Barriers to learning for disabled children during pandemic

“Perspectiva”: almost a third of families with a disabled child don’t have a computer


The organisation has conducted a national survey on disabled children’s learning during the pandemic.

The (NGO) organisation Perspectiva, with the support of the National Coalition for Education for All and in partnership with the Inclusive Education Initiative and sociologists from the HSE International Laboratory for Research on Social Integration, conducted a nationwide survey on disabled children’s learning during the pandemic. The survey involved 303 respondents from 100 cities, villages and towns in Russian – including the parents of children with various disabilities and also the teachers. The majority of respondents had children with learning difficulties (44%), speech impairments (32%), musculoskeletal disorders (31%) or autism spectrum disorders (29%).

The majority of respondents (89%) believe that it is more difficult for children with disabilities than without them to study during these COVID-19 school closures. Furthermore, 37% of respondents noted that disabled children experienced difficulties in accessing health services.

Fundamental challenges

The main difficulties faced by children with disabilities during the pandemic were lack of access to rehabilitation, additional education and technical means of rehabilitation (57%), and delays or gaps in their school work because of the inaccessibility of learning (55%).

The lack of educational materials and not knowing how to use technology for educational purposes were noted by 38% and 34% of respondents respectively. 28% of respondents don’t have a computer or tablet and 17% don’t have home internet.

Among the other difficulties faced, people noted a lack of communication, decreased motivation for studying, difficulties for the child when it comes to learning through a screen and problems with concentration.

Most of these families-in-need lacked textbooks and literature in Braille (81%), educational materials with enlarged font (86%), tools for helping with speech (87%) and video materials with accompanying sign language (89%).

The worst situation, according to the survey, was with access to screen readers (91% lacked access), sign language translators and easy to read materials (97% lacked access).

What kind of support is needed?

For almost half of the respondents (48%), the lack of a personal assistant and additional support is a major obstacle to continuing their studies. Among the other obstacles noted, people also reported a lack of knowledge and skills regarding how to use technology (40%) and a lack of available materials (38%).

The majority of parents and specialists who were surveyed (86.7%) spoke primarily about the need for teacher support when planning lessons and school assignments.

About 85% of families need psychological and financial support, with a further 60% saying they need physical support.

Among other types of support that a child or student with disabilities will need over the next few months of school quarantine, the respondents spoke about:

–          Financial assistance and support

–          Summer rehabilitation programmes

–          Socialisation and the need to communicate with peers/classmates

–          Communication with teachers, psychologists, speech pathologists and speech therapists

–          Faster broadband

–          Child care for when the parents/carers are at work

The full details of the survey can be found on the organisation’s website.


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