Gatchalian urges inclusion of learners with disabilities in DepEd's learning continuity plan

By Hannah Torregoza

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Monday urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to ensure that learners with disabilities or special needs won’t be left behind in its learning continuity plan amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO) Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian
(Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate Basic Education, Culture, and Arts Committee, said DepEd should make sure that the alternative learning delivery modalities they plan to use under the “new normal” should also be available in a format conducive to learners with disabilities.

For instance, he said printed learning packets can be made available in braille or as audio books for visually impaired learners. Sign language interpreters should also be tapped for television-based instruction.

DepEd is set to utilize alternative learning delivery modalities such as online learning, radio, television, and printed packets for learners without gadgets and connectivity as schools abide with the quarantine protocols set in place by the government.

“Sa pagpapatuloy ng edukasyon sa gitna ng krisis sa COVID-19, lalong dapat nating tutukan ang mga mag-aaral na may kapansanan at siguruhing hindi sila maiiwan (in looking for ways to resume education even in the midst of a COVID-19 crisis, we must also focus on learners who have disabilities and make sure they won’t be left behind),” Gatchalian said.

“Kailangang matiyak at maiparating natin sa mga naturang mag-aaral at kanilang magulang na mananatili silang ligtas sa pagpapatuloy ng kanilang pag-aaral, (We need to make sure and tell these students and their parents they will remain safe while they continue their studies),” he added.

DepEd should also work with local government units (LGUs) to ensure that learners with disabilities have access to health care services and therapies, Gatchalian said.

The senator also said the input of health professionals, including developmental pediatricians, is important in the formulation of individualized education plans (IEP), which identifies the learners’ academic goals and how they can be achieved.

The lawmaker, likewise, emphasized the need to adequately train teachers on how to remotely support learners while parents should be prepared for homeschooling.

Without adequate preparation, the senator warned these new learning environments could inflict a heavy burden and emotional toll on both teachers and parents.

“Teachers and parents of learners with disabilities should also be supported,” he said.