Accessibility Training for Web Designers After the COVID-19 Pandemic


In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, schools, colleges, and universities are implementing online learning. Before COVID-19, students could sometimes choose to take a course or program of study online. However, some online platforms or courses are not accessible for students with disabilities. As a result, these students could choose to take all courses in person. However, during COVID-19, online learning is no longer a choice. If a course or platform is not accessible for a student with a disability, schools and school boards must find ways to make that student’s online learning accessible. This urgent need for greater online accessibility shows us that web developers lack knowledge about the features allowing people with disabilities to navigate websites. Accessibility training for web designers after the COVID-19 pandemic would remove information barriers for future students.

Accessibility Training for Web Designers After the COVID-19 Pandemic

Web developers and other communications professionals should learn more about accessibility during any courses they take to educate themselves. These professionals should be prepared to design web layouts and content for all people, not just people without disabilities. Therefore, any courses or modules that teach people about web design should show them how to design accessibly. For example, they should be aware of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, which ensure that website content and layouts are accessible. Similarly, they could learn about the various ways people with disabilities access the web using assistive technology, such as:

  • Keyboard or voice commands, instead of mouse clicking
  • Screen readers
  • Screen magnification
  • Captioned audio
  • Captioned and described video

Moreover, web developers could learn about how well, or badly, different designs interface with assistive technologies. Finally, they could also learn about the consequences of inaccessible web design on people’s independence. For instance, they could discover that if an online learning platform is not accessible, students with disabilities do not have equal opportunities to learn.

Solutions

Mandatory online learning during COVID-19 shows us that all people should have equal access to all websites at all times. Therefore, accessibility training for web developers should also be mandatory. The government could mandate accessibility in professional training by requiring modules or courses about accessible design. Newly-trained web developers would know, at the start of their careers, how to serve people of all abilities. Likewise, professional development in web accessibility should also be required for people in mid-career. These modules or courses would ensure that practicing professionals add accessibility to their existing areas of expertise. Finally, the government could audit online learning platforms for accessibility and require schools to use only accessible platforms. This mandate would give web developers incentive to make their sites accessible enough for schools to choose as hosts for their courses.




Source link

David C. Onley Initiative Making Recommendations to Advance Employment for Post-Secondary Students with Disabilities


By Tyrone Burke

Companies often assume that accommodating an employee with a disability will cost thousands of dollars. It’s a misperception that can create an additional barrier to finding employment, and it contributes to the job gap between students with disabilities and those without.

“In reality, accommodations often cost $500 or less” says Julie Caldwell, assistant director of program operations for the David C. Onley Initiative.

“Part of what this initiative has been doing is busting myths about disability and addressing the biases, fears and misperceptions that employers can have.”

Since launching in 2018, the David C. Onley Initiative has been developing knowledge, resources and tools to support the employment readiness and career aspirations of students with disabilities. The $5-million project is named for former Ontario lieutenant-governor David C. Onley, and funded by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.

It’s a Carleton-led partnership with the University of Ottawa, Algonquin College and Collège La Cité. In order to better understand the factors contributing to the employability of students with disabilities, the initiative embedded researchers in career and disability offices on each of the four campuses.

David C. Onley Initiative Making Recommendations to Advance Employment for Post-Secondary Students with Disabilities David C. Onley

They spoke to those responsible for planning recruitment events about how they ensured that students with disabilities were included, and hosted a series of accessible showcases on each campus, parallel to typical career fairs.

“Because they were for students with disabilities only, it allowed employers and students to engage in meaningful conversations in a safe environment,” says Caldwell.

“Students didn’t have to fear disclosing they had a disability when being considered for meaningful career opportunities.”

Strength in Numbers

“At the core of this initiative, we were looking at how we can enhance the collaboration amongst career and accessibility offices across each campus, to identify ways to better communicate, collaborate and support students with disabilities.”

The David C. Onley Initiative has also sought to inform and educate, both through public awareness campaigns like #ableto and through direct outreach to employers.

“We talked to employers about whether they had diversity and inclusion recruitment teams, and what resources, tools and/or services they had in place to support the hiring of students with disabilities,” says Caldwell.

“In many cases, we received feedback about how organizations are open to hiring a person with a disability, but that they are unsure of how to have a conversation about accessibility and accommodations in the workplace, if needed. They fear saying or doing the wrong thing. Some employers are operating under perceived fears, barriers and/or biases. We busted myths about some of these thoughts through our ableto.ca campaign.”

Delivering Final Report

In September 2020, the initiative will deliver a final report to the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities. Based on its research, it will recommend a transferable model to help facilitate relevant supports for employability of students with disabilities.

“Ontario is facing a skilled labor shortage,” says Caldwell.

“Students with disabilities who are graduating from college and university programs have the training and knowledge to help address this shortage, but are often being overlooked because employers do not have access to tools, training and resources to help them create more accessible and inclusive work environments.”

Though the initiative’s work is winding down, its findings will be carried forward. Last December, Carleton launched a new pan-Canadian research initiative comprised of academic institutions, corporate partners and community service providers ” the Canadian Accessibility Network. One of its five main areas of interest is the advancement of employment opportunities for Canadians with disabilities.

And throughout the project, the initiative has aimed to affect a lasting culture shift in Ottawa’s educational and business communities.

“We wanted to build the capacity of everybody we came in touch with ” employers, campus career or disability offices, and community service providers,” says Caldwell.

Original at https://newsroom.carleton.ca/story/advance-employment-students-with-disabilities/




Source link

Accessible Remote Learning After the COVID-19 Pandemic


As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, we cheer ourselves by thinking of future socializing in-person. We also think about returning to work or activities we love. These hopes help us through the challenges of physical distancing. Moreover, these challenges show us that we can be more flexible or more creative than we thought we could. For instance, education during the pandemic has taken new forms and new strategies for success. Many of these strategies are also practices that help schools and school boards accommodate students with disabilities. Teachers and other staff are working in new ways and supporting students in diverse circumstances. In the post-COVID-19 future, more educators may learn how student performance improves through diverse teaching strategies. Consequently, more schools and school boards may continue to use diverse teaching strategies to support students with disabilities. For example, schools and school boards may offer accessible remote learning after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Accessible Remote Learning After the COVID-19 Pandemic

In response to school closures, schools, colleges, and universities are implementing online learning. Before COVID-19, students could sometimes choose to take a course or program of study online. However, some online platforms or courses are not accessible for students with disabilities. As a result, these students could choose to take all courses in person. However, during COVID-19, online learning is no longer a choice. If a course or platform is not accessible for a student with a disability, schools and school boards must make that student’s online learning accessible. Therefore, some teachers or school board staff may need to use new methods of planning or teaching online courses. In addition, school staff may recognize the benefits of these new accessible strategies and offer them on an on-going basis.

Accessible Online Learning Platforms

When a school or school board offers lessons online, it must choose the  educational apps or online platforms that will host courses. To reach every student, schools and school boards must choose platforms that are accessible for students and educators using assistive technology. For example, the website students log onto should be accessible using:

  • Screen readers
  • Screen magnification
  • Keyboard or voice commands, instead of a mouse

However, because schools have turned to online learning quickly, they may not have thought about accessibility when choosing a learning platform. Nonetheless, they must still provide access to lessons for students who cannot access the learning platform. Therefore, they should work with the student, and their school’s accessibility professionals, to find solutions. For instance, schools may need to provide lesson content through email.

Accessible Slides, Audio, and Video

When teachers present lessons in-person, they often use slides, audio, or video. Moreover, teachers should have experience making these formats accessible to learners of all abilities. For instance, students who do not process visual information may not be able to read slides. Instead, they will rely on the spoken words of the lecture. Alternatively, they may find other ways to access visual elements of the lesson, such as:

For instance, a teacher may reproduce them in an accessible format, such as Braille or large print.

In contrast, learners who do not process audio information may not hear a lecture or the sound on a video. Instead, they will rely on the text and images on the slides. Alternatively, they may access information through communication supports, such as Sign language interpretation or real-time captioning.

Schools and school boards must ensure that all students receive the support they need to access lesson content. For instance, students may connect to a Sign language interpreter remotely. Likewise, teachers can create detailed verbal descriptions of visual elements.

Exercises and Tests

In addition, schools and school boards should ensure that the online versions of class activities and tests are accessible to all students. For instance, educators should avoid activities that rely on seeing, hearing, or moving and clicking a mouse. Types of exercises to avoid include questions that ask learners to:

  • Choose one item in a picture
  • Identify a sound

There are easy ways to avoid these kinds of questions. Educators can:

  • include lists of choices and ask students to select all that apply
  • use buttons screen readers recognize, such as radio buttons or checkboxes

A range of question types, such as multiple choice, true or false, check-all-that-apply, and short-answer, can provide variety while remaining accessible.

Accessible online learning should be available for learners of all abilities. There are many things schools, school boards, and teachers can do to make online courses that everyone can learn from. Moreover, these strategies will continue to be useful for accessible remote learning after the COVID-19 pandemic.




Source link

Watch the Captioned May 27, 2020 Online Fireside Chat with AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky and Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner on the Impact of COVID-19 on Ontarians with Disabilities


Tell Us What Barriers Students with Disabilities Face in Colleges and Universities

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
Web: http://www.aodaalliance.org Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

May 26, 2020

SUMMARY

1. Check Out an Online Fireside Chat Tomorrow Night on the Impact of COVID-19 on 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities

Please log on tomorrow night, Wednesday, May 27, 2020 at 8 pm Eastern time, for a live virtual fireside chat with AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. He’s been invited to speak with the leader of the Green Party of Ontario, Mike Schreiner. Captioning is provided. See the details below.

This fireside chat will address the impact that the COVID-19 crisis is having on people with disabilities and the pressing need for the Ford Government to include their urgent needs in its emergency COVID-19 planning.

The non-partisan AODA Alliance commends the Green party for inviting AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky to take part in this event. The AODA Alliance would be happy to do so with members of the Legislature from any of Ontario’s political parties, as part of our long-term spirit of non-partisanship.

Please encourage others to watch this event. Publicize it on social media and in any other way you can.

2. More Time for You to Tell Us What Barriers Students with Disabilities Face in Post-Secondary Education in Ontario

The AODA Alliance wants to hear from you about the barriers that students with disabilities face in post-secondary education in Ontario. Back on March 11, 2020, we made public a draft Framework that the AODA Alliance had prepared for your input. It offers ideas on what the promised Education Accessibility Standard should include for students with disabilities in post-secondary education. Just after that, the COVID-19 crisis hit. As a result, we are extending the time to give us feedback on that draft Framework. You can read that draft Framework by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/what-barriers-do-students-with-disabilities-face-in-post-secondary-education-in-ontario-send-us-feedback-on-our-draft-framework-for-a-post-secondary-education-accessibility-standard/

With the COVID-19 crisis, post-secondary education has all moved online. This has created a series of new barriers for many students with disabilities. We are eager to hear about those barriers, as well as any that students with disabilities encountered before the COVID-19 crisis arose. We also invite your recommendations for what should be done, both during the period when post-secondary education continues online, and after that, for the time when colleges and universities will re-open for students to attend in person.

Please send us your feedback by June 30, 2020. Send your feedback to us at [email protected] .

Please don’t use “track changes” to give us feedback, as it can present accessibility problems. Instead, send us an email with your comments. You can mention the number of the recommendation on which you are commenting or cut and paste from our draft Framework the passage on which you are commenting.

Once we get your feedback, we will finalize this Framework, make it public, and send it to the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee.

3. Delay and Yet More Delay

There have been 481 days since the Ford Government received the ground-breaking final report of the Independent Review of the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Government has announced no comprehensive plan of new action to implement that report. That makes even worse the serious problems facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

There have been 62 days, or over two months, since we wrote Ontario Premier Doug Ford on March 25, 2020 to urge specific action to address the urgent needs of Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. He has not answered. The Premier’s office has not contacted us. The ordeal facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis is worsened by that delay.

Send us your feedback! Write us at [email protected] Please stay safe!

MORE DETAILS

Announcement from the Green Party of Ontario

Supporting our Disability Community During Covid-19
Please tune in for a discussion between Mike Schreiner, Leader of the Green Party of Ontario and Chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, David Lepofsky. The two will discuss the unique challenges affecting the disability community during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the policies needed to ensure the disability community does not continue to fall through the cracks of the government’s response.

Wednesday, May 27 8:00-8:45 pm

The event will be closed-captioned and can be streamed on the Green Party of Ontario Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/GreenPartyOntario/

@davidlepofsky @aodaalliance
@OntarioGreens @MikeSchreiner




Source link

Watch the Captioned May 27, 2020 Online Fireside Chat with AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky and Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner on the Impact of COVID-19 on Ontarians with Disabilities – and – Tell Us What Barriers Students with Disabilities Face in Colleges and Universities


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

Web: www.aodaalliance.org Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

Watch the Captioned May 27, 2020 Online Fireside Chat with AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky and Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner on the Impact of COVID-19 on Ontarians with Disabilities – and – Tell Us What Barriers Students with Disabilities Face in Colleges and Universities

May 26, 2020

          SUMMARY

1. Check Out an Online Fireside Chat Tomorrow Night on the Impact of COVID-19 on 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities

Please log on tomorrow night, Wednesday, May 27, 2020 at 8 pm Eastern time, for a live virtual fireside chat with AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. He’s been invited to speak with the leader of the Green Party of Ontario, Mike Schreiner. Captioning is provided. See the details below.

This fireside chat will address the impact that the COVID-19 crisis is having on people with disabilities and the pressing need for the Ford Government to include their urgent needs in its emergency COVID-19 planning.

The non-partisan AODA Alliance commends the Green party for inviting AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky to take part in this event. The AODA Alliance would be happy to do so with members of the Legislature from any of Ontario’s political parties, as part of our long-term spirit of non-partisanship.

Please encourage others to watch this event. Publicize it on social media and in any other way you can.

            2. More Time for You to Tell Us What Barriers Students with Disabilities Face in Post-Secondary Education in Ontario

The AODA Alliance wants to hear from you about the barriers that students with disabilities face in post-secondary education in Ontario. Back on March 11, 2020, we made public a draft Framework that the AODA Alliance had prepared for your input. It offers ideas on what the promised Education Accessibility Standard should include for students with disabilities in post-secondary education. Just after that, the COVID-19 crisis hit. As a result, we are extending the time to give us feedback on that draft Framework. You can read that draft Framework by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/what-barriers-do-students-with-disabilities-face-in-post-secondary-education-in-ontario-send-us-feedback-on-our-draft-framework-for-a-post-secondary-education-accessibility-standard/

With the COVID-19 crisis, post-secondary education has all moved online. This has created a series of new barriers for many students with disabilities. We are eager to hear about those barriers, as well as any that students with disabilities encountered before the COVID-19 crisis arose. We also invite your recommendations for what should be done, both during the period when post-secondary education continues online, and after that, for the time when colleges and universities will re-open for students to attend in person.

Please send us your feedback by June 30, 2020. Send your feedback to us at [email protected] .

Please don’t use “track changes” to give us feedback, as it can present accessibility problems. Instead, send us an email with your comments. You can mention the number of the recommendation on which you are commenting or cut and paste from our draft Framework the passage on which you are commenting.

Once we get your feedback, we will finalize this Framework, make it public, and send it to the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee.

 3. Delay and Yet More Delay

There have been 481 days since the Ford Government received the ground-breaking final report of the Independent Review of the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Government has announced no comprehensive plan of new action to implement that report. That makes even worse the serious problems facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

There have been 62 days, or over two months, since we wrote Ontario Premier Doug Ford on March 25, 2020 to urge specific action to address the urgent needs of Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. He has not answered. The Premier’s office has not contacted us. The ordeal facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis is worsened by that delay.

Send us your feedback! Write us at [email protected]. Please stay safe!

          MORE DETAILS

 Announcement from the Green Party of Ontario

Supporting our Disability Community During Covid-19

Please tune in for a discussion between Mike Schreiner, Leader of the Green Party of Ontario and Chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, David Lepofsky. The two will discuss the unique challenges affecting the disability community during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the policies needed to ensure the disability community does not continue to fall through the cracks of the government’s response.

Wednesday, May 27 8:00-8:45 pm

The event will be closed-captioned and can be streamed on the Green Party of Ontario Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/GreenPartyOntario/

@davidlepofsky @aodaalliance

@OntarioGreens @MikeSchreiner



Source link

People With Disabilities Must Not Be Forgotten Once the Lockdown Lifts


Author of the article: Ravi Malhotra, Christina Johnson
Publishing date: May 25, 2020

Luke Anderson along with the grade six students from Albert College delivered 12 ramps to storefronts in Picton on Wednesday. After Anderson’s biking accident in 2002, his life changed as he became dependant on a wheelchair and others help. The need for accessibility is what drove him to start the StopGap Foundation.

As municipalities ponder creative ways to open up after the end of the COVID-19 lockdown and revitalize the battered economy, it is imperative city planning incorporate the needs and perspectives of people with disabilities.

On every major social indicator, people with disabilities fare poorly, experiencing high levels of unemployment, deep levels of poverty and tremendous barriers in obtaining medical care, education and housing.

People with disabilities fought tenaciously for many years for the passage of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), a pioneering statute that was adopted in 2005 to address some of these issues. The legislation is predicated on the notion of setting standards for the removal of barriers that impede people with disabilities in many aspects of daily life including work, recreation, and customer service.

The animating principle at the core of AODA is that it’s structural barriers, such as stores without ramps for people who use mobility devices or a failure to provide information in an accessible format, which prevent people with disabilities from achieving full equality.

However, enforcement of the AODA has been very weak since its inception. Too many businesses, including restaurants, pubs and stores, remain completely inaccessible to people with disabilities, rendering us second class citizens. And too often, disabled citizens are required to fix accessibility issues, such as building their own ramps, or providing out-of-pocket protective equipment for personal support workers, where the AODA or other legislation is inadequate.

With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, policymakers must diligently ensure that contingency planning does not create new barriers that further isolate people with disabilities or risk their well-being.

Recently, it was reported that the City of Ottawa was considering expanding restaurant patios in order to facilitate physical distancing. Other cities such as Vancouver are also exploring this approach.

This is troubling because it is likely to make it extremely difficult for wheelchair and scooter users to safely navigate city sidewalks. In some cases, it would force wheelchair users into city streets. Worse, the majority of existing restaurant patios are not accessible to wheelchair users in the first place. The expansion of restaurant patios risks augmenting the significant disparities which people with disabilities already experience daily.

Other ideas which are being mooted in the media include replacing printed menus with electronic tablets to limit infection. Yet such an approach is likely to be inaccessible to people who are blind or have learning disabilities.

Unless steps are taken to ensure full accessibility is built into the design, such problems will continue. A serious approach to accessibility requires full consultation with disability rights advocates at every stage. Provincial and federal aid to businesses should be contingent on a commitment to accessibility for people with disabilities.

COVID-19 presents major challenges which require innovative solutions from businesses and governments but they must always incorporate accessibility and inclusion to ensure people with disabilities are not left behind.

Ravi Malhotra is a professor in the faculty of law at the University of Ottawa. Christina Johnson is a public servant and member of StopGap Ottawa, a volunteer organization under the StopGap Foundation that provides ramps for one-step businesses.

Original at https://ottawacitizen.com/opinion/malhotra-and-johnson-people-with-disabilities-must-not-be-forgotten-once-the-lockdown-lifts/




Source link

Why Do Provinces Often Confiscate Federal Benefits From People Who Clearly Need Them?


By Laurie MonsebraatenSocial Justice Reporter
Toronto Star, May 22, 2020

Amanda Demerse lost her part-time job as a rink attendant with the City of North Bay in March when the municipality closed recreation facilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

What happened next, amid a global health emergency, is an example of what goes on every day for vulnerable people living on the fault lines of creaking federal and provincial income support systems, social policy experts say.

Since Demerse is on provincial social assistance, she is required to apply for Employment Insurance (EI), a federal benefit that Ontario and most other provinces claw back dollar for dollar.

But millions of other Canadians thrown out of work when the country went into lockdown applied for EI, too, quickly crashing the cumbersome system and prompting Ottawa to introduce a temporary emergency benefit to keep people financially afloat while ordered to stay at home to prevent spreading the virus.

Ottawa said those, such as Demerse, who applied for EI and lost their jobs on March 15 or later, would be transferred automatically to the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). The emergency federal benefit pays $2,000 a month for four months to those out of work or making less than $1,000 due to the pandemic and who have earned at least $5,000 in the past year.

To date, some 7.8 million Canadian workers have applied for the CERB, including as many as 75,000 Ontarians on social assistance who lost part-time jobs.

In April, Carla Qualtrough, Minister for Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, urged provinces to exempt the emergency federal benefit from social assistance clawbacks “to ensure vulnerable Canadians do not fall behind.”

B.C., Yukon and the Northwest Territories obliged.

Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec agreed to partial clawbacks.

The rest of the provinces ignored Qualtrough; they claw back the entire amount.

Under a temporary measure introduced by Doug Ford’s Ontario government last month, laid-off workers on social assistance are able to keep $1,100 of the CERB on top of their provincial welfare benefits.

But due to an EI reporting anomaly the last shift Demerse worked was March 8. Ottawa never transferred her application to the CERB.

And because Demerse is on social assistance and receiving EI, she is allowed to keep nothing.

Demerse, 31, who has an intellectual disability and is unable to work full-time, relies on Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) benefits to supplement her part-time wages.

Without those wages, she is struggling to make ends meet, said her father Johnny, who is his daughter’s financial guardian.

“She lost her job because of COVID,” he said in an interview. “She should be on CERB like everybody else. It’s craziness that they put her on EI where she can’t keep any of it.”

The North Bay woman’s circumstances form just one example of the many cracks in federal and provincial emergency support systems for vulnerable Canadians laid bare by the coronavirus crisis, experts say.

As governments turn their focus to reopening the economy, it will be important to deal with the “tectonic plates” of federal and provincial income support that too often collide with one another and cause “earthquakes” for vulnerable people, they say.

A spokesperson for Qualtrough, said Ottawa has expanded eligibility for the CERB to include workers who have exhausted their EI benefits since Dec. 29, 2019.

But, in an email exchange with the Star, Marielle Hossack was silent on whether laid-off workers such as Demerse would be allowed to transfer to CERB before their EI benefits run out.

Toronto social policy expert John Stapleton says Ottawa’s silence on cases such as that of Demerse is disappointing, but not surprising.

“The easiest thing would be for Minister Qualtrough to deem EI as CERB for anyone who has lost their job to the pandemic,” said Stapleton, a former provincial social services bureaucrat.

“Now that CERB is in place and is a replacement for EI, why would Ottawa not offer the same break to people receiving EI who were unlucky enough to have their jobs end earlier but who need to self-isolate in the same way?”

This begs the question why provinces, which treat social assistance as a program of last resort, continue to claw back federal supports from people who are clearly in need, Stapleton said.

Maximum monthly benefits for Demerse and others receiving ODSP are $1,169, and just $733 for people without disabilities, amounts that fall as much as 60 per cent below the poverty line.

“Why do we continue having a destitution-model social assistance system?” Stapleton asked.

“Why is it that as soon as you start to dig yourself out, the government takes everything away from you?

“It’s high time this was changed,” he said.

Demerse is among 884 people on social assistance who reported EI benefits in April, according to provincial officials. Treating these workers the same as those receiving CERB on a temporary basis ? would not be costly for the province, Stapleton said.

“But EI is only one of the tectonic plates of federal and provincial income support,” Stapleton said.

“If we exempt EI, why not CPP-Disability, veterans’ benefits, workers’ compensation and other income-replacement programs? Why would you not offer this same break to people receiving those benefits?” he asked.

The reason is likely cost and equity.

Taken together, as many as 52,000 people on social assistance receive federal and provincial benefits that are subject to complete clawbacks, Stapleton estimated.

Those clawbacks poured about $34 million into provincial coffers in April, said Palmer Lockridge, a spokesperson for Ontario’s ministry of children, community and social services.

Ontario isn’t ready to give any of that money back to people such as Demerse by treating EI the same as CERB during the pandemic.

Lockridge suggested it was up to Ottawa to transfer the North Bay woman’s EI onto the CERB.

“Given the intent of the (CERB), we encourage the federal government to show flexibility so the people who need it can access it,” he said in an email.

Reducing social assistance clawbacks for all federal and provincial income replacement programs was a key recommendation of a 2017 expert panel report on income security reform. The report also recommended boosting social assistance by up to 22 per cent within three years, with a goal of allowing people to reach the poverty line by 2027 through a combination of federal and provincial income supports.

But that report, commissioned by the previous Liberal government, was scrapped when Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives were elected in 2018.

Original at https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2020/05/22/why-do-provinces-often-confiscate-federal-benefits-from-people-who-clearly-need-them.html




Source link

Teaching Students with Disabilities After the COVID-19 Pandemic


As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, we cheer ourselves by thinking of future socializing in-person. We also think about returning to work or activities we love. These hopes help us through the challenges of physical distancing. Moreover, these challenges show us that we can be more flexible or more creative than we thought we could. For instance, education during the pandemic has taken new forms and new strategies for success. Many of these strategies are also practices that help schools and school boards accommodate students with disabilities. Teachers and other staff are working in new ways and supporting students in diverse circumstances. In the post-COVID-19 future, more educators may learn how student performance improves through diverse teaching strategies. Consequently, more schools and school boards may continue to use diverse strategies for teaching students with disabilities after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Teaching Students with Disabilities After the COVID-19 Pandemic

In response to school closures, schools, colleges and universities are turning in-person classes into remote lessons students access online. In this process, teachers and other curriculum developers must learn to think differently about how students access their lessons. For instance, they may need to turn an in-person lecture into a written lesson. Similarly, teachers may need to rethink the assignments they give students. For example, students may need to:

  • Research online, instead of in print sources
  • Create PowerPoint presentations with speaking notes, instead of in-person presentations

Likewise, teachers may need to be flexible about grading practices. For instance, students may perform less well academically because they are getting used to new online formats or computer programs. Teachers and other staff must ensure that this disadvantage does not have a negative impact on students’ progress through school. For instance, colleges and universities use high school grades to determine which students they will accept into their programs. High school staff must develop methods to ensure that students’ grades reflect their progress over the whole year, instead of their possible struggles with online learning.

In addition, online learning has heightened educators’ awareness that some students face barriers when learning through technology. Moreover, schools and school boards are learning that they need to remove these barriers. For instance, some students do not have access to computers or the Internet at home. As a result, online learning is not accessible to these students. However, schools and school boards must educate all students, not just students whose families have computers or Internet access. Therefore, schools and school boards must implement solutions that give everyone equal access to their education. For example, some school boards are providing computers and mobile devices with Internet access on loan to students who need them.

Access for Students with Disabilities

Teachers and other educators are becoming accustomed to new requirements for teaching students and recognizing the barriers they face. In the same way, school staff could adapt more fully to other teaching strategies that would remove barriers that disadvantage students with disabilities. For instance, teachers and other staff could adapt to the communication supports, accessible formats, or communication devices that current and future students or colleagues with disabilities use. This adaptation could include slight changes to teaching styles. In contrast, it could involve support staff preparing materials or teaching students adaptive skills. For example, some students may need to use:

  • Sign Language interpretation, in-person or remotely through Video Relay Service (vRS)
  • Speechreading
  • Captioning
  • Writing, texting, or email
  • Braille, on paper or a computer Braille display
  • Large print
  • Accessible digital files or websites
  • Verbal descriptions of images or gestures
  • Hearing aids and assistive listening devices
  • Communication boards
  • Augmentative or alternative communication devices

These supports, formats, and devices empower students to learn in ways that are natural for them. They can easily share ideas and develop collaborative relationships with classmates and teachers. These and other accommodations allow more students to have a meaningful learning experience.




Source link

On Global Accessibility Awareness Day, the AODA Alliance Again Writes Ontario’s Education Minister and TVO’s Vice President to Try to Get the Urgent Learning Needs of Students with Disabilities Met


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
Web: http://www.aodaalliance.org Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

May 21, 2020

SUMMARY

In our continuing campaign to get the Ford Government to address the urgent needs of a third of a million vulnerable students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis, the AODA Alliance today wrote two important letters, set out below. These are especially timely, because today is the internationally recognized Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD).

First, we wrote Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce today to again press him to direct the establishment within his Ministry of a command table of experts on teaching students with disabilities. We need this command table created to lead and oversee the creation and implementation of an emergency plan to address the urgent needs of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. We were following up on our April 29, 2020 letter to the minister. In our new letter we point out three striking examples that show why there is a pressing need for the minister to direct his Ministry to immediately take the overdue actions we recommend.

Second, we today wrote the vice president for digital content at TVO, Ontarios public education TV network. We summarized a recent discussion that the vice president had with AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. In that discussion, we gave TVO constructive recommendations for urgent action that TVO needs to take to fix the accessibility problems in its online education content.

Taken together, these letters show a recurring failure of leadership by the Ford Government when it comes to meeting the urgent needs of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. A striking illustration of this is the Education Ministers May 8, 2020 email to all school boards about distance learning during COVID-19. We also set out that memo below. The ministers detailed email to all school boards was missing the key directions to school boards on how to meet the urgent needs of students with disabilities during COVID-19.

Stay tuned for more AODA Alliance Updates. Keep us posted by sending us your feedback, at [email protected]

MORE DETAILS

May 21, 2020 Letter from the AODA Alliance to Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
[email protected] www.aodalliance.org Twitter: @aodaalliance

May 21, 2020

Via Email
To: The Hon Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education
[email protected]

Dear Minister,

Re: Ensuring that Students with Disabilities Fully Benefit from Education at Home During the COVID-19 Crisis

We write On Global Accessibility Awareness Day to follow up on our April 29, 2020 letter to you about the pressing need for the Ontario Government to create and swiftly implement a comprehensive plan to meet the urgent learning needs of a third of a million Ontario students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

Since we wrote you almost a month ago, we appreciate having had the chance to have conversations with your deputy minister, two of your assistant deputy ministers, and some other officials within the ministry. I also welcomed the chance to make a five-minute presentation to you during the May 6, 2020 virtual meeting of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee of which I am a member.

It is good that during Premier Fords May 19, 2020 daily COVID-19 briefing, you recognized that more than ever, families of students with disabilities in Ontario need more support for their children to be able to learn at home. It is helpful that you said that the Government has great concern about these children and that the Government wants to ensure that these children get the support they need.

However, almost ten weeks into the school shutdown, and even after announcing that schools will remain closed for the rest of the school year, the Government has still announced no comprehensive plan to remove the troubling and recurring additional barriers facing students with disabilities that you have acknowledged. Your Government still leaves it to each school board to separately figure out what these barriers are and how to systematically overcome them. Your Government has still not set up and put in charge a much-needed command table with expertise in educating students with disabilities to steer and lead the provinces efforts in this area. This is especially wasteful and ineffective when school boards, like your Government, are trying to cope with an unexpected and unprecedented crisis. Front line educators and parents are struggling to do their best. They need more help from the Ontario Government.

Here are three illustrative and deeply disturbing examples of missing provincial leadership. We ask you to intervene with your Ministry officials to get them to act not only on these examples, but on a comprehensive plan of action.

First, with the rapid move to online classes, it is a bedrock necessity that the platform that schools use for online class meetings is accessible to students, teachers, and parents with disabilities. From our exchanges with Ministry staff, it is clear that the Ministry has not shown the required leadership on this issue. It does not appear to have directed school boards to ensure that they use accessible platforms, nor has it compared the options to direct which platform should be preferred.

Your detailed May 8, 2020 email to all school boards and other key players in the education system focuses primarily on the Ministrys directions to school boards to use synchronous learning (i.e. online classes in real time via web-based meeting platforms). That memo is stunningly silent on the need to ensure that the platform school boards use is accessible to students, teachers, and parents with disabilities. That memo gives school boards no directions on which platforms to use. That memo was sent two days after I briefed you and four of your caucus colleagues on this serious issue during the May 6, 2020 meeting of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee in which you commendably participated.

The Ministry has told us that it has left it to each school board to decide for itself which meeting platform to use. That is a failed approach. It abdicates provincial leadership and oversight. Your Ministry is leaving it to each school board to itself decide whether or not it should investigate the relative accessibility of different online meeting platforms. A school board may not even know that this is an issue it needs to investigate.

Under your Ministrys approach a school board is free to simply overlook this issue altogether. Your Government is burdening each school board to duplicate the same investigation of the comparative accessibility of different online meeting platforms. It is not clear which school boards have any expertise to do this. There is no assurance that any school boards who do this will in fact get it right. Your Ministry is not tracking which online platforms are being used in Ontario schools, or to what extent accessible platforms are being used.

The Ministry told us it has not itself undertaken a comparison of the various virtual meeting platforms available to school boards in order to assess their comparative accessibility. We have called on your Ministry to do so and to direct school boards on the accessible platforms that may be used. Parents, students, and teachers with disabilities should not have to fight against such recurring barriers one class, one school, or one school board at a time.

Your Ministry told us that it leaves it to each school board to decide which synchronous meeting platform to use, based on the school boards assessment of its local needs. With respect, blindness, dyslexia, or other reading-related disabilities do not change when they occur in Cornwall or Kenora. The reason why the Government is now developing an Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act is so that people with disabilities will not have to fight the same battles time and again and so that school boards wont have to each reinvent the same accessibility wheel.

We have received troubling word that at least one school board has forbidden its teachers from using Zoom, which is at least as accessible as or more accessible than the other available online platforms. That flies in the face of the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act .

Your Ministry arranged a helpful May 13, 2020 demonstration of the specific online meeting platform that it has chosen to purchase for school boards, called Bongo. It is part of the Bright Space learning management system that your Ministry chose to procure from the D2L firm for use by school boards if they wish. During this demonstration, it became apparent that neither your Ministry nor D2L claimed that Bongo is the most accessible meeting platform available. Its accessibility features were helpfully demonstrated and described.

During this demonstration, we learned that your Government has no idea how many school boards, schools or teachers around Ontario are using the Bongo platform. Your Ministry has left them free to use whatever platform they wish. As far as your Ministry would know, there could be few if any teachers using Bongo or who even know about it.

This presentation included a comparison of Bongos accessibility features as compared to those of the Zoom platform. It was D2L that was comparing its product to Zoom. Your Ministry did not invite Zoom for a chance to showcase its own products accessibility features, leaving it to its competitor D2L to do this.

The D2L presentation made an unfair comparison. It compared the Bongo platform, for which the Ministry was directly or indirectly paying a fee, to the free version of Zoom. I pointed this out and asked how the Bongo platform compared to Zooms more robust pay version, as opposed to its free version, which has fewer features. D2L acknowledged that the pay version of Zoom is closer in comparison to Bongo.

During that May 13, 2020 presentation, my questions revealed that Bongo is missing an important accessibility feature that Zoom contains. With Zoom, a student can easily and instantly raise his or her virtual hand for the teachers attention, by simply typing a keyboard shortcut. Bongo has no such keyboard shortcut. For a student to reach Bongos accessible control for raising his or her hand, it takes more hunting around the program. Its location is not obvious. It is important for a student to be able to quickly raise ones hand without having to hunt around the program for the relevant control. D2L conceded that their accessibility tester had earlier asked Bongos provider to add this to their program. D2L did not include this important fact in its comparison of its product to Zoom.

In the Ministrys PowerPoint prepared to demonstrate Bongos accessibility, a slide was included to suggest that the ARCH Disability Law Centre used Bongo. This was obviously done to convey or imply that it had ARCHs approval as accessible. The slides stated:

We have several clients who support people with disabilities: CNIB, CHS, Vision Australia, Thomas Pocklington Trust, ARCH Disability Law Centre.

ARCHs use of Virtual Classroom
Educating Canadians on Accessibility Rights using Brightspace and Virtual Classroom
ARCH is offering online courses to Community Champions and Disability Rights Lawyers on the Optional Protocol (OP) of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) with Simultaneous French interpretation, English and French live captions, ASL, and LSQ.

Press Release ARCH launches OP Lab: Learning, Sharing, Actioning!

This was quite misleading. At this May 13, 2020 presentation, I responded that ARCHs executive director had advised me that while they had procured Bongo for certain upcoming events, they have not yet used it because it has several accessibility problems. ARCH has been trying to get these problems fixed. Neither D2L nor the Government disputed this.

Second, as a key part of its approach during the COVID-19 crisis, your Government has repeatedly pointed to key online learning resources for teachers and parents. We have alerted the Government that these have accessibility problems. This includes both the Governments own Learn at Home web page and the Government-owned TVOs online learning resources. It became evident from my May 14, 2020 phone call with TVOs Vice President for Digital Content that TVO is lacking a plan to retrofit its online educational resources to ensure that they become accessible to students, teachers, and parents with disabilities. TVO seemed to be unaware of the severity of this problem until we brought it to their and the publics attention. I encourage you to read our May 21, 2020 letter to TVOs Vice President of Digital Content, copied to you. It sets out our constructive advice to TVO advice which TVO found quite helpful.

We have seen no indication that your Ministry was aware of the problems with its own online resources or those of TVO until we raised these concerns. We have seen no plan from your Ministry to fix these problems.

This TVO situation reflects a double failure. TVO failed to properly ensure its online contents accessibility. After that, your Ministry failed to ensure the accessibility of TVOs online content before so heavily relying on it as part of its COVID-19 emergency planning.

Third, struggling with this COVID-19 crisis, it is great that teachers, parents, and others with expertise in the field in Ontario and elsewhere have been coming up with creative ways to help students with different disabilities learn while schools are closed. We have been urging your Government for weeks without success to devote staff to effectively gather from the front lines specific examples of effective strategies. We still need your Government to do so and to effectively share these with educators and parents as quickly as possible in a user-friendly way, not through a blizzard of links.

Let us illustrate how disturbing this situation is. On May 4, 2020, in the absence of effective Government action on this front, the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition joined together to hold a successful virtual town hall. It offered practical tips to parents and teachers for teaching students with disabilities at home during COVID-19. Your Ministrys Assistant Deputy Minister of Education responsible for special education Jeff Butler commendably took part in our virtual town hall and described its contents as valuable. In just over two weeks, it has been viewed over 1,400 times. We have no budget to publicize it.

We have repeatedly asked your Ministry to publicize this virtual town hall to school boards and frontline educators. So far, it has not agreed to do so. What could be a simpler and lower-cost way to help students with disabilities? We have also urged your Ministry for weeks without success to take over this idea and itself hold such events. We have offered to help with ideas. The Ministry, with its staff and resources, could do this more effectively than did our handful of volunteers who pulled together our successful May 4, 2020 virtual town hall in under a week.

Instead of taking us up on this, the Government has largely re-announced the same initiatives that have been underway for weeks. While helpful to a point, those measures have not effectively addressed the pressing concerns of vulnerable students with disabilities.

On May 19, 2020 you said at the Premiers daily COVID-19 briefing that you have directed school boards to unlock all their special education and mental health resources during the school shutdown to help students with disabilities. That of course has been their job from the outset. However, for them to succeed, they need far more provincial direction and support than this.

On May 19, 2020, in response to a question from the media at the Premiers COVID-19 briefing, you announced some sort of two-week summer program aimed at helping orient some students with disabilities, such as those with autism, to a return to school. That announcement gave no specifics, such as where this will be offered or which students or how many students will be eligible for this program. Depending on how this is carried out, it could be helpful.

However, here again, there is a similar pressing need for the Ontario Government to show leadership by setting specific detailed and effective standards and requirements for school re-openings to ensure that the added needs of students with disabilities are effectively met in this process. Your Ministrys approach to date to students with disabilities during this crisis will not ensure that this is properly handled.

Your May 8, 2020 memo to all school boards is quite illustrative of this entire problem. It commendably makes a few general references to accommodating students with special education needs and to mental health issues. However, it gives no specific directions for meeting the recurring needs of students with disabilities in circumstances where specificity and provincial leadership are required.

We remain eager to help with solutions. We need your active intervention to set things right. Please stay safe.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont
Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

CC: Premier Doug Ford
Via Email: [email protected]

Raymond Cho, Minister of Seniors and Accessibility
[email protected]

Nancy Naylor, Deputy Minister of Education
[email protected]

Jeff Butler, Acting Assistant Deputy Minister of the Student Support and Field Services Division [email protected]

Yael Ginsler, Assistant Deputy Minister of Education (Acting) for the Student Achievement Division [email protected]

Denise Cole, Deputy Minister for Seniors and Accessibility
[email protected]

Susan Picarello, Assistant Deputy Minister, Accessibility Directorate of Ontario [email protected]

Claudine Munroe, Director of the Special Education/Success for All Branch [email protected]

Demetra Saldaris, Director of the Professionalism, Teaching Policy and Standards Branch [email protected]

Rashmi, Swarup TVO Vice President Digital Learning
[email protected]

May 21, 2020 Letter from the AODA Alliance to TVOs Vice President for Digital Content

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
Email: [email protected]
Visit: www.aodalliance.org
Twitter: @aodaalliance

May 21, 2020

To: Rashmi Swarup
Vice President Digital Learning
Via email: [email protected]

Dear Ms. Swarup,

Re: Accessibility Problems with TVOs Online Educational Content

Thank you for speaking to me by phone on May 14, 2020 about the accessibility problems on TVOs website. It is especially timely that I am writing you on Global Accessibility Awareness Day.

Here are several key points that I shared with you during our discussion.

I explained that TVOs online learning content requires a major review as soon as possible for accessibility problems. Our preliminary look at them revealed significant and obvious problems. This strongly suggests that accessibility problems are likely more pervasive. The fact that they turned up so quickly suggests to us that TVO has not done effective accessibility user testing.

I explained that to rectify this, TVO needs to immediately put in place several new measures. It needs to now publicly commit to fix its online contents accessibility problems and to ensure that any new online content created in the future is accessible from the start.

You explained that you have been in your position for about one year as TVOs Vice President of Digital Content. Previously, you were a superintendent of schools at the York Region District School Board. You didnt claim to be a subject matter expert on digital content accessibility, though you have taken required basic AODA training training which we know to be quite introductory.

TVO needs to have a senior official with subject matter expertise in digital accessibility with lead responsibility and authority for ensuring the accessibility of TVOs digital content and online offerings. It seems clear from the presence of accessibility problems in TVOs online educational content that it is lacking that expertise in a leadership role.

I outlined for you that a number of major organizations have helpfully established a position of Chief Accessibility Officer to address their accessibility needs and duties. TVO could benefit from doing so. From what you explained, it appears that no one senior official at TVO has full responsibility for and authority over ensuring digital accessibility. Responsibility is spread over several members of the TVO senior management team. That is a far less effective way of addressing this important issue.

TVO needs to bring on board the subject matter expertise to fix this problem. I explained that there are digital accessibility experts TVO can retain to assist in this area.

TVO needs to establish and make public a detailed plan to fix the accessibility problems with its current digital learning content and to ensure that new digital content that TVO creates in the future is barrier-free. I explained that end-user testing is an important aspect of this. Automated checking tools cannot replace proper user testing by human beings. From our preliminary inspection of some of TVOs online educational content, it seemed that no proper user testing would have earlier occurred.

You said you appreciated our raising these concerns and the recommendations that I shared. Our raising these concerns had escalated TVOs attention. We appreciate your agreeing to write us to let us know what new action TVO will take to address these concerns.

We hope the Ontario Government will support TVOs taking swift action to correct these problems. We had raised our concerns about TVO at senior levels within the Ministry of Education. The Minister of Education Stephen Lecce has repeatedly said that the Government has partnered with TVO to help deliver online education to students during the COVID-19 crisis.

Finally, I emphasized that as a public broadcast, TVO should be a leader in this area. In contrast to TVOs accessibility deficiencies, WGBH, a US PBS station, is a key hub and, I believe, the birthplace for the important accessibility innovation of audio description for video content.

We look forward to hearing from you about the reforms TVO will adopt. It is important for corrective action to be taken quickly, given that schools remain closed for the rest of this school year due to the COVID-19 crisis and may have to close again should there be a second surge of COVID-19.

Please stay safe.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont
Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

CC
Premier Doug Ford
[email protected]

Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education,
[email protected]

Raymond Cho, Minister of Seniors and Accessibility
[email protected]

Nancy Naylor, Deputy Minister of Education
[email protected]

Claudine Munroe, Director of the Special Education/Success for All Branch [email protected]

Denise Cole, Deputy Minister for Seniors and Accessibility
[email protected]

Susan Picarello, Assistant Deputy Minister, Accessibility Directorate of Ontario [email protected]

Renu Mandhane, Chief Commissioner, Ontario Human Rights Commission [email protected]

May 8, 2020 Email from Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce to Ontario School Boards

May 8 2020 Email from Minister of Education Stephen Lecce to Ontario School Boards From: Ministry of Education (EDU) <
[email protected]>

Sent: May 8, 2020 5:36 PM
To: Ministry of Education (EDU) <
[email protected]>
Subject: Updates on Continuity of Learning for the Extended School Closure Period | Mises à jour sur la continuité de lapprentissage pendant la période de fermeture prolongée des écoles

table with 2 columns and 2 rows
Memorandum To:
Chairs of District School Boards
Directors of Education
School Authorities

From:
Stephen Lecce
Minister of Education

Nancy Naylor
Deputy Minister
table end

Thank you for your continued commitment to supporting students during the school closure period. We have heard so many inspiring stories from across the province of students, parents, and educators doing extraordinary work to continue learning and build and maintain relationships at this time.

During this time, the mental health and well-being of students and the people working in the education system remains a priority. The government and school boards have moved rapidly to mobilize critical mental health resources and supports for students during these uncertain times.

As you know, the school closure period has been extended to at least May 31, 2020. To that end, we are writing to provide guidance on provincial standards for continuity of learning for the remainder of the closure period, as well as to provide updates on progress to date. GUIDANCE FOR CONTINUITY OF LEARNING

As we entered the school closure period, our transition to Learn at Home was aided by existing tools that were in place to support virtual learning. The ministry provides Ontarios Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) at no cost to educators in school boards and First Nation/federally operated schools to use for delivering online programming. As a learning management system, the VLE provides tools for both synchronous and asynchronous learning delivery. Boards may already have access to other synchronous learning management systems and tools, such as Google Classroom or Edsby.

While the expectation of the ministry was that educators would embrace the use of synchronous learning during the school closure period, there has been an inconsistent uptake of this mode of learning. As such, this memo is providing clarity on the ministry position.
Recognizing there are a wide range of modalities that are used in the continuum of learning between educators and their students, the ministrys expectation is that synchronous learning be used as part of whole class instruction, in smaller groups of students, and/or in a one-on-one context.

We know that parents and students are looking for ways to interact with their teachers – which can be addressed through multiple modalities – and that online synchronous learning experience with teachers and education workers is an effective and supportive method that will position students to succeed during the school closure period. Similarly, parents expect their childs educators to strive toward as normal a learning environment as possible during this period, of which synchronous learning is a key component.
Boards should take steps to ensure that privacy considerations are addressed and that students are aware of best practices, including not giving out passwords, ensuring that teachers are the last person to leave a synchronous meeting, and respecting other board policies on student conduct.

We recognize that there may be exceptional situations where synchronous online delivery may not be possible for all students. Exceptions could include, for example, where a parent has excused their child from instruction or this form of instruction, in which case a parents wishes should be respected.

If a student cannot participate due to a lack of devices or internet connectivity, or where students require accommodations for special education needs, alternate arrangements must be made, including personal outreach through phone calls. With that in mind, it is insufficient for educators to communicate with their students in one interaction per week, for example. We recognize that school boards have made extraordinary efforts to ensure that students have devices and connectivity wherever possible, and we once again reiterate our expectation that boards provide necessary technology to students as soon as possible, and appropriate accommodations for students with special education needs, where necessary. The ministry will continue to support school boards in these efforts.

If a teacher or education worker does not feel they can currently deliver education to their students in this manner, schools and boards are encouraged to provide support and professional development. However, in situations where teachers or education workers are not delivering synchronous learning, schools and boards are expected to immediately move to a team assignment approach to ensure that students are offered synchronous delivery of teacher led learning.

School boards should continue to follow the guidance provided on March 31, 2020 regarding the hours per student, per week, and the suggested areas of curriculum focus by grade groupings.

UPDATES ON PROGRESS TO DATE

Working Together

Between April 15 and 29, the ministry conducted a series of meetings beginning with Parent Involvement Committee Chairs and extending to include meetings with the following key roles responsible for supporting vulnerable students: Student Success and Student Effectiveness Leads, Indigenous Graduation Coaches, and Black Student Graduation Coaches. These meetings provided a venue for board leads to share successful practices and ongoing challenges to supporting vulnerable students and identify additional ways to offer support.

During these meetings, partners in school boards shared information on the many ways they are addressing the needs of vulnerable students, their wellbeing, and academic success. The ministry will continue to work with partners to determine ways to support student well-being, engagement in learning, and inclusive approaches to learning within a remote learning environment, as well as when students return to school.

Access to Technology

Access to internet connectivity and learning devices has been identified by school boards and other stakeholders as an urgent need during the school closure period. In response to this need, the ministry launched an education-related call for proposals on the Ontario Together web portal, focused on supporting equity of access to remote learning.

Through this initiative, the ministry will identify proposals that school boards may wish to consider to support student and educator access to internet connectivity and devices such as computers, tablets, and portable wi-fi hotspots. As well, school boards may also wish to consider consulting other partners and sources, such as OECM, to consider comparable services and goods.

As we prepare for the eventual return to the classroom, broadband modernization activities in schools continue. All Ontario students and educators in publicly funded schools will have access to reliable, fast, secure and affordable internet services at school, in all regions of the province including rural and northern communities. This work will be complete in secondary schools by September 2020 and in elementary schools by September 2021.

As of March 31, 2020, broadband modernization was complete at 1,983 schools (including 403 in northern communities and 686 in rural communities) and in progress at 2,953 schools (including 99 in northern communities and 408 in rural communities).

Ensuring protection of privacy and security of digital learning resources is of the utmost importance for the ministry to support a safe, inclusive and accepting learning environment for synchronous learning. While school boards remain independently accountable for establishing clear policies and approving appropriate use of collaboration tools to support students learning online, we will continue to work with boards and our government partners to provide guidance on cyber security and privacy best practices for sharing with educators in your schools.

School Construction

Schools are an essential part of supporting student achievement, as well as providing safe and healthy learning and work environments for students and staff. As we head into the spring and summer months, when school boards undertake critical capital construction and renewal projects, the province has revised the list of essential workplaces to support school infrastructure. Construction projects and services (e.g. new construction, maintenance and repair) that support the essential operation of, and provide new capacity in, schools and child care centres can proceed, provided that there is strict adherence to health and safety requirements.

As school boards are best situated to understand their own particular circumstances, the ministry is asking that school boards consider whether their construction projects are able to reopen in light of these changes. This may mean that boards will need to consult with their own legal counsel, as appropriate.

Learn at Home/
Apprendre à la maison

Learn at Home/
Apprendre à la maison
was launched on March 20, 2020. This website provides supplemental resources for parents and students to support independent learning at home while schools are closed.

Learn at Home/
Apprendre à la maison includes learning resources on a variety of subjects including math, science, technology, Indigenous history and ways of knowing, art, physical education, social sciences, and mental health. Supports for students with learning disabilities and special education needs, including autism, have also been included. Resources continue to be added to address a range of learning needs.

Over the past month, there have been over four million visits to Learn at Home/ Apprendre à la maison.
We encourage you to continue to share this website and promote the new resources available with parents and students in your board.

If there are additional high-quality online learning resources that you think would be particularly beneficial to students and parents at this time, we encourage you to share them with us by emailing [email protected]

School Mental Health Ontario

School Mental Health Ontario a provincial implementation support team that works alongside the ministry, school boards, and provincial education and health organizations to develop a systematic and comprehensive approach to school mental health has several resources available to support families during the school closure period (
https://smho-smso.ca/blog/how-to-support-student-mental-health-during-the-covid-19-pandemic/).

Professional development

Through webinars, the ministry is providing professional development to support educators in the use of the VLE and pedagogy for remote, synchronous and asynchronous learning. In addition, the ministry is providing professional learning webinars for educators on specialised topics such as supporting students with special education needs, kindergarten/primary education and meaningful assessments and evaluations.

To date, more than 23,000 teachers have participated in, or registered for future webinars, on 34 different topics. Completed webinars have been recorded and posted for teachers who were unable to attend the live session.

In addition to the webinar series, the ministry has created the Supports for Virtual Learning eCommunity. Over 9,000 educational staff have accessed this professional learning community, including resources for self-serve learning that are updated regularly.

First Nation and Indigenous partners

The ministry continues to support First Nation education partners during the school closure period. This has included providing access to online education resources, connecting First Nation partners to the supply chain to purchase Chromebooks and iPads, as well as encouraging local school boards to work closely with local First Nations and Indigenous partners, where possible.

In addition to supporting educators through teleconferences in areas/communities where bandwidth is limited or unavailable, the ministry has responded
to outreach from First Nation partners and has established a series of ongoing virtual meetings with First Nations Education Task Teams. The Task Teams were established to work collaboratively with First Nation education leadership, to identify gaps in services and develop options to address emerging priorities for First Nation students.

We are also ensuring that First Nation educators have access to Ontarios VLE and training for teachers provided by the ministry. There is no cost to the First Nation schools to access and use the VLE.

Summer learning

The ministry is working with boards and organizations to support an expanded offering of summer learning opportunities. This plan will focus on programs that support student learning through the summer such as summer school, course upgrading, and gap-closing programs for vulnerable students, students with special education needs, and Indigenous students. This plan will be flexible to accommodate both remote and face-to-face learning, pending emergency measures through the summer. While summer learning opportunities are voluntary for students, we hope that many students will take advantage of the opportunity to continue their learning throughout the summer.

The goal with these measures is to mitigate the impacts of the school closure period and the learning loss that may typically occur during the summer.

Further details will be provided in the coming weeks.

Communication with parents and families

We recognize that many boards are creating opportunities for parents to provide feedback on the current learning experience through surveys and other platforms, as well as continuing to seek the advice of their Parent Involvement Committee (PIC). Through a virtual meeting with PIC chairs at the end of April, the ministry heard that parents appreciate the efforts their boards are making to address a variety of diverse family challenges due to the pandemic. We encourage boards to continue to be open to feedback and to recognize where delivery of education under current circumstances can be challenging, and can be adjusted to better serve students and families.

Thank you once again for your flexibility and willingness to work together to support Ontarios students.

Sincerely,

Stephen Lecce Nancy Naylor
Minister of Education Deputy Minister

c: President, Association des conseils scolaires des écoles publiques de l’ontario (ACÉPO)
Executive Director, Association des conseils scolaires des écoles publiques de l’ontario (ACÉPO)
President, Association franco-ontarienne des conseils scolaires catholiques (AFOCSC)
Executive Director, Association franco-ontarienne des conseils scolaires catholiques (AFOCSC) President, Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association (OCSTA) Executive Director, Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association (OCSTA) President, Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA) Executive Director, Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA) Executive Director, Council of Ontario Directors of Education (CODE)
President, Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO)
Executive Director and Secretary-Treasurer, Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO) President, Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA) General Secretary, Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA) President, Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) General Secretary, Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) President, Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF) General Secretary, Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF) Chair, Ontario Council of Educational Workers (OCEW)
Chair, Education Workers Alliance of Ontario (EWAO)
President of OSBCU, Canadian Union of Public Employees Ontario (CUPE-ON) Co-ordinator, Canadian Union of Public Employees Ontario (CUPE-ON)




Source link

On Global Accessibility Awareness Day, the AODA Alliance Again Writes Ontario’s Education Minister and TVO’s Vice President to Try to Get the Urgent Learning Needs of Students with Disabilities Met During the COVID-19 Crisis


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

Web: www.aodaalliance.org Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

On Global Accessibility Awareness Day, the AODA Alliance Again Writes Ontario’s Education Minister and TVO’s Vice President to Try to Get the Urgent Learning Needs of Students with Disabilities Met During the COVID-19 Crisis

May 21, 2020

          SUMMARY

In our continuing campaign to get the Ford Government to address the urgent needs of a third of a million vulnerable students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis, the AODA Alliance today wrote two important letters, set out below. These are especially timely, because today is the internationally recognized Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD).

First, we wrote Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce today to again press him to direct the establishment within his Ministry of a command table of experts on teaching students with disabilities. We need this command table created to lead and oversee the creation and implementation of an emergency plan to address the urgent needs of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. We were following up on our April 29, 2020 letter to the minister. In our new letter we point out three striking examples that show why there is a pressing need for the minister to direct his Ministry to immediately take the overdue actions we recommend.

Second, we today wrote the vice president for digital content at TVO, Ontario’s public education TV network. We summarized a recent discussion that the vice president had with AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. In that discussion, we gave TVO constructive recommendations for urgent action that TVO needs to take to fix the accessibility problems in its online education content.

Taken together, these letters show a recurring failure of leadership by the Ford Government when it comes to meeting the urgent needs of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. A striking illustration of this is the Education Minister’s May 8, 2020 email to all school boards about distance learning during COVID-19. We also set out that memo below. The minister’s detailed email to all school boards was missing the key directions to school boards on how to meet the urgent needs of students with disabilities during COVID-19.

Stay tuned for more AODA Alliance Updates. Keep us posted by sending us your feedback, at [email protected]

          MORE DETAILS

May 21, 2020 Letter from the AODA Alliance to Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

[email protected] www.aodalliance.org Twitter: @aodaalliance

May 21, 2020

Via Email

To: The Hon Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education

[email protected]

Dear Minister,

Re: Ensuring that Students with Disabilities Fully Benefit from Education at Home During the COVID-19 Crisis

We write On Global Accessibility Awareness Day to follow up on our April 29, 2020 letter to you about the pressing need for the Ontario Government to create and swiftly implement a comprehensive plan to meet the urgent learning needs of a third of a million Ontario students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

Since we wrote you almost a month ago, we appreciate having had the chance to have conversations with your deputy minister, two of your assistant deputy ministers, and some other officials within the ministry. I also welcomed the chance to make a five-minute presentation to you during the May 6, 2020 virtual meeting of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee of which I am a member.

It is good that during Premier Ford’s May 19, 2020 daily COVID-19 briefing, you recognized that more than ever, families of students with disabilities in Ontario need more support for their children to be able to learn at home. It is helpful that you said that the Government has great concern about these children and that the Government wants to ensure that these children get the support they need.

However, almost ten weeks into the school shutdown, and even after announcing that schools will remain closed for the rest of the school year, the Government has still announced no comprehensive plan to remove the troubling and recurring additional barriers facing students with disabilities that you have acknowledged. Your Government still leaves it to each school board to separately figure out what these barriers are and how to systematically overcome them. Your Government has still not set up and put in charge a much-needed command table with expertise in educating students with disabilities to steer and lead the province’s efforts in this area. This is especially wasteful and ineffective when school boards, like your Government, are trying to cope with an unexpected and unprecedented crisis. Front line educators and parents are struggling to do their best. They need more help from the Ontario Government.

Here are three illustrative and deeply disturbing examples of missing provincial leadership. We ask you to intervene with your Ministry officials to get them to act not only on these examples, but on a comprehensive plan of action.

First, with the rapid move to online classes, it is a bedrock necessity that the platform that schools use for online class meetings is accessible to students, teachers, and parents with disabilities. From our exchanges with Ministry staff, it is clear that the Ministry has not shown the required leadership on this issue. It does not appear to have directed school boards to ensure that they use accessible platforms, nor has it compared the options to direct which platform should be preferred.

Your detailed May 8, 2020 email to all school boards and other key players in the education system focuses primarily on the Ministry’s directions to school boards to use “synchronous learning” (i.e. online classes in real time via web-based meeting platforms). That memo is stunningly silent on the need to ensure that the platform school boards use is accessible to students, teachers, and parents with disabilities. That memo gives school boards no directions on which platforms to use. That memo was sent two days after I briefed you and four of your caucus colleagues on this serious issue during the May 6, 2020 meeting of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee in which you commendably participated.

The Ministry has told us that it has left it to each school board to decide for itself which meeting platform to use. That is a failed approach. It abdicates provincial leadership and oversight. Your Ministry is leaving it to each school board to itself decide whether or not it should investigate the relative accessibility of different online meeting platforms. A school board may not even know that this is an issue it needs to investigate.

Under your Ministry’s approach a school board is free to simply overlook this issue altogether. Your Government is burdening each school board to duplicate the same investigation of the comparative accessibility of different online meeting platforms. It is not clear which school boards have any expertise to do this. There is no assurance that any school boards who do this will in fact get it right. Your Ministry is not tracking which online platforms are being used in Ontario schools, or to what extent accessible platforms are being used.

The Ministry told us it has not itself undertaken a comparison of the various virtual meeting platforms available to school boards in order to assess their comparative accessibility. We have called on your Ministry to do so and to direct school boards on the accessible platforms that may be used. Parents, students, and teachers with disabilities should not have to fight against such recurring barriers one class, one school, or one school board at a time.

Your Ministry told us that it leaves it to each school board to decide which synchronous meeting platform to use, based on the school board’s assessment of its local needs. With respect, blindness, dyslexia, or other reading-related disabilities do not change when they occur in Cornwall or Kenora. The reason why the Government is now developing an Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act is so that people with disabilities will not have to fight the same battles time and again and so that school boards won’t have to each reinvent the same accessibility wheel.

We have received troubling word that at least one school board has forbidden its teachers from using Zoom, which is at least as accessible as or more accessible than the other available online platforms. That flies in the face of the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act .

Your Ministry arranged a helpful May 13, 2020 demonstration of the specific online meeting platform that it has chosen to purchase for school boards, called “Bongo.” It is part of the Bright Space learning management system that your Ministry chose to procure from the D2L firm for use by school boards if they wish. During this demonstration, it became apparent that neither your Ministry nor D2L claimed that Bongo is the most accessible meeting platform available. Its accessibility features were helpfully demonstrated and described.

During this demonstration, we learned that your Government has no idea how many school boards, schools or teachers around Ontario are using the Bongo platform. Your Ministry has left them free to use whatever platform they wish. As far as your Ministry would know, there could be few if any teachers using Bongo or who even know about it.

This presentation included a comparison of Bongo’s accessibility features as compared to those of the Zoom platform. It was D2L that was comparing its product to Zoom. Your Ministry did not invite Zoom for a chance to showcase its own product’s accessibility features, leaving it to its competitor D2L to do this.

The D2L presentation made an unfair comparison. It compared the Bongo platform, for which the Ministry was directly or indirectly paying a fee, to the free version of Zoom. I pointed this out and asked how the Bongo platform compared to Zoom’s more robust pay version, as opposed to its free version, which has fewer features. D2L acknowledged that the pay version of Zoom is closer in comparison to Bongo.

During that May 13, 2020 presentation, my questions revealed that Bongo is missing an important accessibility feature that Zoom contains. With Zoom, a student can easily and instantly raise his or her virtual hand for the teacher’s attention, by simply typing a keyboard shortcut. Bongo has no such keyboard shortcut. For a student to reach Bongo’s accessible control for raising his or her hand, it takes more hunting around the program. Its location is not obvious. It is important for a student to be able to quickly raise one’s hand without having to hunt around the program for the relevant control. D2L conceded that their accessibility tester had earlier asked Bongo’s provider to add this to their program. D2L did not include this important fact in its comparison of its product to Zoom.

In the Ministry’s PowerPoint prepared to demonstrate Bongo’s accessibility, a slide was included to suggest that the ARCH Disability Law Centre used Bongo. This was obviously done to convey or imply that it had ARCH’s approval as accessible. The slides stated:

“•        We have several clients who support people with disabilities: CNIB, CHS, Vision Australia, Thomas Pocklington Trust, ARCH Disability Law Centre.

ARCH’s use of Virtual Classroom

  • Educating Canadians on Accessibility Rights using Brightspace and Virtual Classroom
  • ARCH is offering online courses to Community Champions and Disability Rights Lawyers on the Optional Protocol (OP) of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) with Simultaneous French interpretation, English and French live captions, ASL, and LSQ.

Press Release – ARCH launches OP Lab: Learning, Sharing, Actioning!”

This was quite misleading. At this May 13, 2020 presentation, I responded that ARCH’s executive director had advised me that while they had procured Bongo for certain upcoming events, they have not yet used it because it has several accessibility problems. ARCH has been trying to get these problems fixed. Neither D2L nor the Government disputed this.

Second, as a key part of its approach during the COVID-19 crisis, your Government has repeatedly pointed to key online learning resources for teachers and parents. We have alerted the Government that these have accessibility problems. This includes both the Government’s own “Learn at Home” web page and the Government-owned TVO’s online learning resources. It became evident from my May 14, 2020 phone call with TVO’s Vice President for Digital Content that TVO is lacking a plan to retrofit its online educational resources to ensure that they become accessible to students, teachers, and parents with disabilities. TVO seemed to be unaware of the severity of this problem until we brought it to their and the public’s attention. I encourage you to read our May 21, 2020 letter to TVO’s Vice President of Digital Content, copied to you. It sets out our constructive advice to TVO – advice which TVO found quite helpful.

We have seen no indication that your Ministry was aware of the problems with its own online resources or those of TVO until we raised these concerns. We have seen no plan from your Ministry to fix these problems.

This TVO situation reflects a double failure. TVO failed to properly ensure its online content’s accessibility. After that, your Ministry failed to ensure the accessibility of TVO’s online content before so heavily relying on it as part of its COVID-19 emergency planning.

Third, struggling with this COVID-19 crisis, it is great that teachers, parents, and others with expertise in the field in Ontario and elsewhere have been coming up with creative ways to help students with different disabilities learn while schools are closed. We have been urging your Government for weeks without success to devote staff to effectively gather from the front lines specific examples of effective strategies. We still need your Government to do so and to effectively share these with educators and parents as quickly as possible in a user-friendly way, not through a blizzard of links.

Let us illustrate how disturbing this situation is. On May 4, 2020, in the absence of effective Government action on this front, the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition joined together to hold a successful virtual town hall. It offered practical tips to parents and teachers for teaching students with disabilities at home during COVID-19. Your Ministry’s Assistant Deputy Minister of Education responsible for special education Jeff Butler commendably took part in our virtual town hall and described its contents as valuable. In just over two weeks, it has been viewed over 1,400 times. We have no budget to publicize it.

We have repeatedly asked your Ministry to publicize this virtual town hall to school boards and frontline educators. So far, it has not agreed to do so. What could be a simpler and lower-cost way to help students with disabilities? We have also urged your Ministry for weeks without success to take over this idea and itself hold such events. We have offered to help with ideas. The Ministry, with its staff and resources, could do this more effectively than did our handful of volunteers who pulled together our successful May 4, 2020 virtual town hall in under a week.

Instead of taking us up on this, the Government has largely re-announced the same initiatives that have been underway for weeks. While helpful to a point, those measures have not effectively addressed the pressing concerns of vulnerable students with disabilities.

On May 19, 2020 you said at the Premier’s daily COVID-19 briefing that you have directed school boards to unlock all their special education and mental health resources during the school shutdown to help students with disabilities. That of course has been their job from the outset. However, for them to succeed, they need far more provincial direction and support than this.

On May 19, 2020, in response to a question from the media at the Premier’s COVID-19 briefing, you announced some sort of two-week summer program aimed at helping orient some students with disabilities, such as those with autism, to a return to school. That announcement gave no specifics, such as where this will be offered or which students or how many students will be eligible for this program. Depending on how this is carried out, it could be helpful.

However, here again, there is a similar pressing need for the Ontario Government to show leadership by setting specific detailed and effective standards and requirements for school re-openings to ensure that the added needs of students with disabilities are effectively met in this process. Your Ministry’s approach to date to students with disabilities during this crisis will not ensure that this is properly handled.

Your May 8, 2020 memo to all school boards is quite illustrative of this entire problem. It commendably makes a few general references to accommodating students with special education needs and to mental health issues. However, it gives no specific directions for meeting the recurring needs of students with disabilities in circumstances where specificity and provincial leadership are required.

We remain eager to help with solutions. We need your active intervention to set things right. Please stay safe.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

CC: Premier Doug Ford

Via Email: [email protected]

Raymond Cho, Minister of Seniors and Accessibility

[email protected]

Nancy Naylor, Deputy Minister of Education

[email protected]

Jeff Butler, Acting Assistant Deputy Minister of the Student Support and Field Services Division

[email protected]

Yael Ginsler, Assistant Deputy Minister of Education (Acting) for the Student Achievement Division

[email protected]

Denise Cole, Deputy Minister for Seniors and Accessibility

[email protected]

Susan Picarello, Assistant Deputy Minister, Accessibility Directorate of Ontario

[email protected]

Claudine Munroe, Director of the Special Education/Success for All Branch

[email protected]

Demetra Saldaris, Director of the Professionalism, Teaching Policy and Standards Branch

[email protected]

Rashmi, Swarup TVO Vice President Digital Learning

[email protected]

May 21, 2020 Letter from the  AODA Alliance to TVO’s Vice President for Digital Content

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

Email: [email protected]

Visit: www.aodalliance.org

Twitter: @aodaalliance

May 21, 2020

To: Rashmi Swarup

Vice President Digital Learning

Via email: [email protected]

Dear Ms. Swarup,

Re: Accessibility Problems with TVO’s Online Educational Content

Thank you for speaking to me by phone on May 14, 2020 about the accessibility problems on TVO’s website. It is especially timely that I am writing you on Global Accessibility Awareness Day.

Here are several key points that I shared with you during our discussion.

I explained that TVO’s online learning content requires a major review as soon as possible for accessibility problems. Our preliminary look at them revealed significant and obvious problems. This strongly suggests that accessibility problems are likely more pervasive. The fact that they turned up so quickly suggests to us that TVO has not done effective accessibility user testing.

I explained that to rectify this, TVO needs to immediately put in place several new measures. It needs to now publicly commit to fix its online content’s accessibility problems and to ensure that any new online content created in the future is accessible from the start.

You explained that you have been in your position for about one year as TVO’s Vice President of Digital Content. Previously, you were a superintendent of schools at the York Region District School Board. You didn’t claim to be a subject matter expert on digital content accessibility, though you have taken required basic AODA training – training which we know to be quite introductory.

TVO needs to have a senior official with subject matter expertise in digital accessibility with lead responsibility and authority for ensuring the accessibility of TVO’s digital content and online offerings. It seems clear from the presence of accessibility problems in TVO’s online educational content that it is lacking that expertise in a leadership role.

I outlined for you that a number of major organizations have helpfully established a position of Chief Accessibility Officer to address their accessibility needs and duties. TVO could benefit from doing so. From what you explained, it appears that no one senior official at TVO has full responsibility for and authority over ensuring digital accessibility. Responsibility is spread over several members of the TVO senior management team. That is a far less effective way of addressing this important issue.

TVO needs to bring on board the subject matter expertise to fix this problem. I explained that there are digital accessibility experts TVO can retain to assist in this area.

TVO needs to establish and make public a detailed plan to fix the accessibility problems with its current digital learning content and to ensure that new digital content that TVO creates in the future is barrier-free. I explained that end-user testing is an important aspect of this. Automated checking tools cannot replace proper user testing by human beings. From our preliminary inspection of some of TVO’s online educational content, it seemed that no proper user testing would have earlier occurred.

You said you appreciated our raising these concerns and the recommendations that I shared. Our raising these concerns had escalated TVO’s attention. We appreciate your agreeing to write us to let us know what new action TVO will take to address these concerns.

We hope the Ontario Government will support TVO’s taking swift action to correct these problems. We had raised our concerns about TVO at senior levels within the Ministry of Education. The Minister of Education Stephen Lecce has repeatedly said that the Government has partnered with TVO to help deliver online education to students during the COVID-19 crisis.

Finally, I emphasized that as a public broadcast, TVO should be a leader in this area. In contrast to TVO’s accessibility deficiencies, WGBH, a US PBS station, is a key hub and, I believe, the birthplace for the important accessibility innovation of audio description for video content.

We look forward to hearing from you about the reforms TVO will adopt. It is important for corrective action to be taken quickly, given that schools remain closed for the rest of this school year due to the COVID-19 crisis and may have to close again should there be a second surge of COVID-19.

Please stay safe.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

CC

Premier Doug Ford

[email protected]

Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education,

[email protected]

Raymond Cho, Minister of Seniors and Accessibility

[email protected]

Nancy Naylor, Deputy Minister of Education

[email protected]

Claudine Munroe, Director of the Special Education/Success for All Branch

[email protected]

Denise Cole, Deputy Minister for Seniors and Accessibility

[email protected]

Susan Picarello, Assistant Deputy Minister, Accessibility Directorate of Ontario

[email protected]

Renu Mandhane, Chief Commissioner, Ontario Human Rights Commission

[email protected]

May 8, 2020 Email from Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce to Ontario School Boards

May 8 2020 Email from Minister of Education Stephen Lecce to Ontario School Boards

From: Ministry of Education (EDU) <

[email protected]>

Sent: May 8, 2020 5:36 PM

To: Ministry of Education (EDU) <

[email protected]>

Subject: Updates on Continuity of Learning for the Extended School Closure Period | Mises à jour sur la continuité de l’apprentissage pendant la période

de fermeture prolongée des écoles

table with 2 columns and 2 rows

Memorandum To:

Chairs of District School Boards

Directors of Education

School Authorities

From:

Stephen Lecce

Minister of Education

Nancy Naylor

Deputy Minister

table end

Thank you for your continued commitment to supporting students during the school closure period. We have heard so many inspiring stories from across the province of students, parents, and educators doing extraordinary work to continue learning and build and maintain relationships at this time.

During this time, the mental health and well-being of students and the people working in the education system remains a priority. The government and school boards have moved rapidly to mobilize critical mental health resources and supports for students during these uncertain times.

As you know, the school closure period has been extended to at least May 31, 2020. To that end, we are writing to provide guidance on provincial standards for continuity of learning for the remainder of the closure period, as well as to provide updates on progress to date.

GUIDANCE FOR CONTINUITY OF LEARNING

As we entered the school closure period, our transition to Learn at Home was aided by existing tools that were in place to support virtual learning.  The ministry provides Ontario’s Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) at no cost to educators in school boards and First Nation/federally operated schools to use for delivering online programming. As a learning management system, the VLE provides tools for both synchronous and asynchronous learning delivery.  Boards may already have access to other synchronous learning management systems and tools, such as Google Classroom or Edsby.

While the expectation of the ministry was that educators would embrace the use of synchronous learning during the school closure period, there has been an inconsistent uptake of this mode of learning. As such, this memo is providing clarity on the ministry position.

Recognizing there are a wide range of modalities that are used in the continuum of learning between educators and their students, the ministry’s expectation is that synchronous learning be used as part of whole class instruction, in smaller groups of students, and/or in a one-on-one context.

We know that parents and students are looking for ways to interact with their teachers – which can be addressed through multiple modalities – and that online synchronous learning experience with teachers and education workers is an effective and supportive method that will position students to succeed during the school closure period. Similarly, parents expect their child’s educators to strive toward as normal a learning environment as possible during this period, of which synchronous learning is a key component.

Boards should take steps to ensure that privacy considerations are addressed and that students are aware of best practices, including not giving out passwords, ensuring that teachers are the last person to leave a synchronous meeting, and respecting other board policies on student conduct.

We recognize that there may be exceptional situations where synchronous online delivery may not be possible for all students. Exceptions could include, for example, where a parent has excused their child from instruction or this form of instruction, in which case a parent’s wishes should be respected.

If a student cannot participate due to a lack of devices or internet connectivity, or where students require accommodations for special education needs, alternate arrangements must be made, including personal outreach through phone calls. With that in mind, it is insufficient for educators to communicate with their students in one interaction per week, for example. We recognize that school boards have made extraordinary efforts to ensure that students have devices and connectivity wherever possible, and we once again reiterate our expectation that boards provide necessary technology to students as soon as possible, and appropriate accommodations for students with special education needs, where necessary.  The ministry will continue to support school boards in these efforts.

If a teacher or education worker does not feel they can currently deliver education to their students in this manner, schools and boards are encouraged to provide support and professional development.  However, in situations where teachers or education workers are not delivering synchronous learning, schools and boards are expected to immediately move to a team assignment approach to ensure that students are offered synchronous delivery of teacher led learning.

School boards should continue to follow the guidance provided on March 31, 2020 regarding the hours per student, per week, and the suggested areas of curriculum focus by grade groupings.

UPDATES ON PROGRESS TO DATE

Working Together

Between April 15 and 29, the ministry conducted a series of meetings beginning with Parent Involvement Committee Chairs and extending to include meetings with the following key roles responsible for supporting vulnerable students: Student Success and Student Effectiveness Leads, Indigenous Graduation Coaches, and Black Student Graduation Coaches. These meetings provided a venue for board leads to share successful practices and ongoing challenges to supporting vulnerable students and identify additional ways to offer support.

During these meetings, partners in school boards shared information on the many ways they are addressing the needs of vulnerable students, their wellbeing, and academic success. The ministry will continue to work with partners to determine ways to support student well-being, engagement in learning, and inclusive approaches to learning within a remote learning environment, as well as when students return to school.

Access to Technology

Access to internet connectivity and learning devices has been identified by school boards and other stakeholders as an urgent need during the school closure period. In response to this need, the ministry launched an education-related call for proposals on the Ontario Together web portal, focused on supporting

equity of access to remote learning.

Through this initiative, the ministry will identify proposals that school boards may wish to consider to support student and educator access to internet connectivity and devices such as computers, tablets, and portable wi-fi hotspots. As well, school boards may also wish to consider consulting other partners and sources, such as OECM, to consider comparable services and goods.

As we prepare for the eventual return to the classroom, broadband modernization activities in schools continue.  All Ontario students and educators in publicly funded schools will have access to reliable, fast, secure and affordable internet services at school, in all regions of the province including rural and northern communities.  This work will be complete in secondary schools by September 2020 and in elementary schools by September 2021.

As of March 31, 2020, broadband modernization was complete at 1,983 schools (including 403 in northern communities and 686 in rural communities) and in progress at 2,953 schools (including 99 in northern communities and 408 in rural communities).

Ensuring protection of privacy and security of digital learning resources is of the utmost importance for the ministry to support a safe, inclusive and accepting learning environment for synchronous learning.  While school boards remain independently accountable for establishing clear policies and approving appropriate use of collaboration tools to support students’ learning online, we will continue to work with boards and our government partners to provide guidance on cyber security and privacy best practices for sharing with educators in your schools.

School Construction

Schools are an essential part of supporting student achievement, as well as providing safe and healthy learning and work environments for students and staff. As we head into the spring and summer months, when school boards undertake critical capital construction and renewal projects, the province has revised the list of essential workplaces to support school infrastructure.  Construction projects and services (e.g. new construction, maintenance and repair) that support the essential operation of, and provide new capacity in, schools and child care centres can proceed, provided that there is strict adherence to health and safety requirements.

As school boards are best situated to understand their own particular circumstances, the ministry is asking that school boards consider whether their construction projects are able to reopen in light of these changes. This may mean that boards will need to consult with their own legal counsel, as appropriate.

Learn at Home/

Apprendre à la maison

Learn at Home/

Apprendre à la maison

was launched on March 20, 2020. This website provides supplemental resources for parents and students to support independent learning at home while schools are closed.

Learn at Home/

Apprendre à la maison  includes learning resources on a variety of subjects including math, science, technology, Indigenous history and ways of knowing, art, physical education,  social sciences, and mental health. Supports for students with learning disabilities and special education needs, including autism, have also been included.

Resources continue to be added to address a range of learning needs.

Over the past month, there have been over four million visits to  Learn at Home/

Apprendre à la maison.

We encourage you to continue to share this website and promote the new resources available with parents and students in your board.

If there are additional high-quality online learning resources that you think would be particularly beneficial to students and parents at this time, we encourage you to share them with us by emailing  [email protected]

School Mental Health Ontario

School Mental Health Ontario – a provincial implementation support team that works alongside the ministry, school boards, and provincial education and health organizations to develop a systematic and comprehensive approach to school mental health – has several resources available to support families during the school closure period (

https://smho-smso.ca/blog/how-to-support-student-mental-health-during-the-covid-19-pandemic/).

Professional development

Through webinars, the ministry is providing professional development to support educators in the use of the VLE and pedagogy for remote, synchronous and asynchronous learning. In addition, the ministry is providing professional learning webinars for educators on specialised topics such as supporting students with special education needs, kindergarten/primary education and meaningful assessments and evaluations.

To date, more than 23,000 teachers have participated in, or registered for future webinars, on 34 different topics.  Completed webinars have been recorded and posted for teachers who were unable to attend the live session.

In addition to the webinar series, the ministry has created the Supports for Virtual Learning eCommunity.  Over 9,000 educational staff have accessed this professional learning community, including resources for self-serve learning that are updated regularly.

First Nation and Indigenous partners

The ministry continues to support First Nation education partners during the school closure period. This has included providing access to online education resources, connecting First Nation partners to the supply chain to purchase Chromebooks and iPads, as well as encouraging local school boards to work closely with local First Nations and Indigenous partners, where possible.

In addition to supporting educators through teleconferences in areas/communities where bandwidth is limited or unavailable, the ministry has responded

to outreach from First Nation partners and has established a series of ongoing virtual meetings with First Nations Education Task Teams. The Task Teams were established to work collaboratively with First Nation education leadership, to identify gaps in services and develop options to address emerging priorities for First Nation students.

We are also ensuring that First Nation educators have access to Ontario’s VLE and training for teachers provided by the ministry.

There is no cost to the First Nation schools to access and use the VLE.

Summer learning

The ministry is working with boards and organizations to support an expanded offering of summer learning opportunities. This plan will focus on programs that support student learning through the summer such as summer school, course upgrading, and gap-closing programs for vulnerable students, students with special education needs, and Indigenous students.  This plan will be flexible to accommodate both remote and face-to-face learning, pending emergency measures through the summer. While summer learning opportunities are voluntary for students, we hope that many students will take advantage of the opportunity to continue their learning throughout the summer.

The goal with these measures is to mitigate the impacts of the school closure period and the learning loss that may typically occur during the summer.

Further details will be provided in the coming weeks.

Communication with parents and families

We recognize that many boards are creating opportunities for parents to provide feedback on the current learning experience through surveys and other platforms, as well as continuing to seek the advice of their Parent Involvement Committee (PIC). Through a virtual meeting with PIC chairs at the end of April, the ministry heard that parents appreciate the efforts their boards are making to address a variety of diverse family challenges due to the pandemic.  We encourage boards to continue to be open to feedback and to recognize where delivery of education under current circumstances can be challenging, and can be adjusted to better serve students and families.

Thank you once again for your flexibility and willingness to work together to support Ontario’s students.

Sincerely,

Stephen Lecce                        Nancy Naylor

Minister of Education            Deputy Minister

c:    President, Association des conseils scolaires des écoles publiques de l’ontario (ACÉPO)

Executive Director, Association des conseils scolaires des écoles publiques de l’ontario (ACÉPO)

President, Association franco-ontarienne des conseils scolaires catholiques (AFOCSC)

Executive Director, Association franco-ontarienne des conseils scolaires catholiques (AFOCSC)

President, Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association (OCSTA)

Executive Director, Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association (OCSTA)

President, Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA)

Executive Director, Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA)

Executive Director, Council of Ontario Directors of Education (CODE)

President, Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO)

Executive Director and Secretary-Treasurer, Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO)

President, Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA)

General Secretary, Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA)

President, Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO)

General Secretary, Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO)

President, Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF)

General Secretary, Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF)

Chair, Ontario Council of Educational Workers (OCEW)

Chair, Education Workers’ Alliance of Ontario (EWAO)

President of OSBCU, Canadian Union of Public Employees – Ontario (CUPE-ON)

Co-ordinator, Canadian Union of Public Employees – Ontario (CUPE-ON)



Source link