Our last article explored how educator training makes school accessible to some students with disabilities. In this article, we discuss how stronger educator training is needed to support students with disabilities in the classroom.
Stronger Educator Training
The regulations in the Information and Communications Standards provide an important starting point for educational accessibility. However, there are few guidelines advising organizations on how to implement these requirements. For instance, the mandate about educator training lists the topics that the training needs to address. However, the mandate does not state how institutions can educate themselves on these topics to train their employees. In addition, institutions can choose types of educator training that offer different levels of information, such as classroom sessions or handouts. On one hand, this lack of direction can be helpful. For instance, institutions developing their own training can tailor it specifically to their students and staff. On the other hand, the lack of guidance is harmful when educators responsible for training development have no experience with accessibility.
Some educators may choose to create brief training modules that do not cover everything they should. These educators may make this choice because they are uncomfortable interacting with people who have disabilities. Alternatively, educators may believe that only specialized teachers should need to work directly with students who have disabilities. As a result of this discomfort or false belief, some teachers and other professionals may not be as well-trained as they should be.
For instance, educators may not learn about a wide range of visible and invisible disabilities. For example, an educator might learn about the need to keep classroom aisles clutter-free for students who use wheelchairs. However, they may not learn about how to choose combinations of colours and textures that will make classrooms most accessible for students who are visually impaired. Similarly, educators may learn how to adjust their teaching styles for students with different levels of vision or hearing. However, they may not learn about strategies to support students with different mental health challenges.
More and more students with disabilities now learn in integrated classrooms along with their non-disabled peers. As a result, every educator must meet these students’ needs. However, educators cannot meet the needs of all their students if staff from different schools or school boards have different levels of training. An education standard should ensure that educator training covers serving students of all abilities. Every educator who gains a student with a disability should be prepared to work with and teach that student.
Our next article will explore more topics for educator training.