Vol. 4 (1) Jul. 2022

Article ID. JHSSR-1153-2022

Accessing and Delivering Online Education in The Time of COVID-19: Challenges for Visually Impaired People in Malaysia

Andy Hickson, Leyla H. Tajer, Mustafa Muwafak Alobaedy and Edmund Joo Vin Oh


visually impaired learners, online education, Malaysia, Covid-19 pandemic

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While the rapid growth of online education during the Covid-19 pandemic has posed challenges for students and teachers alike, little is known about the experiences of visually impaired people in this respect. This study asks whether and how visually impaired students and teachers in Malaysia may be facing challenges in accessing and delivering online education – challenges that are unique to the visually impaired, to the Covid-19 pandemic, and to Malaysia. Following preliminary consultations with civil society, government, and education experts familiar with issues facing visually impaired people, semi-structured interviews were held virtually with several visually impaired students and a visually impaired teacher at a school for the blind in Malaysia. Thematic analysis of interview transcripts yielded critical insights into the needs of visually impaired learners with respect to online education and what technological solutions are available. Overall, our findings constitute a critique of how assistive technology is ostensibly being used to facilitate access and delivery of online education among the visually impaired. Deployment of assistive software and hardware without adequate training and attention to their use in an online education context was found to frustrate rather than promote learning. Furthermore, in a world that extols visual reality, technology is used largely to translate the visual to the non- and partially sighted, often at the expense and gradual de-emphasis of non-visual skills like Braille literacy. The implications are that visually impaired learners, already marginalised, risk being increasingly de-skilled, under-resourced, and devalued if attention is not given to their unique learning needs under the conditions engendered by the ‘new normal.’

DOI: https://doi.org/10.37534/bp.jhssr.2022.v4.n1.id1153.p63