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 addition, some members from both committees have joined to form the Education Technical Sub-Committee. This Sub-Committee recommends guidelines to prevent and remove barriers students face during transitions. Transitions include beginning school, and from high school to work, community life, or postsecondary education. In this article, we outline recommendations from the K-12 Committee and the Sub-Committee for accessible transition planning in education.
Accessible Transition Planning in Education
In the K-12 school system, students with disabilities access accommodations through their individual education plans (IEPs). Teachers, support staff, and parents work together to develop and implement these plans. In contrast, after high school, students advocate for their own accommodations. Furthermore, students must understand how their disabilities will affect their future careers or studies.
In short, before high school graduation, students should learn the skills needed to make successful transitions into the next stage of their lives. Therefore, school boards should create transition plans to prepare students with disabilities to learn these skills.
The Committee recommends that the Ministry of Education work with other government departments to create a guide for transition planning. They may use the Inter-Ministerial Guidelines for Transition Planning for Students with Developmental Disabilities (2011) as a basis to develop similar guidance for students with other disabilities.
The Sub-Committee recommends that school boards should identify all the accessibility barriers students may face during transitions:
- Throughout elementary school
- From elementary school to high school
- From high school to:
- Community living
- Higher education
School boards should list all identified barriers in their multi-year accessibility plans. Then, they should outline how they will remove each barrier within a specified time.
Furthermore, each student should have their own transition plan outlining their future goals, and steps to reach those goals. The Ministry of Education should design or improve approaches for individual transition planning. For instance, a student’s transition plan should combine goals and steps from existing documents, such as the student’s IEP or individual pathway plan. Moreover, this approach should be accessible and culturally inclusive. Therefore, to design or improve its approach, the Ministry should work with:
- School boards
- The Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services
- Other partners providing services to students with disabilities
Likewise, students and their parents should take part in teacher-student conferences about their transition plans and IEPs. These conferences should take place for students at all levels, from elementary school through high school.
Moreover, the Ministry of Education should provide school boards with resources and guidelines to help staff teach students skills that are important in transition planning, including:
- Disclosure of disability, such as disclosing to employers or colleagues
- Learning skills that teachers measure on report cards
For example, lessons in literature or social studies can hone self-awareness, self-advocacy, or resilience. In addition, schools should offer courses that teach the learning strategies that students’ IEPs require. Similarly, school boards should create curriculum that helps students enhance their executive functioning skills.
Teacher Training for Transitions
Moreover, teachers, administrators, and other school staff should have training to support students through all these transitions. The ministries of Education, Colleges and Universities, and Labour, Training, and Skills Development should create a database to provide staff with resources to support their transitioning students.
Likewise, teachers should receive professional development training to coach students through disclosure of disability in school, work, and social settings. Similarly, students should know how the supports they already use in school help them to learn. As a result, they can clearly advocate their need for these supports at work or in higher education. Furthermore, teachers should have training in assistive technology, to teach students and their parents how to use assistive technology in school. Moreover, the Ministry should provide resources, in accessible formats, describing accommodations that colleges and universities have available for students with disabilities. In addition to gaining this knowledge through teachers, students should also have the chance to learn from mentors with lived experience of disability, disclosure, and accessing accommodations.
Finally, school boards should ensure that all students have the chance to access courses and other opportunities that prepare them for work and post-secondary education. For instance, high school students taking summer school or night school continuing education courses should receive the same accommodations in those courses that they access during their other classes.
The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee reports that some students with disabilities, and some racialized students, have less access to these opportunities. Instead, school boards should structure curriculum and assessments to promote person-directed learning.