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 recommendations for high-quality transportation 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.
High-Quality Transportation of Students with Disabilities
The Committee recommends that each school board should create an online portal for families to contact specialized transit providers. For example, families would use this portal to sign their children up for individual transportation to and from school. This portal should be accessible for parents and other family members with disabilities. In addition, families without internet access should be able to make these arrangements with transit providers by phone. Moreover, families should have access to the online and phone service throughout the year, to make changes to their children’s individual transportation plans if needed. These new contact methods should improve efficiency, and reduce delays when families sign up for service.
Furthermore, each transit company that transports students with disabilities should create a permanent committee to supervise this service. Members of this committee should include one or more:
- Students with experience travelling to and from school on individual transportation
- Representatives from the:
- Transportation company
- School board(s) employing the company
Financial Incentives and Penalties
Furthermore, the Ministry of Education should create financial incentives and penalties to promote high-quality transportation of students with disabilities. For instance, the Ministry provides school boards with the funding to pay the transit companies they enter into contracts with. In turn, the transit companies use this funding to pay the drivers who transport students with disabilities. The Ministry should have a formula to ensure that school boards always have enough funding, and that transit companies use this funding to pay drivers fairly. Fair wages for drivers will allow them to offer consistent service that students and their families can rely on.
In addition, when school boards enter contracts with transit companies, the companies should pay financial penalties for infractions. In other words, companies should pay fines when they fail to meet the needs of students with disabilities. For example, a company should pay a fine of at least five thousand dollars ($5000) if:
- A driver does not alert parents, school staff, or dispatch about a pick-up or drop-off delay of more than forty-five (45) minutes.
- Parents or school staff cannot contact the transit company in real time.
- A driver fails to follow safety procedures, resulting in:
- A student being left on a bus for hours.
- Harm to a student.
These incentives and penalties should hold transit companies accountable to the school boards and families they serve.