En-Abilities: Autonomous English learning by students with Special Educational Needs

In a diverse but interconnected world, the ability to communicate and express oneself in different languages is a much valued resource to enhance social and professional inclusion. Nevertheless, and even though European countries have passed educational and social inclusion laws, there still remains a dearth of resources available for learners with Special Educational Needs (SEN) in comparison to learners with no such needs to acquire second language skills. Projects such as ADOLL designed for learning Russian, English and Spanish, the language learning projects developed by the European Blind Union for learners with visual impairments, or the University of Trieste’s Audio Description: Lifelong access for the Blind are relevant and greatly needed but address only a specific type of SEN. Moreover, projects such as ExchangeAbility: Fostering Mobility of Students with Disabilities or the European Action on Disability within Higher Education or Learning Inclusively are aimed towards fostering the inclusion of students with disability within higher education. Nevertheless, these projects do not prompt language learning as an integrating and inclusive factor to allow not only a better educational, but also social and professional inclusion of learners with different types of SEN, or in broader situations of social exclusion, within a European context.

The aim of the Erasmus + co-funded project En-Abilities is to create a Virtual Learning Environment to support SEN autonomous participants learn English at levels A1, A2 and B1 within the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) in order to achieve the European Commission’s goal of promoting products, services and environments “designed for all”.

The En-abilities project involves participants from 5 countries and has constructed an online virtual learning course following the ideas of educational universal design understood as a methodology with which to support diversity. It has been created by English language teachers, pedagogical and psychological professionals specialized in educational inclusion and ICT professionals to cater for the needs of different types of learners with SEN.

The En-abilities English langue course will present information and content in different ways making it accessible for learners with different Educational Needs. It will also provide learners with different means to express their knowledge whilst also recognizing personal differences between learners and so provide multiple means of engagement so that learners can adapt their progress to their specific needs in order to achieve competence at an A1, A2 and B1 English level.

Finally, all this information must be freely disseminated so that other interested parties may use and adapt these tools to their specific contexts and needs. To achieve this the online course will be freely available, but there will also be a first handbook of materials explaining what to include, and why, in a foreign language course in accordance with the CEFR, a second handbook with pedagogical instructions on how to adapt such a course for learners with SEN, and finally a handbook with technical implications, problems and solutions when creating a Moodle course adapted to universal design and ICT for learners with different SEN.

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