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Enhancing Engagement of Students with Disabilities

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 enhancing engagement of students with disabilities.

The committee’s mandate from the Ontario government requires recommendations focused on the publicly-funded K-12 school system. However, students and educators with disabilities also face  barriers in other school settings, including:

  • Private schools
  • Pre-school programs, such as early literacy programs

Therefore, all these settings should comply with the forthcoming K-12 education standards.

Enhancing Engagement of Students with Disabilities

While AODA reviews take place regularly, the government rarely implements recommendations from AODA reviews. As a result, Ontarians continue to face accessibility barriers that AODA standards should already have removed, including attitudinal barriers. Therefore, the Committee recommends more procedures to ensure that when the education standards are in force, they will also be effective.

The Committee recommends that the AODA review process should include new methods for identifying accessibility barriers. In addition, there should also be methods for removing barriers once they have been identified. For example, the government could reinstate the position of Ontario Child Advocate. This advocate could then take part in identifying and removing barriers, to reduce discrimination in school.

Moreover, the Ontario Child Advocate could also support efforts to promote student voice. In other words, this advocate should help to enhance students’ engagement in the concepts they are learning. Multiple means of engagement is one of the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Enhancing engagement of students with disabilities is one of many ways to apply principles of UDL and differentiated instruction in teaching and testing. Finally, enhancing student engagement is an important element of creating a barrier-free curriculum for students of all abilities and cultures.