It’s that time of year when books stores, clothing stores and shoe stores are buzzing with parents and children preparing for school. Whether returning to traditional school or a sprawling college campus, the COVID-19 culture has forever changed how we look at and shop for school. As we await inoculation, wearing masks, social distancing and sheltering in place is our only protection – overall. For families and students in high-risk categories, there is added fear surrounding not knowing what we don’t know about this disease and how it spreads that impacts our already complicated health-life circumstances.
While I thoroughly agree with the need for classes to be held online, it is necessary that professors are aware of the added hardship this style of information presentation impacts many students with disabilities. In my case, I am a full-time Jazzy Air® 2 power wheelchair user suffering with chronic pain interference and neurobiological symptomology. If you don’t live with someone who has these struggles, it makes it impossible for teachers or professors to understand the impact this new learning style has on individuals who thrive and prefer face-to-face interaction. My academic coach and cognitive therapist worked with our disability support services, advisory and professors to adapt accommodations. I would highly recommend the same for students with IEP and 501 documentations on file at their learning institutions.
Ideas for Accommodations
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), is a law that makes available a free appropriate public education to eligible children with disabilities throughout the nation and ensures special education and related services to those children. It’s important to encourage parents, educators, and administrators to collaborate creatively to continue to meet the needs of students with disabilities at every level of learning.
Consider practices such as distance instruction, teletherapy and tele-intervention, meetings held on digital platforms, online options for data tracking, and documentation. Technology is more than having a computer, it’s also about the capacity for it to load and run new applications and software to participate in distance learning in a timely and productive manner. There is a learning curve in using these tools that also must be considered. There are low- tech strategies that can provide for an exchange of curriculum-based resources, instructional packets, projects, and written assignments.
School accommodations are as unique as a fingerprint. Learners with a mobility challenge may actually welcome removal of the physical barriers of attending school on campus. Likewise, if a learner has a cognitive challenge, interacting without the academic community may impacts social motivation, create communication barriers that did not exist before and impact social development/education that in-person learning provided. Remote learning requires an environment as parallel to the classroom experience as possible, not just in the areas of technology but also a conducive place to process one dimensional information over long periods of time.
While I miss rolling through the library, zipping in and around campus in my Jazzy Air 2 power wheelchair, I’m confident that I’ll be back in the library again soon. In the meantime, as teachers, students, faculty and families adapt to the new ways of learning, know that the best tools to have this school year are empathy, safety, patience, and aptitude to adapt and assimilate into the new normal.
*FDA Class II Medical Device
Pride FDA Class II Medical Devices Are designed to aid individuals with mobility