ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

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United for a Barrier-Free Ontario

Before July 14, 2017 Please Fill Out the Ontario Government's Survey of Disability Accessibility Barriers that Hurt Students with Disabilities in Ontario's Education System Here Are Great Tips to Help You

June 16, 2017

Summary

We strongly encourage you to fill out the Wynne Government's online survey on accessibility barriers facing students with disabilities in Ontario's education system, by the July 14, 2017 deadline. Please fill it out whether you are now or have ever been a student with a disability in Ontario, a parent or friend of a student with a disability, a teacher or other staff member in Ontario's education system, a disability professional who has worked with students with disabilities, or if you have in any way have knowledge about the disability accessibility barriers that students with disabilities face in Ontario's education system.  

As well, the Ontario Government commendably is encouraging school boards, colleges and universities to convene public forums to gather your input on the disability accessibility barriers in Ontario's education system. Please attend these.

This Update's tips help you, as you fill out the Government's survey or if you attend a public forum that invites your input on identifying the disability accessibility barriers in Ontario's education system. A future AODA Alliance Update will give tips to education organizations on how to conduct those public forums, and on the survey. A later Update will also offer our further reflections on this survey.

Please urge others to fill out the survey, and to use our tips in this Update. We encourage disability community organizations to also use these tips when gathering input and filling out that survey. We invite schools, colleges, universities and other educational organizations to circulate these tips to their student population and their staff, and to encourage them to fill use these tips when filling out the Government's survey.

Right off the top, we flag a very serious concern about the Government's survey. Our tips, below, show you how to counteract this serious problem, as you answer the survey. As a future AODA Alliance Update will further explain, in this survey, the Wynne Government takes an excessively narrow view of the disability accessibility barriers in Ontario's education system, that impede students with disabilities from fully participating in, being included in, and benefitting from education in Ontario. It also takes too narrow a view of the range of education organizations that need to provide full accessibility to students with disabilities.

It is very troubling that the Government's survey's five focus areas leave out many if not most of the recurring disability accessibility barriers in Ontario's education system. If the promised Education Accessibility Standard was limited to those five areas, listed later in this Update, the Government would not ensure that education in Ontario becomes fully accessible to students with disabilities. It would leave many if not most disability accessibility barriers in place forever in Ontario's education system.

By inappropriately narrowing the survey, the Wynne Government is narrowing the public discussion from the start. The Government appears to be trying to narrow the work of the forthcoming Education Standards Development Committee. That Committee, once appointed, will use your feedback to make reform recommendations to the Government.

How can you help us ensure that the Government hears about all the different kinds of disability accessibility barriers in Ontario's education system that need to be fixed, and all the education organizations that need to fix them? Just follow the action tips we set out below, when you fill out the Government's survey.

Why does this survey matter? Over a third of a million students with special education needs face too many unfair accessibility barriers in Ontario's education system. The AODA Alliance successfully campaigned to get Premier Wynne to agree that her Government will develop an Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. That accessibility standard should spell out what school boards, colleges, universities and other education organizations should do to remove these disability accessibility barriers and to prevent new ones from being created. Through this survey, you can tell the Government and the forthcoming Education Standards Development Committee what disability accessibility barriers must be fixed in Ontario's education system.

To fill out the survey online, the links are as follows:

            English: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/EducationSurveyEN

            French: https://fr.surveymonkey.com/r/SondageAccessibilite  
 
If you want to receive the survey as an MS Word document, fill it out off line, and email it to the Government, click here to download the survey form

If you fill the survey form out offline, you can email it to the Government at this email address: AODA.INPUT@ontario.ca

For more background on our campaign to win the enactment of a strong Education Accessibility Standard in Ontario to tear down the many disability accessibility barriers in Ontario's education system.

To read the AODA Alliances Discussion Paper that explains what we would like the promised Education Accessibility Standard to include.
  
To learn how to apply before July 31, 2017 to sit on the Government-appointed Education Standards Development Committee.

You can always send your feedback to us on any AODA and accessibility issue at aodafeedback@gmail.com

Have you taken part in our "Picture Our Barriers campaign? If not, please join in! You can get all the information you need about our "Picture Our Barriers" campaign by visiting www.aodaalliance.org/2016

To sign up for, or unsubscribe from AODA Alliance e-mail updates, write to: aodafeedback@gmail.com

We encourage you to use the Government's toll-free number for reporting AODA violations. We fought long and hard to get the Government to promise this, and later to deliver on that promise. If you encounter any accessibility problems at any large retail establishments, it will be especially important to report them to the Government via that toll-free number. Call 1-866-515-2025.

Please pass on our email Updates to your family and friends.

Why not subscribe to the AODA Alliance's YouTube channel, so you can get immediate alerts when we post new videos on our accessibility campaign.

Please "like" our Facebook page and share our updates.
 
Follow us on Twitter. Get others to follow us. And please re-tweet our tweets!! @AODAAlliance

Learn all about our campaign for a fully accessible Ontario by visiting http://www.aodaalliance.org

MORE DETAILS

1. Telling the Government About the Five Kinds of Disability Accessibility Barriers the Ontario Government's Survey Asks About in Ontario's Education System

The survey identifies five focus areas that the Education Accessibility Standard could address. These ignored many if not most of the accessibility barriers in Ontario's education system. We here list those five areas, and give you tips on what you may wish to tell the Government about them.

1. Accessibility Awareness and Training.

Here the Government asks how aware teachers, professors, other students without disabilities and their parents are about meeting the needs in Ontario's education system of students with disabilities.  

Our Tips:

* Explain problems that students with disabilities or their families have had because teachers, professors, or other staff at an educational organization did not seem to know how to teach students with disabilities and to meet the disability learning needs of students with disabilities.

* Explain problems that students with disabilities or their families have had because other students in their class or at their school, college, university or other educational organization. did not understand the need for their disability accommodation and full inclusion e.g. teasing, bullying, or social isolation of students with disabilities. 

2. Awareness of Accessibility Accommodations – Policies, Processes, and Programs/Supports.

Here the Government asks about whether students with disabilities, their families and educational organizations are sufficiently aware of available supports and programs for students with disabilities, or if instructors are not aware of their obligations.

Our Tips:

* Explain problems that students with disabilities or their families have had, finding out what options are available at an educational organization like a school board, college or university, to meet their disability needs in education.

* Explain problems that students with disabilities or their families have had to face, figuring out to whom and how to advocate for the student's individual disability needs to be accommodated so they can fully benefit from their education program.

* Explain problems that students with disabilities or their families have had, in trying to get students with disabilities included in regular classes, rather than being pressed to agree to being placed in segregated or special education programs for students with disabilities (for example, if a school board tells a student or family that the board will give the student with a disability more support if they are in a segregated or special education program).

3. Information, Communication, and Inclusive Decision-Making.

Here, the Government asks about two things: whether students with disabilities or their families are properly included in decisions on how an educational organization will meet the student's individual disability-related needs e.g. individual education accommodations in the classroom, and whether the school, college or gets advice from students with disabilities and their families on how more broadly to achieve accessibility.  It includes in this whether information about these specific topics is provided to students with disabilities in accessible formats.     

Our Tips:

* Explain problems that students with disabilities or their families have experienced when trying to get a school board, college, university or other educational organization to meet with them and to really listen to them, to discuss what individual supports or accommodations the student with a disability needs to be able to study, learn and succeed, e.g. when a school prepares an Individual Education Plan for the student.

* Explain problems that students with disabilities or their families have had, when trying to get the school, college, university or other educational organization to actually deliver the disability supports and accommodations that they have agreed to provide.

* Explain problems that students with disabilities or their families have had to face, in trying to get their school, college, university or other educational organization to change its mind, if it had already refused to provide a disability support or accommodation that the student or family requested and needs.

* Explain problems that students with disabilities or their families have faced, when trying to get a school, college or university to make changes to its buildings, facilities, programs or other features in order to ensure their accessibility for students with disabilities.

4. Transition Planning

The Government here asks about difficulties students with disabilities may face, when students transition from child care to start school, or from primary school to high school, or from school to work, or to more advanced education and/or community living.

Our Tips:

* Explain problems that students with disabilities or their families have had, when trying to get disability needs met when they first start at school, or go from elementary school to high school, or go from high school to college or university, or go from school to a finding a job and to living in the community as an adult.

5. Inclusive and Accessible Learning Spaces

Here the Government asks about challenges students with disabilities face, when navigating school, college or university buildings and surrounding grounds.

Our Tips:

* Explain problems that students with disabilities or their families have faced, when trying to get into and around buildings and grounds at school, college, university or other educational organizations. These are not limited to barriers facing people using a wheelchair, and who encounter stairs. This can also include any kind of disability: e.g. difficulties facing students with vision loss in finding their way around the buildings or grounds, lack of accessible signage, excessive noise creating a barrier for some students with autism spectrum disorder, etc.

* The survey wrongly places an emphasis on accessibility barriers in buildings problems in designed and constructed before current accessibility requirements were established. You should tell the Government about accessibility barriers in new buildings and surrounding grounds, and not just in old buildings. The Government's question lets you tell about new or old properties.

It is inaccurate for the survey to leave an impression that newer buildings are in fact more accessible than older ones. Due to poor provincial requirements on the accessibility of the built environment in the Ontario Building Code and AODA accessibility standards, new buildings are regularly built with accessibility problems, and can be worse than an older building.

2. How to Use the Government's Survey to Tell the Government About the Many Additional Disability Accessibility Barriers in Ontario's Education System that the Survey's Five Focus Areas Leave Out

Near the survey's end, after it covers those five focus areas, the survey opens the door to let you tell the Government about all the many other disability accessibility barriers that those five areas leave out. The survey's last two questions are:

"Other Questions

•           As a student or parent, what other accessibility barriers have you experienced in pursuing your or your child's education, and how could they be addressed through a new accessibility standard for education?

•           As a professional in the education sector, what other barriers have you experienced in providing an accessible, inclusive education, and how could they be addressed through a new accessibility standard for education?"

Take this opportunity! In fact, you may wish to spend most of your time and effort on this part of the survey.

Our Tips:

Please make these important additional points. You can cut and paste from this Update or use your own words:

* The Education Accessibility Standard's purpose should be to ensure that our education system becomes fully accessible to students with disabilities by 2025.

* The Education Accessibility Standard should apply to any and all education programming in Ontario, not just publicly-funded schools, and to colleges and universities. It should also apply to private schools. They too have a duty under the Ontario Human Rights Code to provide accessible education to students with disabilities. It should also apply to early learning programs, outside of school boards, and to job training programs, whether or not they are offered in a college or university.

* The Education Accessibility Standard should address disability barriers facing students with any and all kinds of disabilities, not just the disabilities which Ontario's 36-year-old outdated special education laws recognize. This should include any physical, mental, sensory, intellectual, mental health, learning, communication, neurological or other kind of disability.

* The Education Accessibility Standard should fix all the different kinds of disability barriers in Ontario's education system, not just the narrow ones covered by the survey's five focus areas. Here are examples you are encouraged to tell the Government about:

1. Disability accessibility barriers that students with disabilities face in transportation to get to school (education transportation barriers). 

2. Disability accessibility barriers that students with disabilities experienced when trying to use computers, tablets, software, websites, and other digital technology provided at a school, college, university or other educational organization (digital accessibility).

3. Disability accessibility barriers that students with disabilities experienced when trying to use the gym, playground or other equipment or facilities at an school, college, university or other educational organization (equipment accessibility).

4. Disability accessibility barriers that students with disabilities face when trying to take part in extracurricular activities (extracurricular barriers).

5. Disability accessibility barriers that students with disabilities face when trying to take part in work study programs, co-op placements or other kinds of on-the-job "experiential learning" programs (experiential learning barriers).

6. Disability accessibility barriers that students with disabilities face when trying to bring a service animal to school or class (barriers to service animals).

7. Disability accessibility barriers that students with disabilities face when trying to get instructional materials, like text books and class assignments, in an accessible format, at the same time classmates without disabilities receive the course materials (instructional material barriers).

8. Disability accessibility barriers that students with disabilities face in course curriculum that doesn't take into account learning needs of students with disabilities (curriculum barriers).

9. Disability accessibility barriers that students with disabilities face when taking tests, exams or other evaluations if these don't fairly and accurately assess the progress of students with disabilities (testing barriers).

10. Disability accessibility barriers that students with disabilities face in admission rules, criteria or other screening when trying to get into a course or other educational program (admissions barriers).

11. Disability accessibility barriers that students with disabilities face in French immersion or other specialized programs offered in Ontario's education system (specialized program barriers).

12. Disability accessibility barriers and problems that students with disabilities face with the way a school, college, university or other education organization decides how it will accommodate the student with disabilities' needs (placement and accommodation procedure barriers).

13. Explain any policies or bureaucratic barriers that students with disabilities can face when trying to make sure that they can be fully included in and benefit from education programs in Ontario (such as difficulties or roadblocks in getting students with disabilities included and effectively served in a student's neighbourhood school's regular classroom). (policy and bureaucratic barriers.)

14. Explain any legal barriers that students with disabilities have faced when trying to fully benefit from and be fully included in education programs in Ontario (such as problems coming from Ontario's special education laws). (legal barriers.)

15. Any other kinds of disability accessibility barriers that can make it harder for students with disabilities to be fully included in, fully participate in and fully benefit from education programs in Ontario.

16. Overall, how effective has your school, college, university or other educational organization been at ensuring that students with disabilities are fully included in, can fully participate in, and fully benefit from education programs in Ontario?