Understanding the impact of COVID-19 on the education of persons with disabilities: Challenges and opportunities of distance education

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the shortcomings, fragilities, risks, and inequalities in the education of learners with disabilities within and across countries. Even prior to the pandemic, millions of learners with disabilities were reported to be receiving inferior-quality education, often separated from their peers. Among the world’s most disadvantaged groups are children with disabilities, with educational opportunities remaining out of reach for the majority of them. Children with disabilities, with multiple barriers, stigma, and discrimination against them, are still among the most left behind in education systems worldwide.

This policy brief is part of the Global Programme Supporting Disability Inclusive COVID-19 Response and Recovery at National Level, funded by the United Nations Partnership on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNPRPD). Proceeding from the review and analysis of the Programme-related research findings, the document presents recommendations to support relevant stakeholders and policymakers in overcoming challenges to providing access to quality learning opportunities for persons with disabilities during and beyond the pandemic. The policy brief places special emphasis on the feasible approaches, means and solutions to maintain continuity of and achieve authentic inclusion in the education of persons with disabilities through alternative delivery modalities, most notably via open and distance learning.

This policy brief was coordinated by the UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education (UNESCO IITE) and the Section of Education for Inclusion and Gender Equality at UNESCO Headquarters, supported by the valuable contribution from the International Disability Alliance (IDA) and the International Disability and Development Consortium (IDDC).


Publication year: 2021

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