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Physical Accessibility in School

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 recommendations for physical accessibility in school.

The committee’s mandate from the Ontario government requires recommendations focused on the publicly-funded K-12 school system. However, students and educators with disabilities also face barriers in other school settings, including:

  • Private schools
  • Pre-school programs, such as early literacy programs

Therefore, all these settings should comply with the forthcoming K-12 education standards.

Physical Accessibility in School

In an earlier article, we outlined Committee recommendations to prevent physical barriers in schools and other educational spaces. These recommendations will enhance access for students, educators, family members, and visitors with all disabilities, in:

  • New schools
  • Existing schools, through renovations and retrofits

The forthcoming K-12 Education Standard includes technical requirements to ensure physical accessibility in school buildings. Likewise, the Standard also includes technical requirements for outdoor accessibility.

Updates to the Ontario Building Code (the Code) may mandate compliance with some of the Standard’s technical requirements. Similarly, updates to the AODA’s Design of Public Spaces Standards may mandate compliance with Education Standard requirements for outdoor spaces. However, these Code and Standards updates may not include all the technical requirements under the Education Standards. Moreover, Code and Standards updates may not happen until after the Education Standards deadline of January 1st, 2025. Therefore, the Committee recommends that school boards implement all the Education Standard’s technical requirements by this deadline, regardless of Code or Design of Public Spaces Standards updates. In other words, even without updates to the Code and Design of Public Spaces Standards, school boards should comply with all Committee recommendations for physical accessibility in school.