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Accessible Experiential Learning Programs

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 experiential learning programs.

Accessible Experiential Learning Programs

The Committee notes that people with disabilities face a high unemployment rate and many accessibility barriers to employment. For example, some of these barriers include:

One way to reduce the impact of these barriers is for young people with disabilities to gain job skills through experiential learning programs in school, including:

  • Co-Op placements
  • Service-learning opportunities
  • Volunteer work as part of a course or co-curricular record

However, students may face many of the same barriers within these experiential learning programs. Therefore, the Committee recommends guidelines to improve the accessibility of these programs.

Guidelines for Accessible Experiential Learning Programs

For instance, school boards should review their current experiential learning programs, to identify and remove any existing barriers. Moreover, school boards should proactively contact potential partner organizations where students may work in job placements, to determine their levels of accessibility. This contact will help school boards ensure that a variety of accessible placements will be available for students.

In addition, school boards should alert partner organizations that they have a duty to accommodate workers with disabilities. This duty includes accommodating the needs of workers in job placements. Furthermore, school boards should be able to advise partner organizations about how to ensure that students with disabilities can fully participate in their placements. Likewise, the Ministry of Education should also support both school boards and partner organizations as they create and implement policies and practices for accessible experiential learning programs. For example, the Ministry can develop model or template policies. In addition, the Ministry should produce training videos to teach school boards and partner organizations how to accommodate in the context of experiential learning. Furthermore, these videos should also help school boards and partner organizations understand the profound effects that accessible experiential learning programs can have on the lives of students.

Finally, school boards should have ways to verify that:

  • Partner organizations are prepared to accommodate students with disabilities
  • Students receive the accommodations they request

Similarly, at the conclusion of placements, school boards should request feedback from both students and partner organizations about the accommodation process.