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Preventing Accessibility Barriers through Professional School Programs

The AODA does not yet have an education standard. Two committees are making recommendations about what an education standard should include. Our recent articles have considered how the education standards can build on requirements from the AODA’s existing standards. Now, we will explore new mandates that the education standards could create. One issue that an education standard should address is accessibility in professional school programs. In other words, professional school programs should include training for their students on preventing accessibility barriers.

Preventing Accessibility Barriers through Professional School Programs

In earlier articles, we have explored how more training could help educators teach students with disabilities, and work with them outside the classroom. Teachers should be prepared for preventing accessibility barriers during and outside of class. Similarly, other professionals should be prepared to serve all people, including people with disabilities. Therefore, the professional schools that qualify them in their fields should include courses or modules on preventing accessibility barriers.

Preventing Accessibility Barriers in Buildings

For instance, when architects design buildings or public spaces, anyone should be able to move through them. Therefore, architects should know how to design spaces and buildings without barriers. They should learn about design features that create barriers, such as narrow hallways. In addition, they should also learn about design features that improve accessibility, such as contrasting colours and textures. In addition, they could learn about designing with the dignity of all people in mind. For instance, they could understand that an accessible main entrance allows all people to use the front door. In contrast, an accessible back entrance means that some visitors may always need to search for a useable door.

Preventing Accessibility Barriers in Communication

Likewise, communications professionals should also have accessibility training, so that all people can read the information they create. For example, they should be aware of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, which ensure that website content and layouts are accessible. They could also learn about the consequences of inaccessible web design on people’s independence. For instance, they could discover that if a website’s check-out process is not accessible, customers have to reveal banking information that should be confidential. With this knowledge, communication professionals can reach and show respect for everyone in their target audiences.

An education standard could mandate required modules or courses, in these and other programs, about preventing accessibility barriers. In this way, new graduates would know, at the start of their careers, how to serve people of all abilities. A standard could also mandate professional development for people in mid-career, so that they could add accessibility to their existing areas of expertise.