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Preparing for Accessible Education During Large-scale Emergencies

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 preparing for accessible education during large-scale emergencies.

Preparing for Accessible Education During Large-Scale Emergencies

As part of the Ministry of Education’s emergency response plan, the Ministry should establish a Central Education Leadership Command Table. This table should have primary responsibility for ensuring that all students with disabilities can access needed supports during emergencies. In other words, students who need educational accommodations should receive them, even under emergency conditions, through the Table’s work. The Table should include representatives for:

In addition, the Ministry should appoint a Communication Lead who will help Table members understand Ministry expectations for accessible emergency education and healthcare.

Likewise, a cross-sectorial partnership table, locally and at the provincial level, should help the Ministry work together with other government departments needed to support students. For example, the Ministry may plan in conjunction with other departments to provide emergency services from healthcare professionals, including:

  • Physiotherapists
  • Speech therapists
  • Psychologists
  • Other mental health professionals

The cross-sectorial partnership table and its Communication Lead should also give advice about when and how to:

  • Re-open schools
  • Provide healthcare services

Both tables should have members with disabilities, including students.

School Board Preparation

Similarly, each school board should create its own Central Education Leadership Command Table and appoint its own communication lead. This table should receive and respond to feedback from:

  • Teachers
  • Principals
  • Students’ families

Through this process, school boards should be learning about:

School boards should then decide how systemic policy changes can remove these barriers and resolve these concerns.

School board tables should communicate to share solutions to any accessibility barriers their staff or families face. Moreover, if several school boards face similar barriers, they should report to the Ministry’s Central Education Leadership Command Table. The Ministry should assemble a team who will quickly respond to these reports. Furthermore, the Table should also be proactive about collecting data on how the emergency is impacting students’ learning and well-being. In addition, the Ministry and school board Tables should research how other regions are meeting students’ needs for accessible online learning under emergency conditions:

  • In other regions
  • Throughout the province
  • Across the country
  • Around the world

As tables recognize and resolve concerns, they should communicate clearly with all members of school communities in accessible formats.