A blind child in a school in Africa | © HI
Many children with disabilities have never been to school. Here are some examples of how HI works to include children with visual and hearing impairments in primary schools.
The start of a new term can be a busy time for students - especially children with visual or hearing impairments who are starting school for the first time. HI is there to help.
HI teaches sign language to children with hearing impairments, including the basics such as the alphabet in sign language and writing vowels and consonants. We do this by stages. We also introduce visually impaired children to Braille code and teach them to insert paper into Braille writing slates and to write in Braille.
Children with disabilities arriving at school for the first time enter a completely new world with lots of other children and new friends. It is easy to feel lost and confused on your first day, so we teach them the school rules, such as asking permission before leaving the classroom, and routine skills like dressing alone, washing yourself, chewing and swallowing well when eating, putting away your belongings if you have a visual impairment, and using public toilets.
On their first day, new students with impairments are given a tour of the school to familiarise them with their environment, find the toilets, and understand the layout of the classroom, for example.
Before they arrive, we teach children with visual impairments to scan their surroundings and move around with a white cane.
We provide teachers with information on the special needs of children with impairments. To help them follow lessons, for example, students should be seated at the front of the class to better hear what the teacher is saying. They should also let them touch objects - chalk, slate, bags, pens, and so on – to better understand what is going on around them.
Since children with hearing impairments lip read to understand and process information, we advise teachers never to speak with their backs to students.
Rather than saying to a student, “Can you do this?”, we ask teaching teams to call each child by his or her first name. This helps include children with visual impairments who will remember each student's name, voice and location in the classroom.
HI has more than 15 years of experience in inclusive education - the practice of including children with disabilities in mainstream schools with non-disabled children. It always turns out well. Children with and without disabilities play and travel to school together. Adults are the ones with prejudices about disability. The children, in contrast, get on very well together.