Our last article outlined how stronger accessibility training for educators is needed to support students with disabilities in the classroom. In this article, we discuss educator training beyond the classroom. Increased training for teachers and other staff could help them fully support students outside of class.
Educator Training Beyond the Classroom
Under the current Information and Communications Standards, educators must receive training on how to create accessible courses and lessons. Educators must also learn how to teach in ways that accommodate the needs of students with different disabilities. However, educators have many responsibilities besides teaching. For instance, elementary school and high school educators may:
- Form or run extracurricular clubs
- Supervise students at lunch and recess
- Support students as guidance or career counsellors
Moreover, non-teaching staff at colleges or universities also work with students in:
- Financial aid offices
- Academic counselling
- Writing centres
All of these professionals have the chance to work with students who have disabilities. However, under the AODA, teachers only learn to support students in class. Similarly, non-teaching staff may receive only the basic AODA training required for customer service workers. They do not receive training that would help them support students with disabilities who hope to:
- Be part of a team or club
- Find accessible things to do with friends at recess
- Answer disability-related questions about future school or work opportunities
- Learn about disability-related scholarships or financial aid
As a result, some students may have accommodations in the classroom but may lack support for other school services outside of class that their peers have access to.
Why do we need more topics for educator training?
Some educators may feel that they should not need in-depth training to support students during activities outside of class. Instead, they might feel that other professionals should do this work. For instance, they might suggest that specialist teachers should make clubs accessible for students. Similarly, they might think that companies supporting job-seekers with disabilities should meet the needs of student job-seekers with disabilities. Likewise, some educators might feel that professionals in university or college accessibility offices should answer all disability-related questions about future courses or financing.
However, students with disabilities should have the same access to school services beyond the classroom that their non-disabled peers have. For instance, students with disabilities should be able to receive career counselling at school from professionals who can advise them about disclosing disability to employers. Moreover, students should be able to join clubs run by staff who already know how they will make activities accessible. In this way, students can be fully part of their school community with their non-disabled peers, instead of being excluded. An education standard should mandate that educators receive training to offer programs and services that welcome students with disabilities. Only then can they give all students equal opportunities in school.