Yesterday’s Virtual Town Hall Reveals Serious Hardships Facing Hundreds of Thousands of Ontario Students with Disabilities and Makes Practical Recommendations for Urgent Action


But Will the Ford Government Do What’s Needed?

News Release For Immediate Release

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
ONTARIO AUTISM COALITION

May 5, 2020 Toronto: A ground-breaking virtual Town Hall held online yesterday afternoon revealed that a third of a million students with disabilities in Ontario disproportionately suffer hardships due to the shift to distance education. (Video of the Town Hall is now archived on Youtube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phdtibf5DbM At this event, organized by grassroots disability advocates, experts gave teachers, principals and parents of students with disabilities dozens of practical tips for overcoming the many disability barriers that online schooling creates. Anchored by Ontario Autism Coalition president Laura Kirby-McIntosh (herself a teacher) and AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky (an Osgoode Hall Law School visiting professor), this virtual public forum shone a spotlight on the critical learning needs of at least one third of a million students with disabilities in Ontario (1 of every 6 students in Ontario-funded schools). The Town Hall addressed disability barriers such as:

The Ford Government partnered with TV Ontario to provide online school content, but TVOs online content has substantial disability accessibility problems that impede a range of students, teachers and parents with disabilities. The Government must get its own TV station to fix this now.

Zoom is the most accessible online platform for students, parents and teachers with disabilities, such as those who have vision loss or dyslexia. However, the government left school boards floundering to figure out which to use, and at least one board doesnt allow the use of Zoom at all.

Students with autism or other behaviour-related disabilities can face major challenges with the total disruption of predictable schedules on which they heavily relied.

This grassroots effort was just a first step to fill a huge gap which the Ford Government has left. Time did not permit speakers to cover every disability and each recurring barrier that students with disabilities face during school closures, said co-anchor David Lepofsky. As volunteers, we pulled this Town Hall together in under a week. The Government should use its staff and resources to quickly hold sequel events to address other strategies and action tips we did not have time to cover.

It was wrong for the Ford Government to burden every school board during this crisis to have to reinvent the wheel for students with disabilities, said co-anchor Laura Kirby-McIntosh. The Ford Government should now step up to the plate. It should quickly find out what solutions are being devised by teachers and parents of students with disabilities on the front lines, and share these with all school boards and parents of students with disabilities during the COVID crisis.

The Media are welcome to use excerpts from the virtual public forum in their coverage. Technical issues with captioning during the first few minutes will be repaired soon.

For further information, contact:
David Lepofsky, Chair, AODA Alliance, [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance
Laura Kirby-McIntosh President Ontario Autism Coalition [email protected] 416-315-7939 www.ontarioautismcoalition.com Twitter @OntAutism Background Resources
The April 30, 2020 letter from the AODA Alliance to Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce, which sets out a list of concrete and constructive requests for action that the AODA Alliance presented to Ontarios Ministry of Education.
The AODA Alliances education web page, that documents its efforts over the past decade to advocate for Ontario’s education system to become fully accessible to students with disabilities
The AODA Alliances COVID-19 web page, setting out our efforts to advocate for governments to meet the urgent needs of people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.
The Ontario Autism Coalitions web site, to learn about its ongoing advocacy efforts.
The earlier widely-watched April 7, 2020 virtual public forum by the AODA Alliance and Ontario Autism Coalition on the overall impact of the COVID-19 crisis on 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities. Speakers at the April 7, 2020 Virtual Public Forum:
1. Co-anchor: Laura Kirby-McIntosh, President, Ontario Autism Coalition and teacher
2. Co-anchor: David Lepofsky, AODA Alliance chair and Osgoode Hall Law visiting professor
3. York University Faculty of Educations Professor Pamela Millet, an expert in meeting the learning needs of students who are deaf or hard of hearing.
4. Lolly Herman, founder and Executive Director of the Umbrella Tree Educational Services, an expert in meeting the learning needs of students with autism.
5. Marty Schultz, cofounder of ObjectiveEd, which builds distance learning digital curriculum and educational games for pre-K to 12th grade students with vision impairments, used by teachers worldwide, an expert in education of students with vision loss.
6. Lisa Glover, a TDSB itinerant Child and Youth Worker, is an expert in addressing behavioural challenges experienced by some students with disabilities .
7. Karen McCall, Adjunct Faculty at Mohawk Colleges Accessible Media Production Program and owner of Karlen Communications, an expert on making digital documents and other digital content accessible to people with disabilities.
8. Jeff Butler, acting Assistant Deputy Minister of Student Support and Field Services at the Ontario Ministry of Education, the Ontario Governments senior official responsible for special education.




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