Two years ago, we published a series of articles about the AODA’s lack of standards governing the education sector. Currently, there are still 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.
Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized the many barriers that already exist in the Ontario education systems for students with disabilities. AODA education standards could prevent and remove these barriers, and ensure that all Ontarians receive a high-quality education.
AODA Education Standards
Many improvements would allow the Ontario education system to more fully meet the needs of students with disabilities. For instance, students need more access to:
- School spaces, including residences
- Transportation to and from school
- Educational information, including better access to:
- Detailed AODA training for educators, including during extracurricular activities
- Service animals in school
- Job placements
- Accommodations in higher education, through a universal design for learning (UDL) approach
- Field trips
In addition, the education system should welcome more educators with disabilities. Similarly, focus on accessibility in the training of professionals, such as architects, would help them design universally. Finally, more discussion of disability in school curriculums would increase disability awareness throughout the province, and reduce stigma.
Our next series will explore the many barriers that students face in the Ontario education systems, and the education standards development committees’ recommendations to remove these barriers. First, we will consider how Universal Design for Learning (UDL) policies can reduce some of these barriers.