extensive experience dealing with the education system through a legal lens. She emphasized the rights of children with disabilities and how they are owed the same support as children without disabilities, especially in these difficult situations.
One particularly insightful tip Walker offered is to work with teachers to choose learning times that accommodate everyone’s schedule. As she put it, “we don’t need to be confined to eight to three school hours, because we’re not in a building anymore.” Parents could potentially work with their child’s educators to hold an online lesson in the evening, so that teachers can take care of their own children during the day. This is a crucial time for parents and teachers to work together, while also ensuring that our children don’t fall behind in their education.
We understand that navigating homeschooling in COVID-19 is different for every family and every child. We are a community that needs to work together, and that’s why we’re here for you. These are just a few of the best resources we’ve found so far, and we’ll continue doing our due diligence to keep you informed. Do you have tips you want to share with the ADOA community on navigating your experience homeschooling your child? Share them with us by filling out our Contact Us form. Also be sure to also follow us on Facebook for more tips and frequent updates!