How Children With Disabilities Are Excluded in Schooling During the COVID-19 Pandemic

An Australian royal commission is investigating claims that children with disabilities are being excluded from online learning, according to The Guardian. They are also looking into issues with the services that are provided to those who live with a disability, such as cancellations.

Exclusion from Online Learning

Online learning is something that all students have been forced to get used to; many were quickly converted to a virtual format earlier this year. It’s something that nobody is completely used to or comfortable using yet, but some children have been presented with additional challenges.

Children with disabilities have reported being excluded, not being provided services, or simply not receiving the help they need. One mother has told the commission about her 12 year old daughter’s story. The child, who has Down syndrome, was excluded from the Google Classroom that all of her classmates were given access to. When her mother asked the teachers about it, instead of adding her to the platform, they sent worksheets that were unrelated to what the other students were learning. After more complaints, access was given to the Google Classroom, but it became clear that some teachers had very low expectations and did not want to put the effort in to help her daughter participate.

Sadly, this story is not unique. Other children with disabilities were sent worksheets that simply told them to do chores rather than work on the actual curriculum. On the other hand, other children reported being sent home very complex work with no help to complete it.

According to the Children and Young People with Disability Australia, 72% of disabled students were more isolated socially than their peers. In addition, 61% reported not receiving the educational support that they need.  It has become clear that something needs to be done to fix these issues so that all students can receive a quality education, even during a pandemic.

Problems with Services

Issues are not only present in the education system; those living with disabilities are facing issues in many other facets of life during the pandemic. Every Australian Counts conducted a survey of disabled people and found that half of the 700 respondents were living in poverty before the pandemic. Many of these people are on the Disability Support Pension, and they were not given the COVID-19 supplements that others were. These people, many of whom already lived in poverty, were not given help that they needed during a global pandemic.

In addition, many of the services that disabled people need are no longer offered due to the pandemic. One woman, who has Friedreich’s ataxia, has reported that many of her services were cancelled. As she already lives with 30% lung function, she now has to stay home much more.

Ricky Buchanan, who lives with chronic fatigue syndrome and has been bedridden for twenty years, spoke of the challenges she faced when her support workers cancel their shifts. She is not alone in this problem; one of her friends went without a support worker for nine days.

Looking Forward

While there are a lot of negatives to this pandemic, it is important to note the positives. Many things are being offered on the internet that were never offered before: telehealth, film festivals, webinars, and more. For disabled people like Ricky, this opens up a new world. It is necessary that these things are available even beyond the pandemic.

The royal commission will continue to investigate these issues, and hopefully they will be able to improve the systems that are not working for disabled people right now.

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