ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

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United for a Barrier-Free Ontario

Spread the Word About the AODA Alliance's New Discussion Paper on What an Education Accessibility Standard Can and Should Include

November 21, 2016

SUMMARY

Here is a helpful new tool you can use in our 5-year long campaign to get the Ontario Government to agree to create an Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Please check out and spread the word about our new Discussion Paper on What an Education Accessibility Standard Could Include. Below we set out a summary of its contents.

To download the entire Discussion Paper on the Education Accessibility Standard, in an accessible MS Word document, please visit

http://www.aodaalliance.org/education/Education-Accessibility.docx

When we discuss our request that the Wynne Government create an Education Accessibility Standard, some ask us: "What would the Education Accessibility Standard include?" This Discussion Paper offers lots of ideas. These come from feedback we have received over the years, and from ideas in the 2015 report on education accessibility barriers that the KPMG consulting firm prepared at the request of the Wynne Government.

The Discussion Paper's introduction makes a very important point, that we repeat here, as loud as we can:

"We emphasize in the strongest terms that the Ontario Government need not agree to any of the ideas in this Discussion Paper, before it decides to embark on developing an Education Accessibility Standard. The AODA sets out an inclusive process for the Government to develop an accessibility standard. When it starts on the road towards developing one, the Government makes no commitments in advance on what the accessibility standard will include. For example,

For example, in 2006, the Ontario Government commendably decided to start the process of developing a Transportation Accessibility Standard. By deciding to do so, it made no commitments in advance on what accessibility barriers the Transportation Accessibility Standard would address, or how it would address them.  

Similarly, when a community organization supports the AODA Alliance's call for the Ontario Government to develop an Education Accessibility Standard, it is not thereby signing on to endorse all or any of this Discussion Paper's proposals."

If the Ontario Government agrees to develop an Education Accessibility Standard, we look forward to working together with students with disabilities and their families, with all of Ontario's disability community, to develop ideas on what the Education Accessibility Standard would include. We also look forward to working with the Government, school boards, colleges, universities, other educational organizations, as well as with those who work on the front lines of our education system. We now welcome feedback from all sectors to help us expand on this Discussion Paper's preliminary look. In the coming days, we will offer you action tips on how to make use of this Discussion Paper.

If the Wynne Government agrees to develop an Education Accessibility Standard, we will build on this Discussion Paper and on your feedback to come up with a list of specific proposals for what the Education Accessibility Standard should include. This Discussion Paper is an effort to get people thinking and talking about this important topic, and generating more ideas for us to consider.

We encourage you to:

* Share this Discussion Paper with others, and especially anyone who is a student with a disability or their family members, or members of a Special Education Advisory Committee. Urge them to help our non-partisan campaign to convince the Ontario Government to agree to develop an Education Accessibility Standard.

* Send this Discussion Paper to your Member of the Ontario Legislature, and urge them to support our call for the Wynne Government to agree to create an Education Accessibility Standard. Let us know what you hear back. You can find all the email addresses of Ontario MPPs.

* We welcome your feedback on the ideas set out in this Discussion Paper. Email your views to us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

* If you are on Twitter, raise this issue as part of our "Picture Our Barriers" campaign. Tweet photos and stories about accessibility barriers in Ontario's education system, using the hashtag #AODAfail so we can re-tweet these tweets to MPPs and others.

To read the AODA Alliance's Analysis of the 2015 KPMG Report on accessibility barriers in Ontario's education system.

To see what Premier Wynne most recently said in the Legislature on whether her Government would agree to develop an Education Accessibility Standard.

You can always send your feedback to us on any AODA and accessibility issue at aodafeedback@gmail.com

Have you taken part in our "Picture Our Barriers campaign? If not, please join in! You can get all the information you need about our "Picture Our Barriers" campaign.

To sign up for, or unsubscribe from AODA Alliance e-mail updates, write to: aodafeedback@gmail.com

We encourage you to use the Government's toll-free number for reporting AODA violations. We fought long and hard to get the Government to promise this, and later to deliver on that promise. If you encounter any accessibility problems at any large retail establishments, it will be especially important to report them to the Government via that toll-free number. Call 1-866-515-2025.

Please pass on our email Updates to your family and friends.

Why not subscribe to the AODA Alliance's YouTube channel, so you can get immediate alerts when we post new videos on our accessibility campaign.

Please "like" our Facebook page and share our updates.
 
Follow us on Twitter. Get others to follow us. And please re-tweet our tweets!! @AODAAlliance

Learn all about our campaign for a fully accessible Ontario by visiting http://www.aodaalliance.org

Please also join the campaign for a strong and effective Canadians with Disabilities Act, spearheaded by Barrier-Free Canada. The AODA Alliance is proud to be the Ontario affiliate of Barrier-Free Canada. Sign up for Barrier-Free Canada updates by emailing info@BarrierFreeCanada.org

MORE DETAILS

Summary of the AODA Alliance's November 18, 2016 Discussion Paper on What an Education Accessibility Standard Could Include

1. Regarding the reach of the Education Accessibility Standard, this Discussion Paper offers these ideas:

a) The purpose of the Education Accessibility Standard should be to ensure that Ontario's education system becomes fully accessible to all students with disabilities by 2025, the AODA's deadline, by requiring the removal and prevention of recurring accessibility barriers that impede students with disabilities. It should aim to ensure that students with disabilities can fully participate in and be fully included in Ontario's education system on a footing of equality. It should aim to eliminate the need for students with disabilities and their families to have to fight against education accessibility barriers, one at a time, and the need for educational organizations to have to re-invent the accessibility wheel, one educational program at a time.

b) The Education Accessibility Standard should apply to any organization that provides educational programming in Ontario. This should include all schools and school boards, whether or not they are publicly funded, colleges, universities, job training programs, experiential learning programs, and pre-school educational programs.

c) The Education Accessibility Standard should ensure that educational organizations address accessibility barriers facing students with any kind of disabilities, not just those disabilities which Ontario's 36-year-old outdated special education regulations recognize. This should include students with a physical, mental, sensory, intellectual, mental health, learning, communication, neurological or other kind of disability – all the disabilities covered by the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

2. This Discussion Paper proposes that the Education Accessibility Standard can and should include the following to address recurring accessibility barriers in Ontario's education system:

a) systematic measures that will make it easier and more effective to include students with disabilities in the mainstream, where appropriate. Inclusion will be easier when accessibility barriers are removed from all educational settings, including the mainstream educational setting.

b) accessibility requirements for the built environment in Ontario's education system, such as in schools, colleges and universities. For example, it can and should set accessibility requirements for new buildings, and for significant renovations to or additions to existing ones. As well, retrofits can be specified to existing buildings that are not undergoing any major renovations.

c) digital accessibility requirements for Ontario's education system at all levels. Digital technology, such as desktop and laptop computers, tablets, online learning resources and libraries, and other smart technologies are rapidly expanding across Ontario's education system. Yet there are no effective comprehensive plans in place in Ontario's education system to ensure that the digital learning environment at each school board, college, university and other educational organizations is fully accessible.

d) provincial standards on students with disabilities bringing a service animal to school.

e) requirements to ensure that instructional materials used in Ontario's education system are fully accessible to students with disabilities who need to use them and are available when needed.

f) requirements to ensure that the curriculum taught in Ontario's education system is designed based on principles of "Universal Design in Learning (UDL), to be accessible for students with disabilities. for example, The Education Accessibility Standard should include provisions to address specific barriers to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) curriculum, e.g. facing students with vision loss and learning disabilities.

g) measures to eliminate attitudinal barriers among students without disabilities that impede the full inclusion of students with disabilities in Ontario's education system.

h) measures to ensure that any testing of students in Ontario's education system is conducted in a way that fairly and accurately assesses students with disabilities.

i) requirements addressing accessibility barriers in admission criteria for educational programs offered in Ontario.

j) measures aimed at ensuring that students with disabilities can fully participate in experiential learning at all levels of Ontario's education system.

k) measures addressing barriers to full inclusion of students with disabilities arising from the content of training of teachers working in Ontario's schools.

l) measures to remove barriers impeding students with disabilities and their families from getting prompt and ready access to important information they need to fully participate in and be fully included in Ontario's education system, such as options for them, and how to access them.

m) measures that will remove and prevent bureaucratic procedural barriers that can impede the effective accommodation of individual students with disabilities at all levels of Ontario's education system. It would help students with disabilities, their families and educational organizations, for Ontario to create a prompt, fair process for students with disabilities to take part in decisions regarding their education accommodation needs, and to appeal if results are insufficient or are not effectively implemented. Where there are disagreements or potential misunderstandings, it would help educational organizations and students with disabilities to have a constructive process for trying to reach a consensus.

3. This Discussion Paper also highlights these other considerations regarding the Education Accessibility Standard:

a) The proposal that the Ontario Government develop an Education Accessibility Standard is not contingent on the Ontario Government appropriating new funds to this issue. Providing accessibility to students with disabilities has been required under the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Charter of Rights for over three decades. It is a regular cost of operating an educational organization, not some new and special add-on. A well-designed Education Accessibility Standard should save money.

b) An Education Accessibility Standard would not set out the number of individual staff support hours that each student with a disability would receive in an education program.

c) The Education Accessibility Standard Should Not Set Rigid and Inflexible Rules on Integration versus Segregation of Students with Disabilities.