Teaching English as a New Language to Visually Impaired and Blind ESL Students: Problems and Possibilities
by Sylvie Kashdan and Robby Barnes, Kaizen Program for New English Learners with Visual Limitations
and Cecilia Erin Walsh, St. James ESL Program
Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) to immigrants and refugees who are visually impaired or blind involves complex challenges such as working with mainstream ESL programs that have low expectations of people with disabilities, coping with inaccessible intake tools and training materials, locating and recruiting students from immigrant and refugee populations that do not always believe people with disabilities can become literate and productive citizens, locating and recruiting appropriately trained volunteer tutors, and matching students with tutors. In this paper, the authors identify the challenges and propose solutions. They also describe a collaborative project between the Kaizen Program and the St. James ESL Program, both in Seattle, Washington designed in part to respond to some of these challenges. Finally, they present an interactive teaching tool that they demonstrated at A Celebration of Solutions: National Symposium on Literacy for Adults with Visual Disabilities, which they have used effectively with both ESL learners and prospective tutors.