Transitions Facilitators for Students with Disabilities


Currently, there are no AODA education standards. However, two AODA standards development committees have drafted recommendations of guidelines that AODA education standards should include. One committee has recommended guidelines for the kindergarten to grade twelve (K-12) education system. In contrast, the other committee has recommended guidelines for the university and college education system. In addition, some members from both committees have joined to form the Education Technical Sub-Committee. This Sub-Committee recommends guidelines to prevent and remove barriers students face during transitions. Transitions include beginning school, between elementary school and high school, and from high school to work, community life, or postsecondary education. In this article, we outline recommendations from the K-12 Committee and the Sub-Committee for school board transitions facilitators.

Transitions Facilitators for Students with Disabilities

School Board Transitions Facilitators

The Committee recommends that each school board should have a transitions facilitator or navigator. This facilitator would:

  • Help each student develop their own transition plan
  • Create transition resources and training for school and school board staff

In addition, the Ministry of Education should create a hub where facilitators across Ontario could share information. Likewise, students or staff could share resources and suggestions.

The Sub-Committee outlines how facilitators should help students make informed decisions about opportunities to pursue after high school, including:

  • Community life
  • Work
  • Apprenticeship
  • College or university

For example, facilitators should work with community agencies that provide services to clients with disabilities. As a result, facilitators can help young adults develop skills and services to contribute to their communities.

Furthermore, facilitators should also work with businesses and social service agencies to promote employment options for transitioning students with disabilities. For example, social service agencies can help students research or choose career paths based on their interests and skills. Likewise, these agencies can teach job readiness skills. In addition, facilitators can raise awareness at local businesses about how young adults with disabilities could be a valuable asset to their companies.

Moreover, facilitators should teach students and school staff about the types of support that universities and colleges provide to students with disabilities. Once a student has chosen the college or university they will attend, their facilitator can help them learn about the specific accommodations that this school provides. Then, the facilitator can help the student find the most appropriate accommodations for them, and access those accommodations once they are enrolled in their chosen program.

Transitions Facilitators or Navigators in Colleges and Universities

Similarly, each college or university should also have a transitions facilitator or navigator. Each of these facilitators should create resources about the accommodations or services available for students with disabilities. Students and staff in the K-12 education sector should have access to these resources. Moreover, facilitators should provide direct support to transitioning students with disabilities. In addition, facilitators should also work with other departments in their schools, to alert them to transitioning students’ needs. For example, some departments that should know more about serving incoming students with disabilities include:

  • Admissions and Recruitment
  • Residence
  • Student life

Facilitators can help these and other departments recognize and remove accessibility barriers to improve transition outcomes.

Furthermore, there should be a transitions hub for colleges and universities, similar to the proposed K-12 hub, where Facilitators can network with each other and with staff and students. Facilitators across the province, at large and small schools, can receive training, share resources, and develop best practices together. Moreover, both hubs can connect to share information about how best to jointly support the needs of transitioning students.




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Financial Support in School Transitions of Students with Disabilities


Currently, there are no AODA education standards. However, two AODA standards development committees have drafted recommendations of guidelines that AODA education standards should include. One committee has recommended guidelines for the kindergarten to grade twelve (K-12) education system. In contrast, the other committee has recommended guidelines for the university and college education system. In addition, some members from both committees have joined to form the Education Technical Sub-Committee. This Sub-Committee recommends guidelines to prevent and remove barriers students face during transitions. Transitions include beginning school, between elementary school and high school, and from high school to work, community life, or postsecondary education. In this article, we outline the Sub-Committee’s recommendations for financial support in school transitions of students with disabilities.

Financial Support in School Transitions of Students with Disabilities

The Sub-Committee recommends that the Ministry of Education should work with other departments, including the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services (MCSS). These and other ministries should provide all schools with details about financial supports and services for people with disabilities, including:

  • Developmental services Ontario
  • The Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP)
  • The Bursary for Students with Disabilities (BSWD) through the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP)
  • The Canada Student Grant for Services and Equipment for Students with Permanent Disabilities (CSG-PDSE)

These programs give many people with disabilities the support or financial independence to make decisions for their lives. Every transitioning student and their family should learn whether they are eligible for these programs, and how to apply. For example, school boards should alert students with individual education plans (IEPs) in grade seven (7) or above about Developmental Services Ontario and ODSP. Alerting students, staff, and families at this stage gives them a clearer understanding about the supports they or their child can access as adults. Likewise, school boards should inform students with IEPs in grade nine (9) and above about the BSWD and CSG-PDSE. In addition, students should receive reminders about these programs before they graduate from high school. These programs can provide financial support in university or college for:

  • Tuition
  • Living expenses
  • Equipment or services, such as assistive technology or note-taking

In addition, the Ministry of Colleges and Universities should provide alternative funding options for students who are not eligible for OSAP. These options should also support students with disabilities and education-related costs that their OSAP funding cannot meet.




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Accessible Transitions from School to Work


Currently, there are no AODA education standards. However, two AODA standards development committees have drafted recommendations of guidelines that AODA education standards should include. One committee has recommended guidelines for the kindergarten to grade twelve (K-12) education system. In contrast, the other committee has recommended guidelines for the university and college education system. In addition, some members from both committees have joined to form the Education Technical Sub-Committee. This Sub-Committee recommends guidelines to prevent and remove barriers students face during transitions. Transitions include beginning school, between elementary school and high school, and from high school to work, community life, or postsecondary education. In this article, we outline the Sub-Committee’s recommendations for accessible transitions from school to work.

Accessible Transitions from School to Work

In addition to K-12 Committee recommendations for experiential learning programs, such as job placements, the Sub-Committee recommends accessibility in co-operative education programs (Co-Ops). Schools and organizations providing Co-Op job placements should ensure that students have all the accommodations they need during the program, including:

  • Support staff at the job placement, if needed
  • Transportation to and from the job placement

These accommodations will help students recognize their need for employment accommodations, and how to arrange them.

Moreover, the Ministry of Education should work with other sectors to create more Co-Op placements for students transitioning directly from high school to employment. In addition, they should create more placements in similar programs that prepare students for employment, including:

  • The Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM)
  • The Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP)
  • Community involvement opportunities

Similarly, school boards should provide information about alternative credential programs that students can access, such as micro credentials.

School boards should also ensure that every experiential learning placement follows all requirements in the AODA’s Employment Standards. Likewise, placements must uphold students’ right to accommodation in employment under the Ontario Human Rights Code. Likewise, school boards should ensure that these placements will be fully accessible, equitable, and inclusive to students with disabilities.

In addition, stakeholders in the successful transition of students with disabilities into employment should share lessons and best practices. These stakeholders include:

  • Members of the K-12 and post-secondary education sectors
  • Provincial and Federal employment providers for people with disabilities
  • Business associations
  • The Ministries of:
    • Education
    • Colleges and Universities
    • Labour, Training and Skills Development

These stakeholders should identify and remove barriers to employment that students with disabilities face.




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Accessible Transition Planning in Education


Currently, there are no AODA education standards. However, two AODA standards development committees have drafted recommendations of guidelines that AODA education standards should include. One committee has recommended guidelines for the kindergarten to grade twelve (K-12) education system. In contrast, the other committee has recommended guidelines for the university and college education system. In addition, some members from both committees have joined to form the Education Technical Sub-Committee. This Sub-Committee recommends guidelines to prevent and remove barriers students face during transitions. Transitions include beginning school, between elementary school and high school, and from high school to work, community life, or postsecondary education. In this article, we outline recommendations from the K-12 Committee and the Sub-Committee for accessible transition planning in education.

Accessible Transition Planning in Education

In the K-12 school system, students with disabilities access accommodations through their individual education plans (IEPs). Teachers, support staff, and parents work together to develop and implement these plans. In contrast, after high school, students must advocate for their own accommodations. For instance, there is no standard to support college or university students who need accommodations at different schools. Furthermore, students must clearly understand how their disabilities will affect their future careers or studies. For example, students should know what accessibility barriers they may encounter in their fields. Likewise, students should learn how they can work with professors, supervisors, employers, or colleagues to prevent or remove barriers.

In short, before high school graduation, students should learn the skills needed to make successful transitions. These skills will improve students’ chances of moving smoothly from high school into the next stage of their lives. Therefore, school boards should create transition plans to prepare students with disabilities to learn these skills.

The Committee recommends that the Ministry of Education work with other government departments to create a guide for transition planning. They may use the Inter-Ministerial Guidelines for Transition Planning for Students with Developmental Disabilities (2011) as a basis to develop similar guidance for students with other disabilities.

Transition Plans

The Sub-Committee recommends that school boards should identify all the accessibility barriers students may face during transitions:

  • Throughout elementary school
  • From elementary school to high school
  • From high school to:
    • Work
    • Community living
    • Higher education

School boards should list all identified barriers in their multi-year accessibility plans. Then, they should outline how they will remove each barrier within a specified time.

Furthermore, each student should have their own transition plan outlining their future goals, and steps to reach those goals. Students should take part in teacher-student conferences about their transition plans and IEPs. These conferences should take place for students at all levels, from elementary school through high school.

Moreover, the Ministry of Education should provide school boards with resources and guidelines to help staff teach students skills that are important in transition planning, including:

For example, lessons in literature or social studies can hone self-awareness, self-advocacy, or resilience. In addition, schools should offer courses that teach the learning strategies that students’ IEPs require. Similarly, school boards should create curriculum that helps students enhance their executive functioning skills.

Teacher Training for Transitions

Moreover, teachers, administrators, and other school staff should have training to support students through all these transitions. The ministries of Education, Colleges and Universities, and Labour, Training, and Skills Development should create a database to provide staff with resources to support their transitioning students.

Likewise, teachers should receive professional development training to coach students through disclosure of disability in school, work, and social settings. Similarly, students should know how the supports they already use in school help them to learn. As a result, they can clearly advocate their need for these supports at work or in higher education. Furthermore, teachers should have training in assistive technology, to teach students how to use assistive technology in school. Moreover, the Ministry should provide resources, in accessible formats, describing accommodations that colleges and universities have available for students with disabilities. In addition to gaining this knowledge through teachers, students should also have the chance to learn from mentors with lived experience of disability, disclosure, and accessing accommodations.

Finally, school boards should ensure that all students have the chance to access courses and other opportunities that prepare them for work and post-secondary education. For instance, high school students taking summer school or night school continuing education courses should receive the same accommodations in those courses that they access during their other classes.

The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee reports that some students with disabilities, and some racialized students, have less access to these opportunities. Instead, school boards should structure curriculum and assessments to promote person-directed learning.




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School Transitions for Indigenous Students with Disabilities


Currently, there are no AODA education standards. However, two AODA standards development committees have drafted recommendations of guidelines that AODA education standards should include. One committee has recommended guidelines for the kindergarten to grade twelve (K-12) education system. In contrast, the other committee has recommended guidelines for the university and college education system. In addition, some members from both committees have joined to form the Education Technical Sub-Committee. This Sub-Committee recommends guidelines to prevent and remove barriers students face during transitions. Transitions include beginning school, between elementary school and high school, and from high school to work, community life, or postsecondary education. In this article, we outline the Sub-Committee’s recommendations for school transitions for Indigenous students with disabilities.

School Transitions for Indigenous Students with Disabilities

All students with disabilities may face accessibility barriers, including organizational and attitudinal barriers. However, Indigenous students with disabilities transitioning between schools or school systems may face more of these barriers. In other words, they may experience intersectional discrimination in school. Therefore, the Sub-Committee recommends the creation of an Accessible Indigenous Education Circle to focus on removing these barriers. Members of the Circle should include:

  • Indigenous educators
  • Disability service providers
  • Representatives from:
    • First Nations Boards and communities
    • The Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility
    • Other government ministries
    • Ontario school boards

Moreover, members should have knowledge, understanding, and experience with:

  • The cultures, values, and histories of Indigenous peoples
  • Current issues facing Indigenous peoples
  • Disability
  • Ableism
  • Education

The Circle should research the systemic barriers that Indigenous students with disabilities experience in education. For instance, the Circle should know the number of Indigenous students with disabilities in Ontario, and recognize what their needs are. Moreover, the Circle should develop a process for identifying and meeting students’ accessibility needs during transitions in their schooling. Furthermore, the Circle should develop plans, processes, and protocols that will improve students’ well-being and help them succeed in school. The Circle should ensure that school boards and Indigenous communities share resources that meet students’ needs and foster their identities as Indigenous students with disabilities. Likewise, the Circle should share the information and resources it creates with Special Education Advisory Committees (SEACs) in school boards across the province.

In addition, education service agreements between the Ministry of Education and Indigenous Boards and communities should discuss transitions for Indigenous students with disabilities.

Transitions Between Indigenous Schools and Provincially-Funded Schools

Furthermore, students should easily transition between Indigenous schools and provincially-funded schools. They should receive the same accommodations, supports, and services from both school systems. The Circle should develop processes to ensure that a student’s new school knows about and provides these accommodations. For instance, a student should not need to wait until they receive their Ontario education number before they can access their accommodations. Moreover, students should receive supports before they make this transition, so that they are mentally and spiritually prepared to deal with the organizational and attitudinal barriers they may face.

For example, the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility should create mental wellness tools for transitioning Indigenous students with disabilities, based on the Indigenous Wellness Framework. In addition, Transitions Facilitators should meet with students, their parents, and staff in both school systems.

Furthermore, teacher’s colleges should offer more training about teaching Indigenous students, including Indigenous students with disabilities. Similarly, teachers in provincially-funded schools should have professional development to learn about Indigenous cultures, and how to support transitioning students:

  • Physically
  • Mentally
  • Emotionally
  • Spiritually

For example, teachers writing individual education plans (IEPs) should recognize not only a student’s disability-related needs, but also cultural differences. This focus should ensure curriculum, assessments, and learning environments that are barrier-free for students of all abilities and cultures. For instance, schools should celebrate and raise awareness about Indigenous cultures and communities. The Sub-Committee reports that racial tensions exist in certain regions of the province. Actively promoting welcome for Indigenous students, including those with disabilities, can be a starting point for countering these tensions.

Transition to Higher Education for Indigenous Students with Disabilities

The Ministry of Seniors and Accessibility should also create a plan to encourage Indigenous students with disabilities to transition to university or college. For example, the Ministry should inform students, families, school staff, and Facilitators about financial aid, such as:

  • Band funding
  • Scholarships
  • The Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP)

Finally, the Ministry of Seniors and Accessibility should encourage scholars to research trends surrounding Indigenous students with disabilities in university or college. For example, researchers could study factors that encourage or prevent students from enrolling or continuing in school. This data could help the government develop further strategies to remove barriers and work toward the success of Indigenous students with disabilities in higher education.




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Accessible Transition to Kindergarten


Currently, there are no AODA education standards. However, two AODA standards development committees have drafted recommendations of guidelines that AODA education standards should include. One committee has recommended guidelines for the kindergarten to grade twelve (K-12) education system. In contrast, the other committee has recommended guidelines for the university and college education system. In addition, some members from both committees have joined to form the Education Technical Sub-Committee. This Sub-Committee recommends guidelines to prevent and remove barriers students face during transitions. Transitions include beginning school, between elementary school and high school, and from high school to work, community life, or postsecondary education. In this article, we outline the Sub-Committee’s recommendations for accessible transition to Kindergarten.

Accessible Transition to Kindergarten

Before they start school, some young children with disabilities receive early intervention services, such as:

  • Occupational therapy
  • Physiotherapy
  • Augmentative and alternative communication
  • Speech-language services
  • Psychological assessments and services
  • Early intervention programs or services for children who:
    • Are blind or visually impaired
    • Are deaf or hard of hearing
    • Have learning disabilities
    • Have physical disabilities
    • Are autistic

However, when children begin Kindergarten, they should receive many of these services through their schools or school boards. Therefore, the Sub-Committee recommends that each school board creates and implements transition practices and processes, so that children can transfer smoothly from their early intervention programs to their school boards’ services. For instance, service providers from early intervention programs could meet with school board service providers to discuss children’s progress. Furthermore, school boards should base these practices and processes on evidence. Moreover, the Ministry of Education should ensure that school boards across the province have consistent transition practices and processes.

In addition, students with disabilities beginning Kindergarten should attend the same school as their siblings. However, some students with disabilities do not attend their neighbourhood schools. Instead, they may attend other schools with modified programs or more accessibility features. Nonetheless, families may wish their children with and without disabilities to go to the same school. Therefore, if a student with a disability attends a non-neighbourhood school, their family should have the option of enrolling non-disabled siblings at the same school. In contrast, the family does not have this option for schools that only serve students with certain disabilities. For example, if a student attends a school for children with learning disabilities, their siblings cannot attend this school with them.




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Debriefing Large-scale Emergency Response in Education


Currently, there are no AODA education standards. However, two AODA standards development committees have drafted recommendations of guidelines that AODA education standards should include. One committee has recommended guidelines for the kindergarten to grade twelve (K-12) education system. In this article, we outline recommendations for debriefing accessible large-scale emergency response in education.

Debriefing Large-scale Emergency Response in Education

At the end of a large-scale emergency like the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Education should analyze its response. This analysis or debriefing will help the Ministry make improvements to its:

Therefore, after any large-scale emergency, both the Ministry and school boards should update their emergency response plans. These updates should concentrate on ways to improve access to learning and healthcare services for students with disabilities. For example, the updated plans should ensure that the Ministry and school boards have all the equipment and supplies they need to support students during an emergency. Likewise, plans should include updates and maintenance of any infrastructure changes. As a result, the Ministry’s plan should include funding for all these goods, services, and facilities.

Moreover, debriefings should be based on feedback from students with disabilities, their families, and staff who work with them. For instance, students and parents can provide feedback about their experiences with online learning. School boards should use this feedback, and Ministry requirements, to identify, remove, and prevent barriers to online learning, including:

Furthermore, the Ministry can learn through debriefing about how practices to solve emergency problems can continue to support students in non-emergency conditions. For example, many students have succeeded in accessing services or therapies remotely, because of the pandemic. As a result, the Ministry should consider the benefits of continued access to these remote services. For instance, the Ministry can create policies authorizing remote services for students who lack local access to in-person services.

Removing Barriers

Conversely, the Ministry’s debriefing should note barriers that students have experienced, and implement solutions. For example, school boards should have steps to implement public health guidelines in accessible ways that reduce risks and allow more students to safely access school buildings and spaces. Similarly, school boards should ensure continued access to non-educational but vital programs through partner organizations that take place in schools, including:

  • Food or nutrition programs
  • Clothing donations

Likewise, school boards should have protocols for safely accommodating students who need support for the process of:

  • Detecting symptoms of illness, including:
    • Viruses
    • Flu
    • Respiratory infections
  • Isolating
  • Contact tracing

Furthermore, the Ministry’s plan should involve ways to work with other government departments to provide remote mental health supports for students. Similarly, school boards should recognize and meet any needs for increased staff and services, such as:

  • Psychologists
  • Social workers
  • Guidance counsellors
  • Educational assistants

Likewise, volunteers with disabilities should be able to continue offering their services safely during emergencies. While some people may volunteer virtually, others should be able to volunteer safely in-person.

In addition, all students should have the knowledge needed to access these and other learning resources remotely. Therefore, students in Kindergarten to Grade Twelve should receive lessons in class to introduce them to the online learning platforms their schools use. These lessons will prepare students for any future sudden transitions to remote learning. While it is developing these lessons, the Ministry should provide school staff with access to resources that will help students learn this information. Moreover, school boards should have procedures to reduce security risks within their online learning platforms. Furthermore, students’ remote learning should include access to social activities.

Additionally, the Ministry should also provide guidelines to help families access childcare for students who must learn remotely during an emergency.




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Preparing for Accessible Education During Large-scale Emergencies


Currently, there are no AODA education standards. However, two AODA standards development committees have drafted recommendations of guidelines that AODA education standards should include. One committee has recommended guidelines for the kindergarten to grade twelve (K-12) education system. In this article, we outline recommendations for preparing for accessible education during large-scale emergencies.

Preparing for Accessible Education During Large-Scale Emergencies

As part of the Ministry of Education’s emergency response plan, the Ministry should establish a Central Education Leadership Command Table. This table should have primary responsibility for ensuring that all students with disabilities can access needed supports during emergencies. In other words, students who need educational accommodations should receive them, even under emergency conditions, through the Table’s work. The Table should include representatives for:

In addition, the Ministry should appoint a Communication Lead who will help Table members understand Ministry expectations for accessible emergency education and healthcare.

Likewise, a cross-sectorial partnership table, locally and at the provincial level, should help the Ministry work together with other government departments needed to support students. For example, the Ministry may plan in conjunction with other departments to provide emergency services from healthcare professionals, including:

  • Physiotherapists
  • Speech therapists
  • Psychologists
  • Other mental health professionals

The cross-sectorial partnership table and its Communication Lead should also give advice about when and how to:

  • Re-open schools
  • Provide healthcare services

Both tables should have members with disabilities, including students.

School Board Preparation

Similarly, each school board should create its own Central Education Leadership Command Table and appoint its own communication lead. This table should receive and respond to feedback from:

  • Teachers
  • Principals
  • Students’ families

Through this process, school boards should be learning about:

School boards should then decide how systemic policy changes can remove these barriers and resolve these concerns.

School board tables should communicate to share solutions to any accessibility barriers their staff or families face. Moreover, if several school boards face similar barriers, they should report to the Ministry’s Central Education Leadership Command Table. The Ministry should assemble a team who will quickly respond to these reports. Furthermore, the Table should also be proactive about collecting data on how the emergency is impacting students’ learning and well-being. In addition, the Ministry and school board Tables should research how other regions are meeting students’ needs for accessible online learning under emergency conditions:

  • In other regions
  • Throughout the province
  • Across the country
  • Around the world

As tables recognize and resolve concerns, they should communicate clearly with all members of school communities in accessible formats.




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Accessible Online Learning During Large-scale Emergencies


Currently, there are no AODA education standards. However, two AODA standards development committees have drafted recommendations of guidelines that AODA education standards should include. One committee has recommended guidelines for the kindergarten to grade twelve (K-12) education system. In this article, we outline recommendations for accessible online learning during large-scale emergencies.

Accessible Online Learning During Large-Scale Emergencies

The Committee reports that students with disabilities face many new and worsening accessibility barriers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The education system has not been able to respond to this large-scale emergency in ways that meet all the needs of these students. Therefore, the Committee recommends that the Ministry of Education should implement plans and reviews to improve its emergency response. In addition, the Ministry and school boards should ensure that all schools are well-prepared for any future transitions to online learning.

For instance, the Ministry should hire an independent, arms-length digital accessibility consultant to assess various online-learning platforms. The Ministry should then publish a list of the platforms that are most accessible to students, parents, and staff with disabilities. School boards should be allowed to use only the most accessible platforms to host their courses. The consultant should update this list frequently, to note any changes that increase or decrease a platform’s accessibility.

Furthermore, the Ministry should prevent technology barriers in its own digital resources, including online-learning content through TVO and TFO. Similarly, all online information that the Ministry or school boards post should be fully accessible.

Training for Staff and Parents

The Ministry should provide guides and templates that teach all school board staff to post accessible content, such as:

Similarly, the Ministry should provide webinars and templates teaching staff how to make all their lessons and resources available to students remotely. Likewise, school staff should also have training preparing them to help students navigate transitions to and from remote learning during emergencies.

Moreover, parents should also receive training to learn more about how to help their children remotely access supports for:

  • Online learning
  • Mental health
  • Other healthcare usually delivered in the school context

Therefore, the Ministry should provide guidelines for this training. In addition, school boards should also appoint staff to offer support to parents making this transition.

Moreover, the Ministry should make resources available to support students struggling with the conditions of online learning. These students should have access to best practices, strategies, or alternative approaches from:

  • School boards
  • Organizations that aid people with specific disabilities

Resource Hub Accessibility

Moreover, the Ontario government should update and improve the “central hub of mental health and well-being information”. Many resources to support the mental health of students, staff, and parents should be available, locally and across the province. A current central hub makes it easier for people to access the supports they need, in accessible formats. The government should publicize this hub, as well as directly alerting school boards. Similarly, a hub of resources to support students with disabilities, and staff who work with them, should also be available.

In addition, the Ministry, in partnership with other government departments, should ensure continued access to needed healthcare assessments connected to education. For example, students may need healthcare appointments, through platforms like Telehealth, to diagnose mental health conditions and receive ongoing accommodations. The Ministry should ensure that students can access these appointments remotely but confidentially.

All these arrangements will promote smoother responses to emergencies that require transitions to online learning.




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Accessible Large-scale Emergency Response Review in Education


Currently, there are no AODA education standards. However, two AODA standards development committees have drafted recommendations of guidelines that AODA education standards should include. One committee has recommended guidelines for the kindergarten to grade twelve (K-12) education system. In this article, we outline recommendations for accessible large-scale emergency response review in education.

Accessible Large-Scale Emergency Response Review in Education

The COVID-19 pandemic revealed the impact of emergency situations on the education of all students, especially students with disabilities. Therefore, the Committee recommends independent reviews of the Ministry of Education and school boards’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. These reviews will help the Ontario education system prepare to provide accessible education during future emergencies.

First, when the Solicitor General reviews the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, this review should focus on accessibility. For instance, this review could involve feedback from citizens with disabilities, and from the Accessibility Standards Advisory Committee. Similarly, review of the Fire Code should include the same focus and feedback.

Independent Review Committee Assessment

In addition, the Ministry should create an independent committee to review the Ministry and school boards’ support for students with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, the Review Committee should include:

  • School board members
  • Students with disabilities
  • Other community members with disabilities
  • Members of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee
  • Staff from the Ministry of Education

Moreover, the Review Committee should assess how well the Ministry has worked with other government departments to ensure accessible remote learning. Likewise, the Review Committee should consider key decisions the Ministry and school boards made, and their responses to changes. For example, the Review Committee might assess how school boards maintained the accessibility of education during:

  • Transitions from in-person learning to remote learning
  • Blended learning, taking place sometimes in school and sometimes at home

The Review Committee can learn from successes in removing accessibility barriers, as well as from challenges. Finally, the Review Committee can suggest strategies for the Ministry and school boards to use in future emergency situations.

When the Review Committee completes its assessment, it should submit a report to the Premier and Cabinet. Alternatively, the Review Committee should submit an interim report if pandemic conditions last for over one (1) year. The Ontario government should ensure that the Ministry and school boards implement these recommendations when they plan responses to future emergencies.




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