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 policies to increase funding for construction of accessible schools.
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.
Policies to Increase Funding for Construction of Accessible Schools
The Committee recommends that the Ministry of Education should fund construction of schools that are physically accessible. In other words, the Ministry should make as much funding as possible available for school boards to spend on:
- Building accessible new schools
- Guaranteeing accessibility in all upcoming school renovations
- Retrofitting existing schools to be accessible
The Ministry can allocate funding for physical accessibility by removing any organizational barriers in the ways it distributes funds. Alternatively, the Ministry can also remove any organizational barriers limiting how school boards can spend funding.
For example, when a school board sells a school building, the Ministry needs to approve how the school board spends the proceeds from that sale. However, the Ministry could create a policy allowing school boards to spend these proceeds on making accessibility improvements to existing schools. In other words, school boards could fund more physical accessibility without needing Ministry approval.
Moreover, the Ministry allocates funding based on the capacity of a school, and on the number of “learning spaces” a school contains. While classrooms are learning spaces, some spaces not yet considered learning spaces include:
- Sensory rooms
- Outdoor play spaces
Therefore, the Ministry would have more funding available if the government considered these spaces to be learning spaces.
In short, changes to some government policies can provide school boards with needed funding for construction of accessible schools.