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 recommendations for accommodating student employees with disabilities.
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.
Accommodating Student Employees with Disabilities
The Committee recommends that colleges and universities have human resources policies that consider the various accommodation needs of student employees with disabilities. Colleges and universities should then alert student employees that these policies are available. For example, a college or university could post policies and procedures, such as a workplace accommodation process, on its website.
Accessible Practicum Placements
In addition, colleges and universities should create standardized guidelines and resources about practicum placements for students with disabilities. Colleges and universities should create these guidelines and resources in consultation with:
- Students with disabilities in practicum placements
- Committees for responding to the campus climate instrument
- Other stakeholders
Likewise, colleges and universities should work with organizations hosting practicum placements to create more guidelines about supervising students with disabilities. The guidelines should include best practices for in-person and virtual placements.
Furthermore, colleges and universities should keep records of the accessibility features and supports that potential placement organizations can provide to students with disabilities. Before agreeing to partner with a placement organization, colleges and universities should confirm that it can accommodate possible student employees with disabilities. Moreover, the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility and the Ministry of Colleges and Universities should advise colleges, universities, and placement organizations about how to establish responsibilities for accommodation. For instance, colleges, universities, and placement organizations should clearly understand which organizations have duties to provide specific supports. This understanding should be based on requirements under the AODA Employment Standards and the Ontario Human Rights Code.
Accessibility Standards in Accreditation and Professional Bodies
Finally, the Ministry of Colleges and Universities should encourage accessibility standards within accreditation and professional bodies, such as the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons. While some of these accreditation bodies are provincial, others are national. All of these accreditation and professional bodies require students to demonstrate competencies before they can qualify as professionals in their fields. In other words, these competencies are the essential requirements of students in professional programs. These competencies should include accessibility standards to meet the needs of students with disabilities in these programs, as well as recent graduates with disabilities beginning to work in their fields.