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 person-directed learning for all students.
Ontario students with disabilities can learn in many different locations. While some students attend their neighbourhood schools, others travel to different schools:
- With fewer physical barriers
- With specialized programs, such as:
- French immersion
- Art or music programs
- That teach students with specific disabilities, such as students who:
- Are blind, visually impaired, or deafblind
- Are deaf or hard of hearing
- Have learning disabilities
There are committees and processes to determine the most appropriate placement for each student. For instance, one student with a physical disability may access their neighbourhood school, while another student with the same disability attends a school with fewer physical barriers than their neighbourhood school. Similarly, one student with a learning disability may attend a specialized school, while another student with the same disability attends their neighbourhood school.
Likewise, students with disabilities also learn different curriculums. Some students learn all subjects under the provincial curriculum. They may use accommodations, like communication supports or accessible formats. However, these students learn the same course content as their non-disabled peers, at the same grade level.
Alternatively, other students may learn using modified expectations. These students study with their peers, but receive grades based on fewer criteria, or at lower grade levels. For example, a student with an intellectual disability may study math at a lower grade level than the other students in their class. Another student may spend part of the day with their non-disabled peers, and the rest of the day in a classroom for students with disabilities.
In addition, students may need to study alternative or expanded subjects, to learn skills that are specific to the needs of their disabilities. For example, some students may learn:
- To read and write Braille
- Organization or social skills
- Daily living skills, such as shopping or taking public transit
Person-Directed Learning Placements
To determine the best placement and curriculum for them, some students may take assessments, or interact with an Identification, Placement, and Review Committee. However, the Education Standards Development Committee reports that these processes may not always place students in the best environments for them. This Committee states that students who may benefit from the whole provincial curriculum are instead receiving modified instruction in segregated classrooms. Moreover, this modified curriculum leads to fewer opportunities following school. For example, students who receive the whole provincial curriculum can later attend:
- University or college
In contrast, students in modified curriculums may never learn course material, or gain course credits, needed to be eligible for these opportunities later in life. Furthermore, the Committee also finds that students from racialized minorities are more often disadvantaged in this way than non-racialized students.
Therefore, the Committee recommends that students should have better access to post-secondary learning opportunities, through transition plans and person-directed learning. The Ministry of Education, Teacher’s colleges, school boards, and schools should promote this access. For example, they can promote experiences and assessments that help students engage with and participate in the full curriculum.
Specialized Program Accessibility
Finally, all students should also have access to any specialized programs that a school board offers. For instance, programs like French immersion should be accessible for any student who wishes to enroll. Therefore, these programs should be designed to meet the accessibility needs of as many students as possible. They should take place in physically accessible schools. Likewise, learning resources for these programs should be available in accessible formats. School boards should also monitor and review these programs to ensure that they remain open to all students.