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 contrast, the other committee has recommended guidelines for the university and college education system. In this article, we outline the Postsecondary Committee’s recommended accessibility training for college and university employees.
Accessibility Training for College and University Employees
The AODA mandates accessibility training for educators at the K-12 level. However, this training may leave educators unprepared for many situations. Furthermore, the AODA does not yet mandate specific training for staff and faculty in higher education. Therefore, the Committee recommends that the Ministry of Colleges and Universities should develop accessibility training for college and university employees. Moreover, the Ministry should work with people who have disabilities to develop this training. The training should teach staff and faculty about:
- Their responsibilities for accessible programs and services, under the:
- Ableism, discrimination, and microaggressions
- Complying with other accessibility standards that may apply to their roles, such as the:
For example, human resources personnel at colleges and universities should know about their responsibilities under the Employment Standards. Likewise, staff who serve the public, such as bookstore or cafeteria staff, should know about the Customer Service Standards. Therefore, all employees should receive this training as soon as they begin their employment. The training should include in-person and online components.
More Training for Educators
In addition, the Committee recommends more training for educators. Educators are any employees who design, deliver, or instruct courses or programs. For example, educators include:
- Teaching assistants
- Guest presenters
Educators should have training on how to procure accessible equipment, and create or procure accessible course content. For instance, educators should learn about how late textbook selection negatively impacts students with print disabilities. Similarly, training should alert educators to their duties under the Marrakesh VIP Treaty. The government should develop training resources to teach all educators about this treaty. Likewise, training should prepare educators to accommodate students as required under the Code.
Moreover, media or creative arts staff, as well as information technology (it) staff, should receive specific training on making media accessible. For instance, they should know about requirements under the Information and Communications Standards to make media accessible. They should be prepared to assess and develop media that all students and staff can access. They should also be able to ensure that their own discussion of people with disabilities is inclusive. Creative arts staff should know how to critically assess media portrayals of people with disabilities, to avoid media depictions that use stereotypes and stigma. Information technology staff should also be familiar with accessible technology that supports learning, such as assistive technology.
More Training for Administrators and Senior Leadership
Moreover, college and university administrators, or staff in senior leadership positions, should have other forms of training. These employees should learn about organizational barriers, or how school policies can negatively impact students and staff. For instance, late hiring of contract faculty can limit their ability to prepare accessible course content for students. Likewise, limited funding for all these forms of accessibility training can also lessen the quality of students’ learning.
In addition, administrators and senior leadership should know that the Code holds an organization’s leaders liable for discrimination by its members. For example, if faculty fail to provide accessible course content or refuse to accommodate, the Code may hold senior leadership responsible. Finally, leaders should learn about allyship, or how non-disabled allies can help to reduce ableism and discrimination.
More Training for Accessibility Office Staff and Career Counsellors
Staff who work in their college or university accessibility office should have more in-depth training on:
- Ableism, discrimination, and microaggressions
- Accessibility barriers common to college and university, including social effects of these barriers
- The process of transitioning to and within higher education for students with disabilities
Likewise, career counsellors, advisors, or co-op officers should receive training about how students’ disabilities may impact their employment or career transitions. For example, career counsellors should be prepared to advise students with any disability about their career options. To do so, counsellors should know about:
- The Employment Standards
- How intersectional discrimination may impact job-seekers with disabilities
Training for Event Planners and Hosts
Finally, the Committee recommends training for any staff member involved in planning or hosting events, including staff or students involved in:
- Student Affairs
- Student government
- Groups, societies, or associations
- Sports or recreation programming
- Residence administration or programming
All these forms of training should be updated every three (3) years.