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Accessibility in School for Students with Environmental Sensitivities and Autism

Currently, there are no AODA education standards. However, two AODA standards development committees have drafted recommendations of guidelines that AODA education standards should include. One committee has recommended guidelines for the kindergarten to grade twelve (K-12) education system. In this article, we outline recommendations to enhance accessibility in school for students with environmental sensitivities and autism.

The committee’s mandate from the Ontario government requires recommendations focused on the publicly-funded K-12 school system. However, students and educators with disabilities also face  barriers in other school settings, including:

  • Private schools
  • Pre-school programs, such as early literacy programs

Therefore, all these settings should comply with the forthcoming K-12 education standards.

Accessibility in School for Students with Environmental Sensitivities and Autism

Most of the Committee’s recommendations have focused on meeting the accessibility needs of students with physical or sensory disabilities. For example, recommendations address physical accessibility in school buildings and making textbooks and other resources accessible. However, students with other disabilities, such as environmental sensitivities or autism, have other accessibility needs that the Education Standard should also address.

Therefore, the Standard should include requirements to make school buildings accessible for students and educators with environmental sensitivities (ES). For instance, the Standard should require that building materials and cleaning chemicals used on school property will not harm people with ES. Similarly, the Standard should outline requirements for adequate ventilation, especially a pure air environment in eating areas. Likewise, the Standard should include rules to maintain environmental accessibility in labs.

Moreover, requirements in the Standard should also enhance accessibility for students and educators with autism. For example, schools can minimize the impact of painfully loud sounds, such as:

  • Bells
  • Hand dryers

The Standard’s rules should promote student health and safety in environments that meet the accessibility needs of students, educators, and visitors who have any disability.