It is evident that every blind or visually impaired person is willing and capable of working. However, unfortunately, their educational opportunities are often limited; over the years, researchers have been looking for ways and means to help people with such issues. Nevertheless, studies on topics of social adaptation and education of visually impaired children have received significant development. For this reason, the methods of improving the learning experience for these students have taken a significant step forward. The purpose of this work is to analyze why assisting students with visual impairments is important and what measures a school can implement.
The relevance of the topic is difficult to overestimate. It is evident to investigate the current situation in the field of providing support for blind students in the context of inclusive education. There is no doubt that for these children, learning is associated with many difficulties, which actualizes the search for effective models of improving. Researchers note that “expanding the compulsory education opportunities for disabled students has become a priority at national and international levels in recent decades” (McCarthy and Shevlin 1008). Unfortunately, nowadays, the situation regarding the introduction of inclusive education methods is far from perfect. It would be beneficial to start to identify the main issues, to develop technological decisions, approaches, and productive practices of teaching visually impaired children.
First of all, it is essential to define the term of inclusive education, which is used to describe the process of teaching children with special needs in schools. It is based on an ideology that excludes any discrimination, but at the same time manages to create special conditions for such children. This theory recognizes that all children can learn freely, and their distinguishing features are worthy of respect. The main purpose of creating an inclusive system is to create a barrier-free environment in education for people with disabilities. This includes providing technical equipment and the development of special training courses for teachers and other students, which is aimed at improving their interaction with people with visual impairments. In addition, it also involves working on special programs with the purpose of facilitating the process of adaptation of children in schools.
Nevertheless, the problem of providing an inclusive education for blind students remains insufficiently developed both theoretically and practically. The reason for this is that some schools are not ready to work with such children; moreover, teachers do not have enough training in such matters. The main difficulties usually include the absence of mechanisms that regulate relations between participants in the educational process. Another issue is teachers’ low level of motivation and competence, as well as the lack of experience in teaching children with disabilities. In addition, in some educational facilities, the equipment necessary for working with visually impaired children is insufficient. Furthermore, the lack of special training on the topic of working with blind children does not allow many comprehensive schools to solve the main task of an inclusive school. And that duty is to build a learning system that meets the needs of everyone; an additional problem is the lack of trained specialists.
A student with disabilities ultimately uses the same technologies as a regular user but in a different way. However, if an ordinary user communicates with the help of computers without any restrictions and uses its capabilities directly, then a user with disabilities needs special adaptive technologies. In other words, the adaptive technology can play a role of an intermediate link between a blind person and education. People with visual impairments can be divided into several groups, including those with significant visual impairment and those with a slight visual impairment blind. Another group that needs to be taken into account is those blind students who can only use voice screen access programs.
It should be noted that in addition to a visual impairment, such children have secondary issues regarding their mental and physical development. The disability has a significant impact on their general functioning as it reduces orientation capabilities. Moreover, it negatively affects speed, accuracy, coordination of movements, and the formation of movement patterns. All these problems lead to excluding blind and visually impaired children in a school environment. After that comes a decrease in their performance during lessons. Researchers point out another problem, which is “the lack of classroom teacher understanding of vision impairment was a common statement” (Opie 76). In order to improve their learning skills and help them to provide high performance in schools, great attention should be paid to the organizational work. By introducing inclusive methods, each educational facility should be able to prepare a highly qualified graduate with visual impairment. Such a student will be confident in their abilities and competent in whatever field they choose as a career.
As for communicating with visually impaired students, the best approach for teachers would be to interact with a person’s personality, and not with their disability. It is important since, according to researchers, “the level of willingness of teachers to adapt activities can affect the level of engagement of the students with disabilities in their classes” (Haegele et al. 144). Moreover, aside from educating the teaching staff on how to communicate with blind students, it would also be helpful to make changes in curriculums. As Ajuwon notes, “assisting subject-specific methodology classes with how to adapt the general curriculum for students with visual impairments” (139). In general, these methods can make the learning process easier and more pleasant for children.
Another important factor that should be taken into consideration is the number of opportunities that the current technology can provide for educating visually impaired students. For people with different categories of disabilities, different devices and teaching methods can be used. They can help children to not only integrate into society but also to increase their professional and educational skills. Therefore, in order to improve the learning experience for them, it is necessary to provide special textbooks and educational materials. For example, researchers suggest that “specifically, computers and web technologies have become supporters for solving the problems people face because of their vision loss” (Aslantaş 101). Moreover, it would also be helpful to encourage the use of special libraries that can help with the compilation of teaching material adapted for the blind.
In conclusion, it would appear that in order to help children with visual impairments to get an education, a number of holistic methods should be implemented in school. In addition, educational facilities should take a philanthropic and inclusive approach. Moreover, for an educational institution, the problems of developing proper education for blind students are relevant. Therefore, it is necessary to develop and adopt a comprehensive program of inclusive education.
Ajuwon, Paul M., et al. “Including students who are visually impaired in the classroom: Attitudes of preservice teachers.” Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness 109.2 (2015): 131-140.
Aslantaş, Tuğba Kamalı. “Foreign language education of visually impaired individuals: A review of pervasive studies.” Ihlara Eğitim Araştırmaları Dergisi 2.2 (2017): 95-104.
Haegele, Justin A., et al. “Physical education experiences at residential schools for students who are blind: A phenomenological inquiry.” Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness 111.2 (2017): 135-147.
McCarthy, Patricia, and Michael Shevlin. “Opportunities and challenges in secondary education for blind/vision-impaired people in the Republic of Ireland.” Disability & Society 32.7 (2017): 1007-1026.
Opie, Jill. “Educating students with vision impairment today: Consideration of the expanded core curriculum.” British Journal of Visual Impairment 36.1 (2018): 75-89.