Skip to main content Skip to main menu

Creating a Barrier-Free Curriculum for Students of All Abilities and Cultures

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 creating a barrier-free curriculum for students of all abilities and cultures.

Creating a Barrier-Free Curriculum for Students of All Abilities and Cultures

Students should be able to connect their learning in school to experiences in their homes and communities. In other words, curriculum should be responsive to the variety of cultures that students come from. Likewise, the curriculum should also be accessible and without barriers for students with disabilities. Therefore, the Committee recommends guidelines for curriculum planning and review, to identify, remove, and prevent cultural and accessibility barriers.

When the Ministry of Education and school boards design curriculum, they should use Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles, including multiple means of:

Planning different ways for students to access instruction and assessments will reduce many of the barriers to information and technology that students experience.

Similarly, when the Ministry of Education reviews existing curriculum, that curriculum should be fully accessible. Therefore, the Ministry should appoint an officer responsible for ensuring that all Ontario curriculum becomes accessible upon review. Moreover, the officer must also ensure that any resources the Ministry provides to school boards are also barrier-free. Furthermore, the Ministry must develop a strategy and action plan to verify that reviews of accessibility will happen regularly. The Ministry should also notify the public about the results of these regular reviews.

In addition, the Ministry should create guidelines and resources on how to design curriculum to be barrier-free. These resources should also address how to adapt curriculum to meet students’ individual accommodation needs. Likewise, guidelines should also advise school boards on how to review their local curriculum. These reviews, like the Ministry’s regular reviews, should be available to the public. Finally, more guidelines should ensure that each teacher knows how to design their lessons in ways that students of all abilities and cultures can access.

Focus Areas of a Barrier-Free Curriculum

The Committee also lists specific areas that the Ministry should focus on when they create and review curriculum to remove barriers. Some of these areas are:

  • Science
  • Technology
  • Engineering
  • The arts
  • Math

The Ministry should also remove barriers from alternative or expanded curricula for students with disabilities. These alternative curricula teach students disability-specific skills. For example, students who are blind may have lessons in orientation and mobility (O and M), to learn to use a white cane safely. Similarly, other students may receive lessons in life skills, such as shopping or budgeting, that non-disabled students learn outside of school. All these curricula must be accessible for students of all abilities.

Students should also have the chance to learn about a variety of cultures, histories, and perspectives, through many subjects. Moreover, they may communicate in diverse ways, such as:

  • Non-verbal communication
  • Sign languages, such as American Sign Language (ASL)
  • Indigenous languages

Furthermore, students should also learn about the diverse identities that they and others hold. In addition, students should learn that these identities intersect, and that people with disabilities may also hold other marginalized identities, such as people of colour. As such, students should learn in school about concepts like anti-Black racism. Likewise, they should learn about Indigenous ways of knowing. In addition, students should learn about current and growing avenues of knowledge, such as digital literacy. Similarly, students should learn financial literacy in school. Moreover, all students should have the chance to gain employment skills, through job placements. Finally, all students should receive lessons to develop their skills in executive functioning, such as:

  • Self-regulation of their emotions and their bodies
  • Self-monitoring
  • Working memory
  • Planning and organizing tasks

All these focus areas will give students an education that will help them succeed as well-rounded, culturally-aware adults.