It may be hard to believe that Summer is almost over and students are headed back to school. The coronavirus pandemic is causing many administrators, educators, parents, and students to make difficult decisions about what may be best for both education and health. Some school districts are returning to physical classrooms, some to virtual classrooms. Some schools are using a hybrid model combining both online and in-person learning. Some families may opt to home school their children individually or form learning pods – small groups of children who will always study together. College students face similar choices: return to campus, opt for an online university, or take a year off until it is safe to go back full time.
For students with disabilities and their parents, and for educators with disabilities, the choices may be even more difficult. Some individuals with disabilities may be at higher risk for adverse outcomes if they become infected with COVID-19, prompting them to stay out of in-person learning programs. On the other hand, some students may need the kinds of focused attention and support from educators and peers they may only get in a live classroom setting. Finally, the virtual learning environment may present technical difficulties for some students and teachers: learning platforms may have accessibility issues, high-speed Internet may not be available or reliable, and parents or direct support staff may be unable to assist with online learning.
There are no easy answers as we approach the start of the school year. However, we can recommend a few resources from the NIDILRR community and elsewhere to help you chart a path forward.
The Southwest ADA Regional Center is hosting a session of the ADA Live podcast called Back to School: Access for Students Receiving Special Education, focusing on students receiving special education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The session will address questions and concerns about what going to school may look like during COVID-19 and into the future. ADA Live will be broadcasting August 12th at 1pm, and the episode will be archived for on-demand access.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has guidance and decision-making tools for parents and guardians, including special considerations for children with underlying health issues and those living with at-risk family members.
High School Students
If you’re a student with an individualized education plan (IEP), it can be helpful to work with your education team to decide what is right for you as you continue your education or transition to the workforce. Check out You Got This: Taking a Leadership Role in Your IEP Meeting and Teens on IEPs: Making My Transition Services Work for Me from the Learning and Working During the Transition to Adulthood Research and Training Center (Transitions ACR). Students with cognitive challenges might want to check out Cognitopia, which includes Goal Guide, an effective tool to create and track goals with teachers, parents, or coaches, work on team goals or class goals, and build virtual supports.
Parents, learn about What is a 504 Plan and How Can It Help My Teen?
The Transitions ACR Team has spent a lot of time since March developing and curating resources to support youth and young adults with mental health conditions during COVID-19. Check out their huge catalog and download these factsheets:
- Should I Attend College in the Fall? Questions for Students with Mental Health Conditions to Consider
- Finishing College Classes During COVID-19
- Working from Home During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Tips and Strategies to Maintain Productivity & Connectedness
- How Young Adults Can Manage Loss of Income During the COVID-19 Pandemic
If you’re a student with vision loss considering transitioning to the workforce, even temporarily, visit the National Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision to learn about preparing for video interviews.
Administrators, Educators, and School Boards
Communities face difficult choices whether or not to open schools for in-person learning. The CDC has guidance for preparing for a safe return to school; effective cleaning, disinfecting, and hand hygiene policies; screening, and more.
More than likely, some or all of your work will take place in a virtual environment. Virtual meeting platforms are in use across the field, from classes to staff meetings to school board sessions. Make sure everyone can log in and watch or listen in. Learn about Accessible Virtual Meeting Platforms in this recorded webinar from the Great Lakes ADA Regional Center.
Many workplaces are developing return-to-work policies related to COVID-19, and many employees and employers have questions about how these policies interact with rights and responsibilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These can include policies regarding face coverings. Watch COVID-19 and Return to Work hosted by the Great Lakes ADA Regional Center August 13th at 2pm ET. This webinar will be archived for on-demand viewing.
The ADA National Network can assist with questions about the intersections between COVID-19 policies/practices and the ADA. Find the nearest center online or call 800/949-4ADA (4232) to be connect to the center serving your area. To learn about assistive technology options to support students and educators with disabilities, find your state’s Assistive Technology Project.