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.
The committee’s mandate from the Ontario government requires recommendations focused on publicly-funded colleges and universities. However, students and educators with disabilities also face barriers in other education settings, including:
- Privately-funded colleges and universities
- Transitional job training programs
Therefore, all these settings should comply with the forthcoming postsecondary education standards.
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 and the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility should develop accessibility training for college and university employees. Moreover, the Ministries should work with people who have disabilities to develop this training. The training should teach staff and faculty about:
- Their responsibilities under the:
- Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code)
- Postsecondary Education Accessibility Standards
- Other AODA standards
The training should include reflection questions, to help employees relate content to their personal experiences. In addition, training should include self-assessments allowing employees to find out what they already know about the content. These assessments would allow employees to bypass training on topics they are familiar with, to focus on new topics.
The Ministries should make training available free of charge, and in both English and French. Furthermore, training should be online, and compatible with many learning management systems (LMSs). Each college and university can then host the training on its own LMS, and add content related to its own:
- Policies, such as:
- Academic accommodation policies aligned with the right to accommodation
- Appeal procedures
Finally, the government should create a unit or team to provide the ministries with ongoing feedback on the quality of this training. The Ministries should use this feedback to update the training every three (3) years, according to current best practices.
Recurring Accessibility Training
Furthermore, employees should also receive online training, during onboarding and every three (3) years, on:
- Their rights and responsibilities to accommodate people with disabilities, under:
- The Code
- The Postsecondary Education Standards
- The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
- Ableism, discrimination, implicit bias, 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.
Finally, this training must be anti-oppressive and intersectional. For example, training should alert employees that many people with disabilities also have other intersecting identities protected from discrimination under the Code.
In addition, the Committee recommends specific forms of training for employees in certain roles. Our next series of articles will outline these specific types of training.