Online Schools Empower Disabled Learners

It is easy to get discouraged when physical limitations prevent you from doing what others seem to do without effort.  This includes earning an education. Online schooling has managed to reverse this perception as it enables the “I can!” attitude.

Disabled learners now look to computer-based instruction as an enabling opportunity to reach their dreams.

This is certainly the case with 19-year old Wernisé Lewies, who matriculated from Brainline in 2023 with three distinctions. As she was born blind, her parents decided to use Brainline as their online education provider of choice since Grade R. Wernisé says that this decision has prepared her for a bright future.

Who are considered disabled or special needs learners?

Special needs in the context of school students refer to specific educational requirements due to significant long-term physical, intellectual or emotional difficulties that present a barrier to learning and hamper a student’s academic performance, especially during assessments.

Disabled learners in the current educational landscape

Very little updated information is available on the number of disabled or special needs learners in South Africa. In 2015, according to the Department of Basic Education, almost 600 000 children with disabilities or physical challenges were not attending school, whereas, (according to government data), only 121 500 learners with disabilities were in traditional schools. Disabilities related to sight and hearing are the most common among learners.

Even before Covid-19 changed schooling, many parents had to care and educate their special needs children from home, and those who did attend school, remained predominantly in segregated special schools. But even here, they did not experience success on par with their non-disabled peers. The DBE National Senior Certificate 2018 Examination Report indicates that, of the 624,733 learners who wrote matric in 2018, only 3,856 had special educational needs. This is 0,6% of the total.  This is in sharp contrast to the national disability prevalence of around 7.5%.

Disabled learners in online schooling

Modern online schooling has changed the course of many students’ education forever, breaking the barriers that set them apart from learners without disabilities. The flexible design of online courses and instruction are beneficial to learners with disabilities. They have more autonomy and control of their learning in the online setting, especially when it comes to scheduling, pacing, and course navigation, making this a powerful form of personalized learning.

In addition to this, the technological innovations that the information technology world has brought to them, has been groundbreaking such as alerting devices, alternative keyboards, alternative mice, dyslexia and dyscalculia aids, to mention but a few.

Here are three reasons why online education is an excellent option for learners with disabilities or special needs:

  • Having the option to study at their own pace is a major factor for the success of disabled learners. Having the freedom to plot their own schedule allows them to adapt their educational demands to their own needs and lifestyle. Students can also study from anywhere, eliminating the need for daily commuting and reducing the discomfort of transportation and unsuitable accommodation.
  • Class recordings allow learners to advance or review classes at their own pace, regardless of their medical condition. Attending classes is no longer time or space bound.
  • Software (either custom or secular) removes the hassle of physical exhaustion for mobile-impaired students, while also making life easier for visually impaired or deaf individuals. Modern word processing software is issued with audio and visual enhancements as standard, which makes it financially accessible.

How is Brainline assisting learners with special needs?

For more than 35 years, Brainline has been providing home education to thousands of learners within and outside the borders of South Africa – many of them with special needs. We are an innovative online education provider, committed to making quality education accessible to any learner and enabling them to achieve their National Senior Certificate through innovative distance education solutions.

Besides various levels of flexibility, live as well as recorded classes, subject guidance by qualified teachers, and the use of digital subject material, Bainline actively supports the application for assessment accommodations. In fact, Brainline is one of the only online education providers in South Africa that does.

Accommodations are specific allowances for test conditions that are granted in line with a learner’s specific barrier to learning. Brainline helps with the application process as well as the implementation of these accommodations, whilst protecting both the dignity of the learner and the validity of the assessment.

Brainline is proud of the fact that we continue to push the boundaries of online learning to be as inclusive as possible. The sky’s the limit.

Two Column Flexbox

Brainline understands that online education is often in ideal option for learners with disabilities or special needs, and actively supports fair assessment opportunities for such learners through accommodations. Learn more about how Brainline assists learners with special needs.


Barden, J. 2017. 5 Benefits Of eLearning For Disabled Students, eLearning Industry. Available at: (Accessed: 11 February 2024).

Ellis, C. 2021. Online learning increases accessibility for disabled students, The Daily Texan. Available at: (Accessed: 10 February 2024).

Holness, W, Brigitte, C, Nyamadzawo, Rand D Moogi. 2023. Early childhood education for children with disabilities:missed opportunities for a lost Generation in South Africa and Kenya, Independent Online. Available at: (Accessed: 9 February 2024).

Human Rights Watch. 2019. South Africa: Children with Disabilities Shortchanged. Available at: (Accessed: 10 February 2024).

UNESCO. 2023. Promoting access to education for students with disabilities through inclusive technologies. Available at: (Accessed: 10 February 2024).