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 recommended guidelines for accessible communication within and between school boards.
Accessible Communication Within and Between School Boards
Communication is vital in class, but also outside the classroom. Students, families, teachers, administrators, and other staff all need to learn from each other. Students and families can share important information about their cultural backgrounds, to support barrier-free learning across cultures. Similarly, schools and school boards need to communicate easily with students’ families.
Therefore, the Committee recommends that the Ministry of Education and school boards should provide accessible and open communication with:
- The public
Communication from schools or school boards should be timely, and available in accessible formats. Accessible websites or apps can be valuable ways of sharing information. Likewise, if schools, school boards, or the Ministry seek feedback from families, this communication should also be accessible. For instance, if a school board asks families to complete a survey, families of many backgrounds should find the survey accessible. As a result, schools and school boards should create, monitor, and review policies to ensure that families can access communication.
Communication also allows school boards to share information and resources to improve accessibility in and outside of the classroom. If one school board lacks knowledge about how to meet the needs of students with disabilities, students in that region will be disadvantaged. However, school boards lacking knowledge and resources can learn from the experience of staff from other school boards. Exposure to resources and research about teaching students with a wide variety of abilities can help staff overcome attitudinal barriers in school. For example, staff can learn from other school boards about creating accessible:
- Online learning, and other web-based school resources
- Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) lessons for students with print disabilities
- Library resources
- Lessons about disability
- Extra-curricular activities
- Job placements
- Field trips
Therefore, the Committee recommends that the Ontario government should establish an accessibility “hub”. This hub would be an archive of resources and research about accessible education. The Committee suggests making the hub available online, so that students, staff, and families from all school boards could use it. When teachers have resources that support them in designing and delivering accessible lessons, they can give more students a positive and full school experience.