School board accessibility training is vital in order to ensure that students with disabilities receive the same education as other students. As part of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR), school board accessibility training is mandatory for educators in Ontario. This article includes the IASR requirements for school board accessibility training and what that training needs to cover, including:
• Accessible lesson development and delivery
• Removal of barriers to accessible education
• Use of assistive technology
• Accommodation of mental health needs
• Accessible evaluation and feedback methods
What Does the IASR Say About School Board Accessibility Training?
Section 16 of the IASR mandates that school boards must provide school board accessibility training to educators. Additionally, section 7 states that organizations must train educators on the requirements of the IASR that apply to the organization’s business. They must also train on the Ontario Human Rights Code as it relates to people with disabilities.
Who classifies as an educator?
Educators may be strictly defined as those who prepare and/or deliver lessons. However, best practice suggests that educators also include:
• Early childhood educators
• Educational assistants (EA)
• Child and youth workers
• Support staff
• Administrative staff
Best practice classifies the above workers as educators because they all encounter students with disabilities over the course of their general work.
What Should School Board Accessibility Training Cover?
Accessible lesson development and delivery
School board accessibility training needs to cover the development and delivery of accessible lessons. Accessible lessons are lessons designed with all learners in mind. Training also needs to incorporate teaching and training strategies for students with various disabilities, including:
• Visual impairments
• Hearing impairments
• Mobility impairments
• Learning disabilities
Removal of barriers to accessible education
Your classroom and lesson plans may be accessible, but what about the equipment students use in the science labs, gyms, and computer labs? Is there accessible equipment available in every educational room in the school? Are the classrooms even accessible? Educators with school board accessibility training will be able to identify barriers, for instance:
• Narrow aisles or pathways that have physical obstacles
• Computers that do not have screen readers
• Lack of technology resources, such as Chrome Books
• Doors that do not have automatic openers
• Inaccessible second levels, auditoriums, gymnasiums, or science labs
• Lack of Braille signage or textbook options available
• Emergency alert systems with bells, but no visual alerts
Training is especially essential for understanding how simple classroom components might become barriers to accessible education. Through training, staff will become equipped to identify and correct barriers. Training will also provide educators with the knowledge to create lessons and classroom experiences that are accessible to all. Consequently, the learning environment will become accessible for all students.
Use of assistive technology
Students who need assistive technology also require support to use it. There is a wide range of assistive technology. For instance:
• Screen readers
• Microphones or amplifying devices
• Reading aids, such as coloured screens and magnifiers
School staff members need to know how to work assistive technology and how it can be implemented into accessible lesson plans. It is also essential that educators understand how assistive technology will assist learners in receiving the lessons. Sometimes, if students have allocated supports that provide them with access to an EA, the EA will also provide support using the assistive technology. However, the reality is that many students who need EA support do not get it. Since EAs are not always available, it is beneficial for all school staff to understand how to use assistive technology.
Accommodating mental health
Under AODA, mental health challenges are classified as a disability that requires accommodation. Accommodating mental health in the classroom can mean a number of things. School board accessibility training may provide ideas and things to watch for when determining appropriate supports. For example:
• Trigger awareness and avoidance
• Zero tolerance policies for bullying
• Fostering an inclusive culture
• Encouraging conversations
• Providing educational resources where applicable
• Access to school mental health counselors
• Participation in mental health first aid and ASIST suicide prevention first aid
Evaluation and feedback methods
You can deliver testing and evaluation methods in accessible formats to students of all abilities. Teachers can give feedback in a format that is accessible, such as:
• In Braille
In conclusion, school boards need to strive to ensure that their schools and classrooms are accessible to all students. Regardless of ability, all students are entitled to an education that is accessible, informative, engaging, and fun.