Experiences of visually impaired undergraduate students of Makerere university in accessing online and electronic learning resources during COVID-19 period
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The use of online and electronic learning was greatly enhanced in Uganda’s higher education institutions during the COVID-19 lockdown as a strategy for education continuity. However, the experiences of students with visual impairment with this type of learning remains undocumented. This study explored experiences of visually impaired students of Makerere University in accessing online and electronic learning resources, and enablers and barriers of access to online and electronic learning resources in this population. Five visually impaired students and five support persons/key informants of visually impaired were interviewed. The results reveal that visually impaired students have both positive and negative experiences with accessing online and electronic learning resources in Makerere University. The enablers and barriers of access to online and electronic learning resources are at different ecological levels. The key enablers at the individual level were personal skills, attitudes and finance, while at the family level, emotional and economic support from family members are key ingredients of access. At the meso-level, supportive lecturers and support from friends were enablers. At the macro level, the supportive University policies provided increased access to resources. The barriers across the ecological levels included poverty, poor network, lack of skills, family negative attitude, dependence and lack of electricity. The study concludes that access to online learning is a viable option for learners with visual impairment; however, the support systems of learners and education providers must take into account the limitations of these learners and integrate tailored interventions into the teaching as a strategy of ensuring access.