The integration of the people with disabilities in the classroom is a topic that is being highly addressed in education. Nowadays, more students seem to have disabilities such as, visual, hearing, mental, or other types of incapacities. Therefore, teachers have to be careful when programming or planning a class due to the fact that people with disabilities need more facilities in order to be able to have the same chances as the non-disability students (Esthela, 1998). Besides, the aim of this paper is how to deal with disable students, particularly students with visual impairment, in a second language classroom. Moreover, the paper strives to prove that it is possible to integrate students with disabilities into a second language class without hindering the acquisition of the second language of other students.
First of all it is essential to highlight that this paper examines the integration of blind students in second language acquisition classroom. Therefore, to fulfil the process of this, some researchers have been done. These were put into practice with students who have visual impairment. Apart from that some interviews have also been done from specialized psychologists, blind educators, primary attention experts, English teachers and visually impaired children. They had the intention of clarifying the situation of students with this difficulty in the acquisition of second language. Moreover, some papers had been read to find a solution to the problem of the integration in students with disabilities and to be more specifically students with blind problems.
The integration of Blind students in L2 classroom:
Besides, the acquisition of second language by blind children is a topic which has been rarely studied; perhaps it is assumed that these students follow a learning process identical to their sighted classmates (Coden, 2017). Further, it is assumed that language skills are transferred from a language to another and therefore, if children can dominate their mother tongue, they will learn a second language without difficulty (Nikolic, 1987). Additionally, Guerra (2018) consider that blind children have more facilities for second languages than seers, due to their sensible sensitivity and memory training. Nevertheless, blind children have big problems with the high visual content of academic materials and the complexity of Braille can cause delays in reading and writing skills (Pegalajar, 2013). Moreover, these problems do not affect students of specific centres, since their teachers are specialized not only in second language, they are also specialized in the education of blind students and as a consequence the teaching methods are adapted adequately (Emechebe, 2016).
Furthermore, nowadays it is a tendency to educate students with special needs in integration centres, since this school system is considered to offer a better academic level as well as greater possibilities for social interaction (Eagleton, 2018). Besides, specific centres are generally recommended for children whose complex needs cannot be met in ordinary centres (Coden, 2017). Moreover, the visually impaired student in a school integration regime has to adjust to a didactic visual material rarely adapted to be enjoyed tactilely (Emechebe, 2016). The second language books have a very pictorial design and therefore the teaching of this subject is particularly complex when there is a blind child in the classroom, due to the images can help student without visual disability to clarify the doubts (Esthela, 1998). Instead the student with visual impairment will have to ask the teacher for help to clarify the doubts. Often, language teachers do not have a qualified teacher to help them, which means that attaching these students to the class usually involves excessive extra work and as a consequence the teacher usually gives more help to blind students than the other students (Nikolic, 1987).
Hence, the student with visual impairment often has problems doing tasks, as it is difficult and laborious to adapt the visual content of the material to the needs of a person who does not see. In addition, some teachers choose to replace illustrations with three-dimensional objects, although this involves a constant search effort and often retards the pace of the class (Esthela, 1998). On the other hand, others prefer to organize teamwork where sighted children decipher the visual clues to their blind classmates. In this type of activity, children tend to speak in their mother tongue and therefore oral English is not practiced much (Eagleton, 2018). In addition, pedagogues complain that this solution could interfere with the independence process of the blind child.
Overall, blind student follows the class with the Braille version of a very attractive text, which has lost all the motivational impacts of the original one (Pegalajar, 2013). Furthermore, it will take them more time to work with this material than to their classmates. Not only because Braille reading is a slow process, it is also, due to the complicated descriptions of the text illustrations included in its version (Nikolic, 1987). Therefore, they often prefer audio podcasts, though it is not advisable to use them too often, as the student must become familiar with the written word to acquire good spelling (Coden, 2017). Moreover, this is especially important in the case of the English language, whose writing and pronunciation have few similarities. Consequently, Eagleton (2018) states that using natural learning strategies should be encouraged for the purpose of acquiring a second language in a similar way to the first. In order to achieve this, it is essential to carry out communicative tasks where blind students are invited to participate in spontaneous conversations in the target language, stimulating their learning with attractive support material, preferably from their country of origin, in order to promote a positive attitude towards other languages and cultures (Emechebe, 2016). Furthermore, this is often a great challenge, even with a group of students without visual problems, as it is difficult to make oneself understood without resorting to the mother tongue in spite of all the visual aids available to the teacher. In addition, according to Nikolic (1987) the use of authentic material in the primary classroom is necessary to adapt it carefully in order to get the most benefit from it, which means an additional effort for the teachers.
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Nonetheless, one of the main advantages of teaching second language to children is that current teaching material contains attractive topics of special interest for them. In addition, some stimulating activities are proposed to support their learning. Hereby, sighted children generally enjoy this subject, regardless of whether they learn much or less in the classroom (Eagleton, 2018). Besides, the situation is very different for blind students, because textbooks are fundamentally visual. These books relate stories through drawings or cartoons and propose stimulating activities related to theatre, crafts or music that are not adapted to a child with vision problems (Pegalajar, 2013). Therefore, the games that they suggest are impracticable for a blind learner, which requires excessive physical mobility or use flashcards, boards or cards with visual clues to help them to improve in that area.
In general, the teacher of a second language usually has the assistance of a qualified teacher to adapt the didactic materials (Esthela, 1998). Further, as far as foreign languages are concerned, abundant and complicated adaptations would be required, since a large number of images are used with the sole objective of stimulating the students, who are absolutely meaningless if they are not converted into tactile illustrations (Guerra, 2018). In addition, the blind child has to be satisfied with the description of these images. Nevertheless, in order to talk about equal opportunities, they should have access to a didactic material which should be motivational and have the same impact for classmates to enjoy; these must be adapted for people who have senses of hearing, touch, smell and taste problems.
Conclusion and solution:
Additionally, Guerra (2018) after carrying out different studies doing numerous interviews with specialized psychologists, educators of blind people, second language teachers and visually impaired children, as well as frequent visits to schools with blind students, has proposed the solution for students with visual impairment to have the same opportunities as their classmates seers in a second language classroom. Therefore, the solution can be to provide support material consisting of stimulating tactile illustrations which is both visually appealing in order to serve students with visual remnants and also the seers, as well as favoring integration (Guerra, 2018). Hence, can be used to introduce vocabulary, practice linguistic structures, review and play in pairs or groups.
Hereby, according to Guerra (2018), the method of integrating visually impaired students in the classroom with other sighted classmates is the following:
The solution consists on a series of tactile plates composed of textured silhouettes with easily recognizable removable pieces for blind children. Moreover, the material is collected in two folders; the first contains thirteen plates referring to the subjects most dealt with in the primary English books: the face, the body, the clothes, the house, the numbers, the furniture, pets. Further, the last two, belong specifically to an interactive story, which aims to promote the creative development of the child while increasing their ability to read and provide opportunities to practice certain grammatical structures and vocabulary. In addition, it is called interactive because it has neither stage, nor action nor fixed characters, since all the elements that compose it are mobile silhouettes to allow the reader to create their own story. Besides, it can also be used in a conventional way. Moreover, the second folder (which provides neutral scenery) has Velcro pieces dispersed on its surface where the children stick the silhouettes they have chosen for their narration. Likewise, this interactive tale is the first in a series for the blind, similar to the level readings that are popular among sighted children (p.86).
In conclusion, the main problem for blind children in the second language classroom is that both texts and supportive materials have a high visual content that is rarely adapted to be recognised by touch, and therefore these students may feel frustrated in English classes (Eagleton, 2018). Besides, the uses of tactile stimulating dossiers allow the child to participate in many of the classroom activities that are normally inaccessible to blind children (Emechebe, 2016). In addition, being a visually attractive material is suitable for work in mixed teams of blind and sighted, students creating more opportunities for social interactions between the two groups which, in short, are the strongest reason for school integration and with this method of study some investigations argue that blind children feel more comfortable in second language classroom and they acquire better the language.
- Coden, S. (2017). Aprender con otros sentidos: Estrategias para la atención de alumnos con deficiencia visual. Educatio Siglo XXI, 35(3), 175-197
- Eagleton, B. (2018). Education for Learners with Visual Impairment. London, UK: Cambridge University
- Emechebe, V. (2016). ICT and the Teaching of Reading Comprehension in English as a Second Language in Secondary Schools: Problems and Prospects. International Journal of Education and Literacy Studies, 4(3), 18-23.
- Esthela, A. (1998). El papel cambiante del profesor: Un estudio en grupos de estudiantes de la licenciatura en pedagogía. Revista Latinoamericana De Estudios Educativos, 28(1), 113-141.
- Guerra, E. (2018). Los Lectores de Pantalla: Herramientas Tecnológicas para la Inclusión Educativa de Personas no Videntes. Información Tecnológica, 29(5), 81-90.
- Nikolic, T. (1987). Teaching a Foreign Language in Schools for Blind and Visually Impaired Children. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness, 81(2), 62.
- Pegalajar, C. (2013). Tiflotecnolgía e inclusión educativa: Evaluación de sus posibilidades didácticas para el alumnado con discapacidad visual. Revista Electrónica De Investigación Y Docencia ( REID ), (9), 8-22.