The AODA Clock is Ticking

There are until a fully Accessible Ontario! Will you be compliant?

Let our team of experts help with your AODA needs:

  • Website Audits
  • Multimedia
  • Web Design
  • Accessible Documentation

For more details email info@aoda.ca

We Invite Schools, Colleges, Universities, Early Learning Programs and Job Training Programs in Ontario to Use These Tips for Holding a Public Event to Gather Feedback from Your Organization and the Public on Disability Accessibility Barriers in Our Education System

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Ontario for All People with Disabilities http://www.aodaalliance.org aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

June 19, 2017

SUMMARY

It is commendable that the Government is encouraging schools, colleges and universities to convene public community events to gather information on the accessibility barriers that students with disabilities face in Ontario’s education system. Recent AODA Alliance Updates explained that the Ontario Government is asking the public to tell it about the disability accessibility barriers that create problems for students with disabilities in Ontario’s education system. Public forums or meetings that educational organizations might organize can really help the Government get public feedback on these education disability accessibility barriers.

We heartily encourage all education organizations in Ontario to organize and host public meetings or forums to get feedback from the public on this important topic. In this Update, we give helpful tips to schools, colleges, universities, and any other educational organizations (like early learning centres and job training programs) on how to organize a public forum or meeting on this topic. Our ideas supplement those which the Government offers in its “Engagement Guide” which the Government wrote and sent to school boards.

As explained further in our tips below, schools, colleges, universities and other educational organizations should not rush to hold one of these community events before the Government’s July 14, 2017 deadline. The feedback on disability accessibility barriers that can be gathered at a community event like this can and will still be very useful if it is gathered and sent to the Government this fall.

Please help us get as many schools and other educational organizations in Ontario to take up the Government’s good suggestion, to hold public meetings to gather information on education disability accessibility barriers. These public meetings will also help those schools, colleges, and other organizations learn themselves about these disability barriers, so they can take action to remove and prevent them.

We encourage all who received this Update to

* send this AODA Alliance Update to your local school, college, university, school board trustee, early learning centre, job training program, or other education organization. Urge them to organize a public meeting or forum on education accessibility barriers, and to send the feedback they gather to the Government. Feedback on disability accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system should be sent to AODA.INPUT@ontario.ca

It would also be great if those education organizations also forwarded the feedback they gather to us at AODA Alliance. we can be contacted at aodafeedback@gmail.com That feedback will help us, as a non-partisan independent community coalition, shape our proposals that we submit to the Government.

* As our recent June 16, 2017 AODA Alliance Update explained, we also urge one and all to fill out the Government’s online survey on disability accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system before the Government’s July 14, 2017 deadline. To fill out the survey online, the links are as follows:

English: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/EducationSurveyEN

French: https://fr.surveymonkey.com/r/SondageAccessibilite

* For the AODA Alliance’s tips when filling out the Government’s survey, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/06162017.asp

MORE DETAILS

1. Why Schools, Colleges, Universities and Other Education Organizations in Ontario Should Organize a Community forum or Meeting To Gather Information About Disability Barriers in Ontario’s Education System

It is very good that the Ontario Government has promised to enact an Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. That accessibility standard will spell out the disability accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system that must be removed and prevented, and by when action must be taken. These rules will aim to help educational organizations in Ontario fulfil their duties to students with disabilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code and, where applicable, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Feedback gathered at a community meeting that a school, college, university or other educational organization holds, on the disability accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system, can be used to shape the content of the promised Education Accessibility Standard.

2. When To Hold Community Meetings to Gather Feedback for the Ontario Government on Disability Accessibility Barriers in Ontario’s Education system

In a recent announcement, the Ontario Government asked educational organizations for feedback on education disability accessibility barriers by July 14, 2017. However, we urge schools, colleges, universities and other educational organizations not to worry about that deadline. Take the time needed to do it right. Feel free to organize a community meeting or public forum on this topic this fall.

School boards, colleges and universities will be in a far better position to organize these events in the fall, when students will be back in class and easy to reach. The Ontario Government released its invitation for this public feedback on May 25, 2017. That was near or past the end of the teaching term.

The chair of the Toronto District School Board’s Special Education Advisory Committee, David Lepofsky (who is also the AODA Alliance chair) has publicly recommended that TDSB not rush in June to try to organize these community events. The school year is about to end. Schools and school boards are tied up with year-end workloads.

This information on disability accessibility barriers, once gathered, will not be stale by this fall. The Ontario Government will likely not have the promised Education Standards Development Committee established until early fall. That is the Committee that will need this information on disability accessibility barriers.

Applications can be submitted to serve on the Education Standards Development Committee up to July 31, 2017. That Committee will develop recommendations, that will be submitted to the Ontario Government, on what the Education Accessibility Standard should include. It will use the information gathered at these community events.

3. Tips on How to Gather Information on Disability Accessibility Barriers in Ontario’s Education System

* Remember that the Government is asking about disability accessibility barriers as they affect students with any kind of disability, whether it is a visible or invisible disability, whether or not it is defined as an “exceptionality” under Ontario’s Education Act. This includes students who have a physical disability, sensory disability (like vision or hearing loss), learning disability, intellectual disability, communication disability, mental health condition, autism, or any other kind of disability.

* Be sure your community meeting or forum focuses on the full range of disability accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system. Do not in any way limit or primarily focus your community event or your other feedback-gathering to the limited five kinds of accessibility barriers that predominate the Government’s Engagement Guide and online survey. The Government’s Engagement Guide and online survey do not include many, if not most of the disability accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system.

Fortunately, the Government’s survey leaves it open at the end to list any other kinds of disability accessibility barriers in educational organizations. That opens the door to a full exploration of all kinds of disability accessibility barriers.

We therefore encourage you to ask these questions of participants, as the focus of the discussion at a community meeting or event on this topic (a list which largely covers off most of those in the Government’s Discussion Guide, one way or another):

1. What disability accessibility barriers have you experienced or do you know of, that make it harder for students with disabilities to independently get in, get around, and safely use the buildings or grounds of a school, college, university, early learning center, or job training program? (physical barriers)

2. What disability accessibility barriers have you experienced or do you know of to digital accessibility in school, college, university, early learning programs or job training programs? This can include such things as accessibility barriers for students with disabilities using computers, tablets, software, mobile apps, websites, e-books, or other classroom or online technology that is not equipped for students with disabilities. This can, for example, also include education organizations that circulate information in documents or electronic formats that lack accessibility features. (digital accessibility barriers)

3. What disability accessibility barriers have you experienced or do you know of that impede students with disabilities from getting, on a timely basis, instructional materials like school books or textbooks, in formats that they can read? (information and communication barriers)

4. What disability accessibility barriers have you experienced or to do you know of, in the process for getting into any specific education program in Ontario? This can include, for example, barriers in the admission qualifications, requirements or criteria, or in the application process, or in an admissions test. Are there qualifications or tests that make it harder or impossible for students with certain disabilities to get in or to be fairly considered? (admission barriers)

5. What disability accessibility barriers have you experienced or do you know of created by the attitudes of other students, parents, or staff that can impede students with disabilities from being fully included in and fully participating in education activities at school, colleges, university, early learning programs or job training programs? (attitude barriers)

6. What disability accessibility barriers have you experienced or do you know of, that can impede students with disabilities from getting into and fully participating in work study programs, co-op placements, apprenticeships, and other “experiential learning activities in school, college, university or job training programs? In the fall 2016 Throne Speech, the Ontario Government promised an experiential learning opportunity for every student in publicly-funded schools. (experiential learning barriers)

7. What disability accessibility barriers have you experienced or are you aware of, in the curriculum used in school, college, university, early learning programs or job training programs? (curriculum barriers)

8. What disability accessibility barriers have you experienced or do you know of in the way classes or lessons are taught in schools, college, university, early learning programs or job training programs? When a class is taught, do instructors’ lesson plans use the approach called “universal design in learning” (teaching in a way to include students with different learning styles and needs)? (lesson plan barriers)

9. What barriers in schools, colleges, universities, early learning programs or job training programs, have you experienced or do you know of, that impede teachers from knowing how to effectively teach all students including students with disabilities? (instructor training and skills barriers)

10. What disability accessibility barriers have you experienced or are you aware of, that impede students with disabilities from fully using libraries and library resources at a school, college, university, early learning centre or job training program? (library barriers)

11. What disability accessibility barriers have you experienced or are you aware of, in getting accessible transportation to the educational organization, where they will study and learn? (transportation barriers)

12. What disability accessibility barriers have you experienced or are you aware of, in getting accessible housing where needed to participate in education at a school, college, university or other educational organization? (housing barriers)

13. What disability accessibility barriers have you experienced or are you aware of, that can impede students with disabilities from fully participating in extra-curricular activities? (extra-curricular barriers)

14. What disability accessibility barriers have you experienced or do you know of, that can impede students with disabilities from using disability supports and accommodations that they need, like a service animal, at a school, college, university, early learning program or job training program? (service animal barriers)

15. What disability accessibility barriers have you experienced or do you know of, in the way a student’s learning or progress is tested, and that impede students with disabilities from being fairly and accurately assessed? (testing barriers)

16. What disability accessibility barriers or other problems have you experienced or do you know of that impede students with disabilities and their families from getting easy and prompt access to information needed to fully participate in education programs like schools, colleges, universities or other education programs, e.g. difficulty in finding out the options that are available for them and how to get them? (access to needed information barriers)

17. What disability accessibility barriers have you experienced or are you aware of, that make it harder for students with disabilities or their families to

a) take part in and be fully included in decisions on how the school, college, university or other educational organization will accommodate the student’s individual disability needs;

b) ensure that the school, college, university or other educational organization provides the disability accommodations that they have committed to provide, or

c) quickly and easily appeal within the school board, college, university or other educational organization, if the educational organization refuses to provide a disability accommodation that the student or their family has requested (i.e. to avoid the need for the student to have to go to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal to file a human rights complaint against the educational organization). (fair procedure barriers)

18. What policy or bureaucratic barriers exist at school boards or other education organizations that can make it harder for students with disabilities to be included in regular classes with the disability supports they need to fully participate? (inclusion barriers)

19. What legal barriers can get in the way of school boards or other education organizations from effectively meeting the disability needs of students with disabilities, such as in Ontario’s Education Act, which does not include all students with disabilities within the definition of students with special education needs? (legal barriers)

* Before holding your community event or meeting on this topic, or as part of this meeting, why not organize an Education “Disability Barriers Scavenger Hunt.” Encourage all students (including students with disabilities), their families, and education staff and instructors to look for accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system. Students and other participants can hunt for disability barriers of all kinds, and keep a list of them. They can take photos or videos of these accessibility barriers, and even share them on social media as part of a school project. Encourage them to also come up with solutions. A class can then come together to share what students found and what solutions they devised.

* Use social media to publicize your community meeting on education disability accessibility barriers. If you include @AODAAlliance in your tweets about it, we would be happy to widely retweet them, garnering you more publicity.

* Invite guest speakers to your community event to recount front-line experiences of students with disabilities with accessibility barriers they have encountered. The AODA Alliance would be happy to try to help, time permitting. Send a request to us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

4. Helpful Links and Resources

For more background on our campaign to win the enactment of a strong Education Accessibility Standard to tear down the many disability accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system, visit www.aodaalliance.org

To read the AODA Alliances Discussion Paper that explains what we would like the promised Education Accessibility Standard to include, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/11212016.asp

To learn how to apply before July 31, 2017 to sit on the Government-appointed Education Standards Development Committee, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/06142017.asp

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 by visiting www.aodaalliance.org/2016

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. https://www.youtube.com/user/aodaalliance

Please “like” our Facebook page and share our updates: https://www.facebook.com/Accessibility-for-Ontarians-with-Disabilities-Act-Alliance-106232039438820/

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