Volunteer-based distance learning platform for people with visual impairments
- Online Learning Platform
- ABFA - Association of Barrier Free Access
- Country of Implementation
- Start Year
- First published
“Thanks to this programme, I had the chance to share our experiences with many friends from various regions of Turkey.” A programme participant
The Association of Barrier-Free Access (ABFA, known as Engelsiz Erisim Derneği in Turkish) is an NGO based in Istanbul working to remove social and physical barriers that prevent people with disabilities from living an independent and integrated life. ABFA has developed a barrier-free online learning platform offering courses to people with visual impairments according to the users’ needs and interests, with the overarching aim of improving their independent living skills. Since 2016, the platform has been used by more than 70 learners per week.
People with visual impairments often face difficulties accessing in-person educational opportunities because they cannot travel easily, especially those living in rural areas.
Solution, Innovation and Impact
The ABFA started offering Turkish-language online learning courses in 2014. Up to seven different classes are taught daily using TeamTalk, a free voice chat room, which can be easily accessed through a computer or mobile device. The courses are prepared and conducted on a voluntary basis by twenty visually impaired instructors, who are also members of the association. Each class is attended by at least ten people, and all are recorded and uploaded to the online platform so that they can be accessed at any time. Most of the visually impaired participants live in rural areas without much support. Through the courses they increase their knowledge and skills in using computers, mobile devices, and other technologies, and gain access to art and literature. New courses are added based on the expressed needs and interests of the users, which are surveyed annually. The subjects on offer until 2019 have included: independent living skills, digital skills, assistive technologies, disability rights, art, and music.
Funding, Outlook and Transferability
This model requires little funding since all instructors are volunteers and only basic computer equipment is needed. The courses are both prepared and conducted by the instructors at home, and the platform’s website is sponsored by a web hosting provider called Doruknet. The platform is therefore both easily scalable and replicable in other countries and languages. Moving forward, the AFBA plans to reach more learners and expand its course offering by recruiting volunteer instructors from outside the association to teach additional subjects. By securing funding, the association will be able to offer a financial incentive to motivate more instructors to participate. The organization also intends to work with universities to use its barrier-free distance learning model to make traditional instruction and learning practices accessible to people with visual impairments.