Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update
United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
Major Potential Step Forward for Students with Disabilities – Ontario Government Makes Public the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s Final Report and Recommendations
March 3, 2022
Good news! On March 1, 2022, the Ontario Government made public the final report of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. We posted it as a downloadable MS Word file on the AODA Alliance website’s education page at https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/K-12-Education-SDC-Final-Recommendations-Report.docx
A first for Ontario, this final report gives a very comprehensive roadmap of what must be done to tear down the disability barriers in Ontario’s schools. This would let students with disabilities fully participate, be fully included in, and fully benefit from all that Ontario schools offer. This report does not include the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s recommendations on needed reforms to help students with disabilities transitions within the school system and after high school. The Government has yet to post the Standards Development Committee’s transitions report.
The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s final report is supported by a very strong consensus from disability and educator perspectives. Half of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee was made up of representatives from Ontario’s disability sector, including AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. The other half was made up of representatives from Ontario’s school system. They reached a strong agreement on the final report and its roadmap for reform. Reaching this consensus is a major accomplishment.
Substantial public feedback on the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s initial report was gathered last summer. It showed that there was a strong consensus in support from the disability community and from educators. They confirmed the existence of the barriers that the Committee had identified. That feedback amply supported the need for reform, and it strongly supported the Standards Development Committees roadmap for reform.
This ground-breaking final report includes all findings and recommendations that the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee included in its earlier initial report, which was posted for public comment on June 1, 2021. The final report adds some fine-tuning of those initial recommendations. It also adds some additional recommendations. These revisions came from public feedback on the Standards Development Committees initial report.
This is a major step forward in our campaign for a barrier-free education system for all students with disabilities. However, it is only an intermediate stop along the road to that goal.
Please use this new report as a powerful tool to push for education reform for students with disabilities. We encourage you to:
- Send the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee final report to your local school board’s senior officials, including your local school board trustee, the chair of your school board, and your school board’s Director of Education. Urge them to implement as much of this report as they can, as quickly as possible. A school board can now implement many of the final report’s recommendations right away, without waiting for action by the Ontario Government.
- Send this final report to your school board’s Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC). Urge your SEAC to recommend that your school board implement this report’s recommendations now. The Toronto District School Boar’s SEAC passed a motion at its February 2022 meeting urging TDSB to implement the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s recommendations. TDSB’s SEAC set up a working group to collaborate with the school board on this.
- Press your member of the Ontario Legislature to get the Ontario Government to fully and quickly implement this report.
- In the upcoming June 2, 2022 election, the AODA Alliance is calling on all political parties to agree, if elected, to fully implement the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s recommendations. We invite you to raise this final report with candidates now, as they phone you or come to your door. Ask them to pledge to support this report’s full and swift implementation. Check out the AODA Alliance’s November 22, 2021 letter to Ontario’s major political parties. It lists the election pledges that the AODA Alliance asks each political party to make on accessibility for people with disabilities.
Read on to learn:
- What comes next in the campaign for achieving a barrier-free school system for students with Disabilities.
- Why it has taken us an unbelievable thirteen years just to reach this stop along the road to a barrier-free school system in which students with disabilities can fully participate and be fully included.
For more background, check out:
The captioned video by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky that explains what was in the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s initial report. It gives an overview of the final report, since the final report includes everything that was in the Committee’s initial report.
The captioned video by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky that gives tips to parents of students with disabilities on how to advocate for their child’s disability-related needs at school.
The AODA Alliance’s 15-page summary of the initial report of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. It remains highly relevant.
The AODA Alliance’s more detailed 55-page summary of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s initial report.
The initial report of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, that was posted for public comment last summer.
The AODA Alliance website’s education page, which sets out our efforts in this area over more than a decade.
This all relates to barriers in the kindergarten to grade 12 school system. As a result of our campaigning for years, there is also a separate AODA Standards Development Committee that is now finalizing its report to the Ford Government on what needs to be done to make post-secondary education accessible and inclusive for students with disabilities.
What Comes Next?
How do we get the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s report converted into an enforceable Education Accessibility Standard, enacted under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act? What could the Ontario Government do with the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s final report and recommendations?
If a Government wants to act, it can do any or all of three things with this report.
- It can develop and enact an enforceable, mandatory Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. That is of course our first goal.
- It can use recommendations in this final report to come forward with new legislation or regulations and/or amendments to existing legislation and/or regulations. A number of the serious problems that the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s final report identifies are traceable to Ontario’s Education Act and regulations. They have needed to be reformed for many years because of the problematic way they treat students with disabilities.
- The Government and other provincial organizations such as the Ontario College of Teachers (that regulates the teaching profession) could now reform policies and practices wherever possible, to implement recommendations in the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee final report. For example, that report calls for significant reforms to the power of school principals to refuse to allow a student to come to school at all, or to reduce the number of hours per day that they can come to school. This cries out for reforms to legislation and regulations. However, in the meantime, the Ministry of Education could tomorrow issue a new policy memo to school boards that reins in this excessive and arbitrary power, along the lines that the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee recommends. We and others have called for reforms in this area for several years.
It is fair for people with disabilities and their families to insist upon, and expect quite prompt action by the Ontario Government. This final report does not come to the Government as news. The Government has been intimately involved in the Standards Development Committee’s work over the past four years as it developed this report. Staff from the Ministry of Education and the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility attended every meeting of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. They had access to all recommendations as they were being developed. The final report was sent to the Accessibility Minister back on January 28, 2022.
The Ministers and Deputy Ministers of Education and of Accessibility have been briefed several times on these recommendations as they were being developed. Both ministers and deputy ministers have met with the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee.
Before The Government enacts an Education Accessibility Standard, it must first post a draft regulation that it intends to pass. The public gets a chance to comment on that draft regulation.
As has so often been the case in so many areas, we must roll up our sleeves again and mount a campaign to get this final report fully and swiftly implemented. Unless we do so, there is a real risk that the Government will do nothing at all. The current Ford Government has done nothing to implement final reports and recommendations from the Transportation Standards Development Committee, the Employment Standards Development Committee, and the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee.
Moreover, the Ministry of Education has systemically been a barrier to reform. Reforming the education system for the benefit of students with disabilities has clearly not been a priority for the Ministry. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee had to do its thorough top-to-bottom review of the education system because the Ministry of Education systemically failed to do so.
Why Has It Taken 13 Years to Get to This Interim Step Forward?
The Ontario Government’s decade-long foot-dragging on reform of the education system for students with disabilities is inexcusable. No one can deny that the school system is replete with disability barriers. One out of every six students in Ontario-funded schools has a disability, numbering at least one third of a million students.
Believe it or not, it was back in 2009, two premiers ago, that we first asked the Ontario Government to agree to develop an Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA. The Government was then led by Premier Dalton McGuinty. We got several teachers’ unions to let the Government know that they support our cause, including the Elemetry Teachers Federation of Ontario, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation, and the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association. No one publicly opposed our call for an Education Accessibility Standard.
In January 2013, the Premier’s Office announced that it knew all that it needed to know, in order to decide what accessibility standards it should next develop. Yet we had to keep campaigning for years. We later learned that the Ministry of Education was internally resisting our call for an Education Accessibility Standard.
It was not until December 5, 2016, that Premier Kathleen Wynne agreed to develop an Education Accessibility Standard. She only announced this in the face of questions from then-opposition Tory MPP Bill Walker.
Even after it decided to create an Education Accessibility Standard, it took the Ontario Government over a full year just to appoint the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. In contrast, it took the Government less time to develop the entire AODA from 2003 to 2004, than it took the Government just to set up this advisory committee.
The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee met in the winter and spring of 2018. However, the Government froze its work pending the June 2018 Ontario election. After the Ford Government took office in June 2018, it kept the work of all Standards Development Committees frozen for an indefinite time, including the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee.
Even though the Tories supported the need for an Education Accessibility Standard when they were in opposition, they were not prepared to let the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee go back to work until we mounted a long and tenacious campaign to end that freeze. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee did not get back to work until the fall of 2019. It’s members, including AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, have worked collaboratively since then, first meeting in person and then meeting virtually during the pandemic.
Even when the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee finished a report to the Accessibility Minister, the Government stalled progress. Under the AODA, the Minister was required to post any report by a Standards Development Committee upon receiving it. In breach of that, the Government took 2.5 months to post the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s initial report last year, and a little over a month to post the Committee’s final report. The Government has taken even longer to post reports of a number of other Standards Development Committees.