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 Postsecondary Committee and the Sub-Committee for alternative transition programs or pathways for students with disabilities.
Alternative Transition Programs or Pathways for Students with Disabilities
The Sub-Committee recommends that the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Colleges and Universities, should promote alternative programs and pathways for students with disabilities. For example, one type of alternative program is Community Integration for Co-Operative Education (CICE). This program offers both academic and non-academic courses at a college or university. The program welcomes students with intellectual disabilities, who:
- Integrate in the college or university community
- Gain employment and life skills
- Earn a college or university certificate
Colleges or universities offering these and other alternative pathway programs should alert the public about their availability. Likewise, the Ministries should publicize information about alternative pathway programs at colleges and universities:
- In Ontario
- Across Canada
- Around the world
Similarly, professionals in the K-12 school system should also know about these programs. For instance, professionals who should be aware include:
- Guidance counsellors
- Transitions facilitators or navigators
These professionals should also inform students and their families about these programs.
Moreover, the Ministries should provide funding to establish new programs and improve current offerings in Ontario. These offerings should include:
- Academic and non-academic programs
- Remote or virtual learning
- Experiential learning
For example, all Ontario colleges with a CICE program should be updated to include:
- Admission requirements that are consistent, visible, and Accountable
- Processes for interviewing, selecting, and accepting students
- Measures for evaluating their programs
- Transition supports for students finishing their programs
Industry Certificate Programs
In addition, the Ministries should work with industries and people with disabilities to establish new certificate programs. These accessible programs would teach skills that the industries need. For instance, existing programs include the Food Handling Certificate and the Ontario Skills Passport. More programs that impart relevant skills will produce more qualified job candidates with disabilities.
Finally, the Postsecondary Committee recommends that these programs should allow students to gain a portfolio of job readiness skills. Colleges and universities should work with businesses, and consultants who have disabilities, to develop opportunities for students to gain these skills.