ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Two Year Anniversary of Inaction – Ford Government Has Still Not Enacted Promised New Regulations to Tear Down the Many Barriers Hurting One Third of a Million Students with Disabilities in Ontario Schools, Two Years After Receiving a Landmark Report by Government-Appointed Experts Calling for Major Reform
January 29, 2024 Toronto: This week marks a disturbing anniversary of Ford Government inaction when it comes to giving some of Ontario’s most vulnerable students a fair chance. Two years ago yesterday, the Ford Government received a comprehensive report by a committee of Government-appointed experts that revealed the many disability barriers permeating Ontario’s publicly funded schools, which hurt at least one third of a million students with disabilities. These accessibility barriers impede students with disabilities from fully participating in, being fully included in, and fully benefitting from all that our K-12 school system has to offer.
“In opposition, the Tories blasted the Kathleen Wynne Government for not enacting a much-needed Education Accessibility Standard under the Disabilities Act, but now that they’re in power, they’ve dragged their feet on this for years and left our kids to languish,” said David Lepofsky, Chair of the nonpartisan grass roots AODA Alliance, which has led the fight since 2009 to get Ontario to enact the Education Accessibility Standard. “Premier Ford has been told what disability barriers are hurting students with disabilities and what he needs to enact to tear those barriers down. There’s no excuse for his failing to pass this long-overdue regulation for two full years.”
The final report of the Government-appointed K-12 Education Standards Development Committee gave the Ford Government and Ontario’s 72 school boards a practical roadmap for how to remove those barriers and how to prevent new ones from being created in the future. Among the many barriers in Ontario’s schools, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee report found:
- Many school buildings are not physically accessible, impeding students, teachers, staff and parents with physical disabilities.
- Digital learning technology used in schools too often lacks digital accessibility to ensure that students with disabilities can fully use and benefit from these learning tools.
- The school system too often does a poor job of letting parents of students with disabilities know what programs, services and supports are available for their children and how to access them.
- The education system is replete with rigid bureaucratic and administrative barriers that make it harder for schools to meet the needs of students with disabilities and create roadblocks for parents trying to advocate for the needs of their children in school.
- Teachers and other educational staff have too often not been sufficiently trained, if at all, in how to effectively teach all learners, including students with disabilities.
This week also marks a second cruel anniversary for Ontario’s K-12 students with disabilities. Five years ago this week, on January 30, 2019, the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition held a joint news conference at Queen’s Park to press for immediate action by the Ford Government to address an especially serious barrier hurting K-12 students with disabilities – a barrier that the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee later highlighted. They demanded that the Ford Government rein in the sweeping, unmonitored power of school principals to exclude a student from school under Section 265(1)(m) of the Education Act.
It is an especially unfair barrier for students with disabilities who are too often forced to stay home because their school fails to provide appropriate disability supports.
In over 5,000 Ontario schools, each principal is allowed to be a law unto themselves. They are not required to keep track of how many students they exclude, how long they are excluded, or why they are excluded, nor are they required to report this information to anyone. They don’t have to tell the student and their family the reason for their exclusion from school nor advise them of their right to appeal.
“The persistent unfair barriers facing so many Ontario students with disabilities are one part of the larger crisis of inaccessibility in Ontario that was declared in the Government-appointed Independent Review of the AODA conducted by Rich Donovan – a crisis that the Ford Government has never acknowledged,” said Lepofsky. “We predict that the Ford Government will boast about how much money it spends on special education, without acknowledging that that money is far less helpful for these students when it is poured into an education system that is so riddled with disability barriers.”
For more background, check out:
- AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s captioned video describing the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee final report.
- Recording of the January 30, 2019 Queen’s Park news conference by the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition.
- David Lepofsky’s captioned video presentation providing tips for parents of students with disabilities on how to advocate for their child’s needs at school.
- The AODA Alliance website’s education page.