Distance learning a bigger challenge for students who are blind, deaf during COVID-19 pandemic

The Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind relies on technology, parents and engaging teachers to make schooling successful at home.

Schools across the country are figuring out how to still teach children from afar during this pandemic, but imagine if your students cannot hear or cannot see? 

The Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind (FSDB) is making sure its students get the lessons they need.

Noah Hoffnagle is in kindergarten and his brother, Joshua, is in sixth grade. They both attend the FSDB in St. Augustine.

"Both of our boys are profoundly deaf," Jamie Hoffnagle, their mom, said. 

She and her husband, Jason Hoffnagle, are getting a real education about distance learning with their five sons at home now.

Five-hundred-fifty-eight students from across the state attend the FSDB.

It's a place that may have even more challenges than other public schools when it comes to distance learning just because of its students' special needs.

"We knew this was going to be an amazing learning curve for everyone involved," Tracie Snow said. She is the Administrator of Instructional Services at FSDB.

She said the school sends instructional materials -- braille or paper-based  -- to students every week.

"We also sent home devices, computers, iPads, and assistive technology," she added.

For blind students, children are working with refreshable braille devices, according to Snow.

The devices "hook up to their computers, and the braille comes through on their refreshable keypad that they have," Snow explained.

For deaf students, videos of the lessons are key. As businesses and schools have discovered in the last month or so, there are many video conferencing platforms now.