Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
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And Check Out the Media Coverage It Got
August 24, 2020
1. Now Available to Watch Online at Any Time! The 3rd AODA Alliance/Ontario Autism Coalition COVID-19 Virtual Town Hall “Preparing for School Re-Opening — Action Tips for Parents of Students with Disabilities”
It is online, archived and ready to watch any time you want! Check out “Preparing for School Re-Opening — Action Tips for Parents of Students with Disabilities.” This is the latest COVID-19 Virtual Town Hall by the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition. If you want to copy and paste the link to the video, it is https://youtu.be/ZB78Wt9TJGk
This online video already includes American Sign Language interpretation. We deeply regret that due to an extremely frustrating technical error that we have not been able to track down, the real time captioning did not stream with the event. We are working on getting captioning embedded into the Youtube video as soon as we can. In the meantime, the less reliable Youtube automated captioning is available.
We and the Ontario Autism Coalition again thank the ARCH Disability Law Centre for arranging and providing the ASL and captioning. ARCH was not in any way responsible for the unfortunate technical failure.
2. Help Encourage Parents of Students with Disabilities to Watch the Helpful 3rd COVID-19 Virtual Town Hall
In a one hour event, our third Virtual Town Hall crams a ton of helpful practical tips that every parent or guardian of a student with disabilities would like to know. Although it focuses on Ontario, our tips will be helpful to parents of students with disabilities outside Ontario as well.
Here are ways you can help, using just a few moments of your time:
1. Encourage others who could benefit from it to watch our 3rd Virtual Town Hall. Send the link to anyone you know who might benefit from watching it. This includes parents or guardians of students with disabilities teachers, principals and other school board staff, members of the Ontario legislature and school board trustees, and any education professionals.
2. Ask your school board to publicize to all parents the link to our 3rd Virtual Town Hall and to post a link to it prominently on its website.
3. Post the link to our 3rd Virtual Town Hall on your Facebook page, Twitter feed, or other social media. If you are a member of any Facebook groups, you can also help by posting this to those Facebook groups.
For example, you might post this on Facebook:
Are you a parent of a student with disabilities? Do you know parents of any students with disabilities ? Want practical tips for navigating the stressful return to school this fall? Check out the virtual public forum for practical tips by the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition, and please share this with others who might benefit from it. https://youtu.be/ZB78Wt9TJGk
4. Bring this issue and our 3rd Virtual Town Hall to your local media. Ask them to cover the serious challenges facing parents of students with disabilities as they face the uncertainties of school re-opening. Give them examples of the challenges you know these parents and students now face. Forward this AODA Alliance Update to them. Also encourage them to visit the AODA Alliance’s COVID-19 page where they can see our efforts to get the Ford Government to address the needs of students with disabilities .
3. Helpful Media Coverage Once Again
With so much going on in the world, the 3rd COVID-19 Virtual Town Hall organized by the AODA Alliance and Ontario Autism Coalition has really struck a note with the media. It has gotten coverage on TV, radio and in print.
The day after the event, it was covered on the August 22, 2020 CTV National News. An excellent Canadian press story on this event was posted on the websites of several major news organizations. The Toronto Star also included a somewhat shortened version of that story in its August 23, 2020 hard copy edition. We set the full article out below as it appeared on the CBC News website.
4. The Ford Government Gives a Deeply Troubling Response to the Media to Justify Its Failure to Announce a Comprehensive Plan to Ensure that Students with Disabilities are Fully and Safely Included in School Re-Opening
What has the Ford Government said to justify the fact that it still has announced no comprehensive plan for ensuring that one third of a million students with disabilities in Ontario are fully and safely included in the fast-approaching re-opening of schools? Here is what is reported in the Canadian Press article, set out below:
“A spokeswoman for Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the government has allocated $10 million in additional funding specifically dedicated to supporting students with special education needs.
“We are spending more money than any other province on special education,” Caitlin Clark said.”
We wish to respond. First, the ten million dollars that the Ford Government announced this summer for students with disabilities boils down to a meager $34 per student. That paltry amount cannot buy much for a student in the way of additional help or support.
Second, Ontario will always need to spend more than any other province on special education . Ontario has the largest population of any province. It therefore will have the largest number of students with disabilities of any province.
Third, the Ford Government’s answer provides no excuse for its failure to bring forward a comprehensive plan for meeting the needs of students with disabilities during school re-opening. By leaving each of 72 school boards to figure it out, the Ford Government is causing wasteful duplication of effort and tremendous inefficiency in the middle of a pandemic. The Government has been advised of the need for it to create a plan of action for students with disabilities by the AODA Alliance and by many others. Among those giving this advice is the COVID-19 subcommittee of the Government-appointed K-12 Education Standards Development Committee.
Send us your feedback. Let us know how you can help get others to watch our 3rd Virtual Town Hall. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
CBC News Online August 22, 2020
Originally posted at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/advocates-caution-students-disabilities-more-obstacles-1.5696390 Students with disability face more obstacles amid coronavirus: advocates Osobe Waberi The Canadian Press
Advocacy groups in Ontario say students with disabilities will face additional obstacles returning to class following the pandemic, leaving parents unsure if their children will be fully and safely included in school reopening plans.
The Ontario Autism Coalition and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance held an online town hall meeting Friday to discuss what they say is the provincial government’s “failure” to put parents at ease with the school year looming.
OAC president Laura Kirby-McIntosh said when it comes to welcoming children with disabilities back to school, the province is doing the bare minimum at best.
“The Ministry of Education’s guide to reopening Ontario schools is not really a plan,” she said in an interview. “What we get is some very nice words.”
Kirby-McIntosh said the province’s school system is designed primarily with non-disabled children in mind, and while children with disabilities are treated as an afterthought.
“One thing that COVID has done very effectively is it has exposed systemic issues across our society of racism, medical infrastructure and now we are getting to school infrastructure.”
A spokeswoman for Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the government has allocated $10 million in additional funding specifically dedicated to supporting students with special education needs.
“We are spending more money than any other province on special education,” Caitlin Clark said.
However, Kirby-McIntosh said schools run on more than just money.
“They run on good planning,” she said. “Yes, they are spending more money on schools, but why wait until the third week of August to announce that? I don’t feel that we are ready, it is not good enough.”
AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky said both his group and the Autism Coalition have offered plenty of proposals and advice to the government, before and during the pandemic, in relation to students with special needs.
“Not one public official at the Ministry of Education picked up the phone to ask for more information, and they have done nothing about it,” he said.
Lepofsky said students with disabilities risk not being fully supported during the pandemic and through their education. Even worse, he said, is the looming fear of being told they can not attend in-person learning come the fall school year.
Toronto District School Board spokesman Ryan Bird assured parents that when it comes to students with special needs, the board has a number of congregate sites available for them in the fall.
“These schools specialize in supporting these students and that will continue,” he said, noting the TDSB is trying to get as much information as possible to parents in the upcoming days and weeks.
“We get the frustration from parents, and we understand that there are important decisions to be made in sending your child back to school in September,” he said.
“We realize the time is ticking.”