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 contrast, the other committee has recommended guidelines for the university and college education system. In addition, some members from both committees have joined to form the Education Technical Sub-Committee. This Sub-Committee recommends guidelines to prevent and remove barriers students face during transitions. Transitions include beginning school, and from high school to work, community life, or postsecondary education. In this article, we outline the Sub-Committee’s recommendations for school transition programs for students with disabilities.
School Transition Programs for Students with Disabilities
Students transitioning from high school into college or university must learn many skills, including:
- Scheduling and time management
- Effective study habits
- Strategies for planning and completing assignments
- To balance synchronous and asynchronous learning
- To use their school’s learning management system (LMS)
However, students with disabilities also need to learn additional skills. For example, students must learn how to access funding to meet disability-related needs. Likewise, students who use accessible hardware or software programs must learn how those programs interact with the school’s website and LMS. If a student’s assistive technology does not interact well with the sites or programs they will need to access in school, this student will need to work with their school’s accessibility office, their professors, and other staff to find solutions that will give them full access to their courses and program. For example, the student may need to learn how to acquire updated versions of their technology. Alternatively, their school may have other assistive technology better suited to the LMS. The student may need to learn to use this technology.
Learning about Disclosure of Disability
Likewise, students with disabilities must learn how their school requires them to document their disabilities. For instance, many schools require students to fill out functional assessment forms before they can receive accommodations. Therefore, students should also be comfortable discussing how their disabilities impact their daily lives and their school work. Moreover, students must learn to talk about their disabilities and accommodations with staff who assist them, such as:
- Staff at their school’s accessibility office
- Sign Language interpreters
- Attendants who assist with daily living tasks in their school’s residence
Similarly, students must learn about the possible positive and negative effects of disclosing their disabilities. On one hand, disclosure allows students to ask for accommodations in class. On the other hand, students could experience discrimination if they disclose to people with ableist attitudes. However, some students cannot avoid disclosure. For example, students with print disabilities need to disclose early to benefit from accessible learning resources. Nonetheless, they can still make choices about when and how they disclose. As a result, students need to consider all the options they have about disclosing their disabilities, and what options will be best for them.
Students who do disclose must then learn to advocate for their accommodations in class. For instance, they may need to identify an appropriate amount of time for an extension they need, and explain this need to their professor. Likewise, if they do group work with peers, they may need to advocate for accessible:
- Meeting spaces
- Formats for written work
In addition, students who need accommodations that the K-12 school system provides through alternative curriculum courses, such as orientation and mobility (O and M) training, must learn how to access these accommodations in other ways, such as through:
- Their college or university
- Organizations meeting the needs of people with specific disabilities
Establishing School Transition Programs
Therefore, the Sub-Committee recommends that the Ministry of Colleges and Universities should create transition programs, or improve existing programs, that teach these skills. The Ministry should work with accessibility offices at each college or university to start a transition program, or make changes to an existing program. Students with disabilities should also be part of this improvement process. Furthermore, the Ministry, along with the Ministry of Education, should ensure that each college and university has funding specifically for making these improvements.
Programs should be based on universal design for learning (UDL) and differentiated instruction principles and practices. Moreover, programs should take place at various times, including:
Throughout students’ first years of study
Students should also receive credit for participating in these programs, to recognize the variety of skills they have gained.
Finally, each college or university should post information about their transition program on their website, in a prominent position. Likewise, each college and university should also publicize its program in transition hubs. In this way, students can easily learn about and sign up for the program, or interact with online components.