Getting ready for the upcoming school season has always been hectic. These challenges bring up a lot of questions on how best to proceed and what resources are available. This post will talk about how assistive technology can be used to help Blind and Visually Impaired children with their education.
How Do Schools Typically Serve Blind and Visually Impaired Children?
Blind and visually impaired students are served in the “least restrictive” setting possible. Some students need to learn braille, some need to learn cane travel, some may need what is called ECC (expanded core curriculum) and some will have other disabilities along with their vision impairment. If they can go to a mainstream public school and get tech that can help them access content in a mainstream classroom – that is the least restrictive environment. However, some will have very involved needs and need to be educated at a residential school for the blind. It is dependent on the mix of needs for a particular student.
How Can Assistive Technology Help with Education?
Assistive technology in the classroom helps to ensure students with disabilities have the same opportunity for education as students who do not have disabilities. Assistive technology helps schools and teachers deliver on the promise of educational equality.
How is assistive technology currently used?
Assistive technology for students with visual impairments is most often provided through federal “quote funds”. These federal “quota” funds are appropriated to school systems each year for the number of visually impaired children they have. These funds are used to purchase assistive technology that is under quota contract.
What if additional assistive technology is needed?
There are many cases where additional assistive technology is needed outside of what is available through quota funds. The school, family, or teacher for the visually impaired must advocate for other types or brands of technology that are not covered by quota funds. Distance learning, due to the pandemic, exposed a major problem with the current quota system. Schools are scrambling to find enough and the right kinds of technology to send home with students to prevent learning loss. To address this problem, funds were made available through the CARES Act and the American Rescue Plan. Because of this, there is more available funding for assistive technology. Another gap for access to assistive technology can be found in private schools. They cannot use federal quota funds and are often left searching for expertise to identify appropriate solutions for their students with vision impairments. A final gap is loss of technology when a student graduates from school. Families may not be aware that the assistive technology the student has used for their education stays at school and does not go home with the student.
How we can help!
Because of these gaps in the federal quota funds, it’s imperative to find ways to fill them. We can help institutions and families navigate their needs. We have everything from braille products to portable electronic magnification and can help private schools, their students, and their families determine what technology will work best.
The CARES Act and American Rescue Plan have both appropriated funds for assistive technology for students with disabilities, which provides a great opportunity to expand the availability of high-quality assistive technology that is suitable for in classroom and at home learning that is not included under quota funds.
We can also assist in helping you discover assistive technology that can help your student keep on learning from home – whether it is doing homework after attending in person classes or participating in virtual learning because of COVID risk.
Assistive technology is not one size fits all and is very individualized. Let us help you discover what is the best solution for your child!