Aspects of Teaching and Learning English as a Foreign Language in the Case of Blind and Visually Impaired Learners in Estonia
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It is assumed that blind and visually impaired foreign language learners experience more difficulties in their foreign language learning than sighted learners as they need adaptive and technical accommodations in their learning process. In addition, their opportunities for implicit foreign language learning are more limited. There are several obstacles connected with the absence of visual information and a necessity for adapted study and testing materials. The aim of this Master’s Thesis is to describe and analyse the factors influencing the process of teaching/learning English as a foreign language in the case of students with blindness or low-vision and to highlight the supportive measures used in practice. The main attention is paid to the accessibility issues, such as adapted study materials for the blind/visually impaired learners; accommodations and promising activities and ways of organizing teaching/learning process. For getting answers to the research questions on those issues, two surveys were carried out: one among learners with blindness/low-vision and the other among foreign language teachers of visually impaired students in Estonia. There were 32 respondents among visually impaired learners and 12 among foreign language teachers. Two different questionnaires were developed and administered among the sample groups. In the sections of analysis, the main aspects of teaching/learning English and foreign languages in learners with blindness/low-vision are highlighted from the point of view of foreign language teachers of visually impaired students and blind/visually impaired foreign language learners. In addition, the topic of accommodations of foreign language examinations is discussed according to the responses of a focus group interview with two specialists in the field. Some suggestions are provided after the section of discussion. This information may be beneficial to EFL teachers of visually impaired students both in special and mainstream schools. Due to the strengthening of the inclusive approach in Estonian education policy, mainstream school EFL teachers may need additional knowledge of special educational needs of this field, even though the occurrence of blindness/visual impairment is relatively small.