Even though Ontario is required by law to become fully accessible to all people with disabilities by 2025, less than eight and a half years from now, Ontario’s publicly-funded education system is still full of barriers that can impede 334,000 students with special education needs. The Wynne Government still has no plan in place to ensure that Ontario’s education system becomes fully disability-accessible.
What is the Government doing about this? On August 8, 2016, the Wynne Government announced that it would not close any of Ontario’s provincial or demonstration schools for students with learning disabilities, students who are blind, low vision or deaf-blind, or students who are deaf, deafened or hard of hearing. This came after the Government held a consultation on the future of the schools for children with learning disabilities or who are deaf, deafened or hard of hearing. The Government had made it clear from the outset that it was not going to consider closing the W. Ross Macdonald School for children with vision loss.
The AODA Alliance swung right into action. We immediately issued a news release, set out below. It emphasizes that students with disabilities need much more. We need the Government to at long last agree to develop and enact an Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
We are delighted that in its news report on the Government’s announcement, the Toronto Star’s August 9, 2016 online edition included an extract from our news release. In that article, set out below, the Star reported:
“Education Minister Mitzie Hunter said Monday the government’s goal is to better help children with special needs across the province closer to home.
But critics like David Lepofsky of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance charged the latest step “falls miles short of what is needed by 334,000 students with special education needs.””
As the AODA Alliances news release shows, the Government’s August 8, 2016 announcement helps illustrate the need for much more comprehensive reforms to Ontario’s education system, which is full of barriers impeding hundreds of thousands of students with special education needs. the Government’s announcement commendably commits to a new Government initiative to explore better supports for students in local schools who have learning disabilities, or who are deaf, deafened, or hard of hearing.
Yet even though the Government’s announcement claims that the Government is announcing news for students who are blind or deaf-blind, it actually includes nothing whatsoever for them. The Government did not announce any new effort to develop better supports in local schools for students with vision loss, or indeed for students with any disability, other than learning disabilities or hearing loss. This is so despite the fact that the Wynne Government’s August 8, 2016 announcement quoted the new Education Minister as saying the Government needs to provide better services to, among others, blind students. The Government’s announcement includes this statement by Education Minister Mitzie Hunter:
“We need to ensure equity and better serve our students who are Deaf, blind or have severe learning disabilities by providing them with robust services and effective programs in their home communities. ”
As noted above, the Government’s review of the future of provincial and demonstration schools had not put Ontario’s School for the Blind on the potential chopping block. As such, the Government’s August 8, 2016 announcement, that that school would remain open, was not news, and was nothing new, in so far as students with vision loss are concerned.
We encourage you to:
* circulate our news release to your local media. Urge them to cover this story;
* contact your member of the Ontario Legislature and urge them to support our call for the Government to develop an Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA. Send them our news release. It explains why Ontario needs an Education Accessibility Standard and gives links to great background information on this issue.
* spread the word on this issue on social media like Twitter and Facebook. We have already been actively doing so.
Below you will find:
* The AODA Alliance’s August 8, 2016 news release.
* The Ontario Education Ministry’s August 8, 2016 announcement on education for students with disabilities and
* The April 6, 2016 letter from the Ontario Human Rights Code’s Chief Commissioner, Renu Mandhane, to the then-Minister of Education Liz Sandals.
You can always send your feedback to us on any AODA and accessibility issue at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Please also join the campaign for a strong and effective Canadians with Disabilities Act, spearheaded by Barrier-Free Canada. The AODA Alliance is proud to be the Ontario affiliate of Barrier-Free Canada. Sign up for Barrier-Free Canada updates by emailing info@BarrierFreeCanada.org