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Ontario’s Ministry of Education Must Now Meet the Urgent Needs of A Third of a Million Students with Disabilities During the COVID-19 Crisis

A Captioned Online Virtual Town Hall Today at 3 PM Lets Experts Give Practical Action Tips for Teachers and Parents While Schools Remain Closed.

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
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May 4, 2020

Some hardships of COVID-19 fall disproportionately on students with disabilities. What can teachers, principals, parents, schools and the Ontario Government do to make sure Ontario’s students with disabilities can effectively continue their education at home while schools are closed? What can teachers and parents of students with disabilities do right now to break through the barriers that distance and online learning can create for students with disabilities?

We’ll tackle these questions today from 3 to 4 pm Eastern at a captioned Virtual Town Hall on meeting the urgent learning needs of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. Log in to

Nothing will stream at that link until the moment we start our Virtual Town Hall. If you click that link just before we start streaming, you may get our stream automatically coming to you we start, or you may have to monitor for a new link to click when we start. That will depend on your settings. Just keep at it till you start receiving our event. Within hours after this event, we will circulate a new link to this event once it is archived on Youtube and permanently available for all to revisit.

The rapid move to online learning for 2 million students in schools created enormous challenges for all students, teachers and parents. Much bigger hardships face a third of a million Ontario students with disabilities, if not more, and for their parents and teaching staff. These are at least one out of every six students in Ontario-funded schools.

Before COVID, Ontario’s education system had far too many disability barriers, impeding many students with disabilities. The move to online learning created even more hardships for them, and their teachers.

Our virtual Town Hall will help you, whether you are in Ontario, elsewhere in Canada, or anywhere around the world. It will be helpful for teachers, principals, parents, students, school boards and Government officials. This is the second such virtual town hall organized by the grassroots AODA Alliance together with the Ontario Autism Coalition. Our widely-viewed earlier April 7, 2020 virtual public forum looked at the full spectrum of COVID-19 crisis problems facing people with disabilities from health care to long-term care. At today’s event, we’re zeroing in on education for students with disabilities. Co-anchors for this event are AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, a visiting professor at the Osgoode Hall Law School, and Laura Kirby-McIntosh, president of the OAC. Both have strong track records in tenacious disability advocacy for students with disabilities in Ontario’s education system. Their discussion will be fueled by feedback accumulating over the past days via email and social media. The hashtag #DisabilityUrgent was created for disability issues in the COVID-19 crisis. Feedback can also be sent to

The media is free to broadcast any clips from this town hall. We hope this virtual town hall will help pressure the Ford Government to take new action. We are delighted that its lead public official responsible for special education, Assistant Deputy Minister of Education Jeff Butler, has agreed to speak at this event. Five other experts will offer practical tips for teachers and parents of students with disabilities, for just some of the barriers they are now facing. We regret that in this one event, we cannot address every disability and every barrier. We call on the Ford Government to take up this idea and run with it, using our virtual Town Hall as an illustration of what is needed.

For more background:

The April 30, 2020 letter from the AODA Alliance to Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce, which sets out a list of concrete and constructive requests for action that the AODA Alliance presented to Ontario’s Ministry of Education.

* The AODA Alliance’s education web page, that documents its efforts over the past decade to advocate for Ontario’s education system to become fully accessible to students with disabilities

* The AODA Alliance’s COVID-19 web page, setting out our efforts to advocate for governments to meet the urgent needs of people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

* The Ontario Autism Coalition’s web site, to learn about its ongoing advocacy efforts.