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 preventing attitudinal barriers in school.
Preventing Attitudinal Barriers in School
Attitudinal barriers happen when non-disabled people do not understand how disabilities affect the lives of people who have them. These misunderstandings can lead to false assumptions about what people with disabilities can do, want, or need. For example, a teacher may believe that math is too visual for a student who is blind. As a result, the teacher may not work with the student to find non-visual ways of accessing course content. Therefore, this student will receive lower-quality math instruction than their peers, and may not pursue a career in math.
In other words, attitudinal barriers can impact the rest of a student’s life. However, schools do not create attitudinal barriers purposely. Instead, barriers happen because staff and students lack knowledge about how to interact with peers and colleagues with disabilities. Providing this knowledge to all students and staff will reduce attitudinal barriers and promote full participation. Therefore, the Committee recommends training for all staff and students on the benefits of inclusive education.
Training to Prevent Attitudinal Barriers
For instance, the Committee recommends programs to teach all staff, students, and their families about the importance of inclusion. Each school board should create and implement its own program about accessibility for students and staff with disabilities. A school board could organize activities, such as a “barrier scavenger hunt”. In this game, staff, students, and parents find accessibility barriers at school or in the local community. This exercise would help everyone understand what barriers are, and how to remove them.
Similarly, programs could include presentations from guest speakers with disabilities. These presentations, in class or at school assemblies, would allow school community members without disabilities to learn about what it is like to have them. Attendees could ask questions, learn accurate information, and gain experience interacting with people who have a variety of disabilities. As a result, school communities may feel better prepared to work with classmates or staff members who have disabilities.
School boards could post these activities online, so that other school boards could learn from different games or guest speakers. Similarly, the Ministry of Education should create model training programs or materials, such as videos, to help school boards develop these lessons. Likewise, school boards should communicate with all their students’ families about their commitment to ensuring full participation for students of all abilities.
In addition, all staff members within school boards who interact with students or their parents should receive more training on how to fully include students with disabilities, and how to teach others to do so. Moreover, the Ministry of Education should create training programs that will prepare school boards to offer this additional training to their staff.