What’s working to help schools provide effective distance learning for students with disabilities? By Nadia Trudel

Why I Chose This Question

The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated and shed light on existing problems in various areas, including those in the education sector and those faced by people with disabilities. For years the provincial government and the education sector have had a strained relationship. The government has been accused of apathy about public services, like education, which has led to protests, demonstrations, and lengthy negotiations with teachers. People with disabilities, have historically been neglected by the government, especially during times of crisis.

As the daughter of a teacher, with a lot of people in my life with special needs, I was immediately drawn to this topic. In the past year the provincial government has largely failed to consult educators and school boards in their decisions which has led to a lot of problems and frustrations. School can already be challenging for students with learning difficulties and disabilities, so I wanted to learn more about what it’s been like for these students and their teachers since the beginning of the pandemic last spring.


What Isn't Working

In my visits to L.I.N.K.S. High School and Galileo Adult Education Centre I identified a few issues their students with special needs, and their educators, have faced with online learning.

  • Services like Microsoft Teams and Google Classroom are not accessible enough.
  • Disabled people have been even more isolated. At Galileo, many students rely on school for their socialization. Some have elderly parents who cannot take them out so even before the Covid-19 pandemic, they were often confined at home.
  • Many very active, physical activities that are very helpful for students with special needs, cannot be moved online.
  • Hybrid learning makes it difficult for teachers to simultaneously include and engage both the students who are there in person and those attending virtually.
  • Teachers for students with learning difficulties or disabilities are typically more hands-on with students than in traditional classrooms, making virtual learning difficult at times.
  • Students with learning difficulties or disabilities, and adult students were often not taken into consideration in the decisions made by the provincial government.

Photo Gallery

Gail Bernstein, a teacher at L.I.N.K.S alternative high school in the Ahuntsic-Cartierville borough of Montreal, helps a student with his iPad. Every student at the school has been provided with either an iPad or a laptop.
Students at L.I.N.K.S. high school practice conversation while socially distanced. Emphasis is placed on asking others follow-up questions and providing details in answers to have better conversations.
Students at L.I.N.K.S high school participate in dance therapy in the school gym.
A bulletin board in Gail Bernstein's classroom which displays topics of conversation, follow up questions, and photos of the students and teachers as "employees" and "managers." Bernstein wants to help prepare her students for the workforce and develop their social skills.
A student at L.I.N.K.S high school copies a poem from his workbook onto his iPad which he will then submit onto Microsoft Teams, a software used by many classrooms.
A student at Galileo adult education centre in Montreal North holds a guinea pig as part of animal therapy. Other animals include a hamster, two birds, a rabbit, and a turtle. While dogs used to be part of animal therapy, they are no longer allowed at the school due to Covid-19.
One of many signs around L.I.N.K.S high school meant to educate and remind students and staff about public health measures.
A student at L.I.N.K.S. high school types an assignment on her iPad. Though students are back in school, technology has become more integrated into the classroom.
Students at Galileo adult education centre join their classmates and teacher virtually. While classes are held in person, students have the option to stay home and participate via Zoom.
Puppets in the "theater room" at Galileo adult education center. Students act in various plays throughout the year and frequently use puppets to talk about their feelings.

What I've learned about producing multimedia journalism

Over the semester I actually learned a lot about restraint in journalism. I made my job much more difficult because I took too many pictures and videos, and conducted too many interviews. Although being well-informed, getting the full picture, making subjects feel comfortable, and having enough material are all important, it made the process of editing videos or finding the best sound bites challenging. Learning to be more efficient and organized with how I went about filming and interviewing was also a big lesson for me. Additionally I got more practice with interviewing more diverse subjects. Some subjects are more introverted, or have trouble expressing themselves, or can't answer more abstract questions so I learned how to adapt to whoever I'm interviewing and their needs because everyone deserves to have a voice.


Extra Video Clips


Nadia Trudel