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 transporting students with disabilities.
Transporting Students with Disabilities
Under the current Transportation Standards of the AODA, students with disabilities should have individual transportation plans to travel to and from school. School boards and transit companies work together to create and implement each student’s plan. Alternatively, a group of school boards can work with one transit company. In either case, all these organizations become involved in transporting students, and develop processes for creating and implementing students’ transportation plans.
Moreover, each process will delegate different responsibilities to the school board and the transit company. For example, processes should involve consulting with the families of students, to determine what students’ transportation needs are and how to meet those needs. Likewise, consultations should identify and arrange to meet accessibility needs of parents or guardians, such as accessible drop-off locations. However, students’ families may not know whether they should consult with the school board or the transit company. Therefore, processes for creating individual transportation plans should include clear policies and procedures outlining how consultations should happen.
In short, everyone involved in creating and implementing plans should know what elements of the plan the school board is responsible for, and which elements the transit company is responsible for. Assigning clear responsibilities should ensure that school boards and transit companies jointly meet the needs of students.
Furthermore, the school board and transit company should designate an official whom families can contact during working hours. This contact person should support students and families experiencing problems with their transportation. For instance, families may contact this person by:
Transit companies should keep records of any complaints they receive. They should summarize this record, including:
- How many complaints they receive
- Types of complaints
- Status of complaints, such as how the company has responded
Four (4) times per year, transit companies should provide this summary report to the:
- School board(s)
- Special education advisory committee (SEAC)
- Accessibility committee
The school board and transit company should also make these reports public on their websites.
Likewise, school boards and transit companies should audit how satisfied students’ families are with transit services. These audit results should also appear publicly on school boards’ and transit companies’ websites. If school boards learn that families find service unreliable, these findings may be grounds for opting not to renew a transit company’s contract.
Training for Drivers and Other Transit Workers
Similarly, other policies and procedures should outline required training for workers at transit companies, including drivers, on accommodating travellers with disabilities. Furthermore, each driver should have specific training on meeting the needs of the individual student they transport. Substitute or replacement drivers should receive this individualized training before working with a new student, or as soon as possible. Transit companies should keep records of this training. In addition, they should report their training records to school boards at least two (2) times per year. Moreover, school boards should monitor to ensure that drivers and transit companies are meeting the accessibility needs they identified when consulting with each student’s family.