Did remote learning fail people with disability?

Did we forget students with disabilities in the rush to remote learning?

In the fast-tracked transition to remote learning in response to COVID-19, what provisions were made for Victorian students with disability?

Children with disability, and their families, are often excluded from the social, political, educational and economic lives of their communities. A pandemic situation is new to us all, and many responses are based on limited evidence.

The Nossal Institute’s Disability Inclusive Health and Development in collaboration with the Centre for Health Equity, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health and Melbourne Graduate School of Education, has undertaken a study on the impact of remote learning on families of students with disabilities in Victoria.

Twelve Victorian families with students from mainstream and specialist schools participated in this longitudinal qualitative study sharing their experiences during School Terms 2 and 3 as the COVID-19 pandemic and education response evolved over time. Findings from this study identified gaps in meeting the needs of students with disability in remote learning.

Our research showed students were provided with minimal support from schools and parents had to come up with strategies to adapt learning activities to meet with students’ functional needs. Although families felt less rushed with their morning routines and busy schedules between school, therapies and other activities, parents had no work-life balance during remote learning. COVID-19 has highlighted existing systemic issues for the inclusion and participation of school students with disability in education.

We have submitted our findings to the Inquiry into the Victorian Government's Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic. We hope this study will inform future disaster and emergency preparedness and responses inclusive of students with disability.

This study was funded by Melbourne Disability Institute COVID-19 Funding Round.

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Manjula Marella