Currently, there are no AODA education standards. However, two AODA standards development committees have drafted recommendations of guidelines that AODA education standards should include. One committee has recommended guidelines for the kindergarten to grade twelve (K-12) education system. In this article, we outline recommended guidelines for accessibility in school social activities.
Accessibility in School Social Activities
The Committee recognizes that students with disabilities often experience social isolation from their peers without disabilities. This isolation happens because of accessibility barriers, such as:
Furthermore, some students need support to learn social skills, to communicate with peers, or to play games their peers enjoy. Current AODA requirements for accessibility in school focus on removing barriers within the classroom, such as making textbooks and other resources accessible. In addition, education standards should address barriers that limit students’ abilities to befriend and socialize with their peers.
Therefore, the Committee recommends that staff support students with disabilities during school social activities. For example, staff could support students during:
- Unstructured play or free time
- Other times when students are not usually supervised
Moreover, strategies to support students socially should appear in their individual education plans (IEPs). Students should take part in all social activities, whether they are structured or unstructured. To foster this inclusion, school boards may partner with other organizations that promote social interaction between peers with and without disabilities. Similarly, school programs should also encourage peers with and without disabilities to explore shared interests and pastimes together.
The Committee also recognizes that some students with disabilities experience bullying, including cyberbullying. As a result, the Committee recommends that school boards develop and deliver anti-bullying workshops. These workshops should teach all members of the school community about how bullying and cyberbullying affect mental health and physical health. Young people with disabilities should design and deliver the workshops, with the support of the school board.
All these programs will help everyone in the school community take concrete steps to improve accessibility in school social activities.