Inaccessible learning platforms is the major concern facing blind or visually impaired students grappling with the shift to online learning.
This was revealed by parents and students who shared some of the difficulties being experienced in recent times.
The recent pivot to remote learning as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has further complicated the learning process for 16-year-old Andel Spence of San Fernando.
Shortly after birth Spence developed a medical condition that robbed him of his eyesight.
Early on, his hopes for an ordinary life were dashed when his basic right to an education was snuffed away from him by a system with gaping shortfalls.
“I learnt some things from my grandma, she taught me everything I could learn at a primary school level, I never really actually went to a primary school,” he said.
At 14-years-old, with no formal primary level education and relentless lobbying from his parents, he would finally feel equal.
“I started at Pleasantville Secondary school, I was nervous at first but it was pretty good. I remember my lunchtimes with friends, I remember my geography teacher taught me how to trace things using my finger, we made a model of Trinidad with flour.”
Leaping over his academic hurdles meant Andel was one step closer to his dream.
But Andel’s journey in education suffered another setback with the COVID-19 pandemic and the switch to virtual classes.
“The biggest challenge for me is accessibility, like today for example we had a Spanish test and I was supposed to read it in Google doc and fill out the answers but for my screen reader, the thing was like a blank page, if wasn’t for my aid I wouldn’t be able to do that test because my grandma’s vision seems to be going away.”
Other visually impaired students noted that the issue was common and often affected their learning capabilities.
President of the Association of Administrators of Public Special Schools, Derrick Mundy explained that the sudden switch to online learning has left students rattled despite best efforts by Government and stakeholders to minimize disruptions.
Despite the latest disappointment, the mark left from just two years of schooling throughout his entire life is enough for Andel to pay it forward.
He said, “I want to make the world more accessible to blind and visually impaired people all around, especially in the school department because certain things you have to do are not accessible.”
Andel even offered to use his time to put his wishes into action.
“For the blind people that don’t have devices they should have something for them pre-shaped with material. I mean if you all want help installing material onto the computers bring them to me, I’m good at those things, just last week I received a computer and set it up for myself.”