Twenty-Four Years After the Ontario Legislature Unanimously Called for Strong Provincial Legislation to Make Ontario Accessible, Students with Disabilities Still Face Unfair Disability Barriers

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities




Twitter: @aodaalliance



Twenty-Four Years After the Ontario Legislature Unanimously Called for Strong Provincial Legislation to Make Ontario Accessible, Students with Disabilities Still Face Unfair Disability Barriers


October 29, 2022




An Appalling Disability Barrier at School is the Tip of a Cruel Iceberg Facing Too Many Students with Disabilities


Each day, a mother must sit in her car all day long, parked in front of her daughter’s school. she must be on stand-by to come into the school in case her daughter needs help to go to the bathroom. Her daughter is a student with disabilities.


This outrageous story hit the media yesterday. It was covered by CBC and CTV. Below you can read their reports.


In these reports, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky is quoted as pointing out that this is part of a much bigger and very troubling picture. Students with disabilities continue to face too many disability barriers in Ontario schools. The Ford Government has had in hand for about half a year a detailed roadmap of how to fix this mess. It was written by the Government-appointed K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. Yet, the Ford Government says it is still consulting with itself.


The Ontario Government can and should act right now to start to implement the final report of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. We have provided a captioned video

that summarizes what that detailed report says. The Ford Government has had it for months. It has known for much longer than that what the report was going to recommend.


The findings and recommendations of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee are widely supported within both the disability and educator communities. The AODA Alliance has reached out to school boards across Ontario, to urge them to get head of the game, by starting to implement the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee report. Responses included statements by some boards that they are awaiting directions from the Ministry of Education. It is time for the Ford Government to start giving those directions!


To learn more about the AODA Alliance’s campaign since 2009 to tear down the unfair barriers impeding students with disabilities in Ontario’s education system, pop in on the AODA Alliance website’s education page.


An Important 24th Anniversary Today


Twenty-four years ago today, on October 29, 1998, when the Conservative Mike Harris Ontario Government was in office, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee (the predecessor to the AODA Alliance) convinced the Legislature to unanimously pass a historic resolution. It called for the enactment of a disability accessibility law that puts into effect the 11 principles that grass roots disability advocates had formulated.


To read the debates in the Ontario Legislature on October 29, 1998, leading to the passage of this resolution, visit


Twenty-four years later, we still measure progress against the 11 principles that the Ontario Legislature adopted on October 29, 1998.


Read what the Ontario Legislature’s historic October 29, 1998 resolution said, and how we won it 24 years ago today!


Check out what MPPs said in the Ontario Legislature 24 years ago today about the need for strong disability legislation in Ontario.


Learn more about the AODA Alliance’s campaign since 2005 to get the AODA effectively implemented and enforced.


Government Delaying Even More?


There have now been 1,367 days since the Ford Government received the ground-breaking final report of the Independent Review of the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Government has announced no comprehensive plan of new action to implement that report. Only 795 days are left before 2025, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act’s mandatory deadline for Ontario to become accessible to over 2.6 million people with disabilities.




CBC News Toronto October 28, 2022


Originally posted at


This mom sits outside her child’s school all day. She wants more help for students with disabilities


An estimated 1 in 6 students in Ontario have a disability and face barriers to education, advocate says


Vanessa Balintec CBC News


Michelle Cousins makes herself comfortable with a pillow and a blanket in her accessible van while she camps out near her daughter’s school in case she needs her help. (Talia Ricci/CBC)

Michelle Cousins follows her 14-year-old daughter Colette to school each morning.


Cousins meets her bus at Marshall McLuhan Catholic Secondary School in north Toronto. She helps Colette and her wheelchair onto the ground and parks her van on a nearby street.


She stays there until the end of the school day in case she needs to help her daughter, who has arthrogryposis, which causes joint stiffness and affects her mobility, among other conditions


“It’s been really, really challenging,” said Cousins, a single mom.


“Had there been a proper assessment, had people been doing their job and doing it properly, I don’t think we’d be here.”


For every school day since September, Cousins has been sitting in her van in case Colette needs her help going to the washroom. That’s something educational assistants usually do, but it’s the best option to maintain Colette’s dignity, she says, until a better solution from the school and the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) materializes.


Cousins says she’s been told there are only two educational assistants who are able to lift Colette out of her wheelchair when needed, with no guarantee of trained replacements in case they’re away. On top of that, the support equipment the school does have has either been inoperable or unable to fit in the washroom, Cousins says.


Along with other conditions, Colette Cousins, right, has arthrogryposis, which causes joint stiffness and affects her mobility.


Colette isn’t the only child with disabilities facing accommodation issues in schools across the province. About one in six students in Ontario have a disability, according to a prominent advocate, and it’s common for them to face physical, technological and bureaucratic barriers that get in the way of their education.


Even though the school confirmed Colette’s admission in the spring, and had her accommodation needs assessed this summer, Cousins says she’s resorted to taking on the support role to give her daughter as normal of a high school experience as possible amidst bureaucratic and labour issues at play.


While Colette appreciates her mom’s help, she says she knows it shouldn’t be this way.


“It’s not fair that my mom has to sit in a van,” said Colette.


Who’s responsible for accommodation?

The TCDSB, in an email to CBC Toronto, says it works with parents and students case-by-case to accommodate special needs in line with the province’s main disability rights legislation, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).


The board stresses it can’t speak about individual cases due to privacy laws. But it says Colette’s high school has an elevator, an accessible washroom, alternative and operable equipment and support staff who are “available and assigned as needed” to help students with disabilities.


However, Cousins refutes most of that and a high-profile advocate for people with disabilities in Ontario says these issues can’t be dealt with at the board level alone.


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“The bureaucracy handcuffs the teachers and principals and other staff who want to do the right thing,” said David Lepofsky, the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance.


“This is emblematic of a much bigger problem — a problem that the provincial government has known about for years.”


Lawyer David Lepofsky is chair of the AODA Alliance, a group that advocates for the implementation of accessibility standards in Ontario. He says parents of children with disabilities are often ‘left at sea’ to face large bureaucracies by themselves. (


Lepofsky, who is also a member of the provincially-appointed Kindergarten to Grade 12 (K-12) Education Standards Development Committee, helped draft recommendations for an accessibility standard in all publicly-funded schools.


“All that is available to our kids [right now] is for their parents to try to negotiate with the bureaucracy of a school board, and if that doesn’t work, to lawyer up at personal expense,” said Lepofsky.


Work began in 2017, and the committee put forward dozens of recommendations in February aimed at creating equipment, support and staffing standards for school boards to better help students with disabilities. The committee also called for a user-friendly process for parents to get unique accommodations in a fast and easy manner.


But the committee hasn’t heard word on if or when they’ll be implemented, Lepofsky says.


In an email to CBC Toronto, the Ontario Ministry of Education says it’s working with the Ministry of Seniors and Accessibility to review the recommendations.


In the meantime, the ministry says it’s consistently added more educational assistants in schools each year since 2018, with more than 1,700 in special education this school year alone.


But that’s not what Cousins says she’s seeing on the ground. At this rate, she says she’ll be in her car by the school for another four to six weeks, fighting for the board to approve another way for Colette to attend classes independently, to repair or order in extra equipment, or get the staff needed to support her.


“I hope there’s some sort of systemic change.”


CTV Toronto News October 28, 2022


Originally posted at:


‘It’s a mess’: Why a single mom sits outside her daughter’s Toronto school every day



Andrew Brennan


Michelle Cousins can be found in her van, sitting down the street from her daughter’s Toronto school, every day after following her on the bus route.


“I’m one who greets her when she gets off the bus. I help her get into the school. I help her take her coat off. I give her a kiss, and then I hop back in my van and find a parking spot,” she told CTV News Toronto.


Cousins waits in case her daughter calls to use the bathroom. Normally, educational assistants are charged with helping in such cases, but Cousins says


she sacrifices her days because it is the best way to ensure her daughter’s modesty. Her daughter, Colette Cousins, is 14 years old. She has athrogryposis, which affects her mobility, and uses a wheelchair.


Cousins says she tried to flag issues last October before Colette was accepted to Marshal McLuhan Secondary School. Colette was accepted in May, and an assessment was done in June by an occupational therapist.


It was then she was told adjustments and modifications based on the assessment would be done over the summer, Cousins said, and there would be two educational assistants to help with lifts and transfers in the fall.


“The day before school starts, that’s when I learn nothing has been done physically for her, in spite of all the recommendations—grab bars weren’t installed, the elevator company didn’t come in to inspect it and modify it,” she said.


Out of nine assistants, she was then told only two would be able to lift her daughter when needed.


Cousins says she also had to sign off for a fire evacuation plan before a fire drill, where her daughter would be left in a stairwell.


“Students with disabilities are treated like an afterthought by a system not designed for them,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance. The longtime advocate was a member of the Kindergarten to Grade 12 Education Standards Development Committee, which was appointed in 2017 to draft recommendations for accessibility standards and best practices in all publicly-funded schools in Ontario.


The recommendations were presented to the Ministry of Education in February. The office for Minister Stephen Lecce says the ministry is working with the Ministry of Seniors and Accessibility to review the findings.


Lepofsky says the province is sitting on its hands. “Individual parents from one end of this province to another have to keep fighting those barriers one at a time,” he said. Meantime, Cousins says she and Colette have proposed a solution to her occupational therapist to demonstrate Colette is capable of partially supporting herself, and would require different equipment that would allow only one person to lift her with less invasive results.


The problem now is finding a supplier for the equipment, waiting for it to get here, and training staff on the new regime, she said.


“Now we’re playing catchup,” she said. “Now, they’re working tirelessly—and I do believe individually they do care—but I just sit there and it’s just a mess.

“And I do know this is part of a larger problem. This is systemic.”