AODA Alliance Asks Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce to Take Important Actions to Meet the Urgent Needs of Students with Disabilities 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: http://www.aodaalliance.org Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

April 29, 2020

SUMMARY

Ontario Minister of Education Stephen Lecce has been in the public spotlight a great deal speaking about the Ford Government’s plans to meet the needs of students during the COVID-19 crisis. But what is he and his Ministry planning to do for students with disabilities during this crisis?

Today the AODA Alliance wrote Mr. Lecce. Our letter is set out below. We ask the Ford Government to take immediate action to address the urgent needs of students with disabilities in Ontario during this crisis. These students number up to a third of a million, if not more. We offer the Minister our help.

Meanwhile, as we announced last Friday, the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition are exploring the possibility of holding a Virtual Town Hall meeting next week to share ideas on what school boards, teachers and parents can do to help with the education of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. We’re inviting the Ontario Government partner with us in this effort. Stay tuned for more news on this important issue.

To learn more, check out and widely share:

* The AODA Alliance’s efforts over the past decade to advocate for full accessibility and inclusion for students with disabilities in Ontario schools.

* The AODA Alliance’s efforts on the COVID-19 crisis are available on our COVID-19 web page. Our long-term efforts to make education in Ontario accessible to and inclusive for students with disabilities are available on our education web page.

* The efforts by the Ontario Autism Coalition can be found on its web page and its Facebook page.

* The guest column by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky in the April 20, 2020 online Toronto Star, which summarizes our major COVID disability issues in one place.

* The widely viewed April 7, 2020 online Virtual Public Forum on what Government Must Do to Meet the Urgent Needs of People with Disabilities During the COVID crisis.

* The AODA Alliance’s April 14, 2020 Discussion Paper on Ensuring that Medical Triage or Rationing of Health Care Services During the COVID-19 Crisis Does Not Discriminate Against Patients with Disabilities.

* Action tips on how to help ensure that patients with disabilities don’t face discrimination in access to critical health care.

* The April 8, 2020 open letter to Premier Ford, organized by the ARCH Disability Law Centre, voicing concerns about the Ontario Government’s protocol for rationing medical care during the COVID crisis.

* The AODA Alliance’s March 25, 2020 letter to Premier Ford, which has gone unanswered.

There have been a jaw-dropping 454 days since the Ford Government received the groundbreaking 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 problems facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

There have been 35 days 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 ordeal facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis is worsened by that delay.

MORE DETAILS

April 29, 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

April 29, 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 hope you are staying safe and healthy in the midst of this public health crisis. We write to ask your Government to take immediate, strong action to ensure that the urgent needs of at least a third of a million students with disabilities in Ontario are effectively met by Ontario’s education system as part of your Government’s COVID-19 emergency planning. We offer our help, and set out constructive suggestions for action. We need your Government to show strong leadership in this important area.

Since the latter part of March and at least up to the end of May, your Government has closed Ontario’s publicly-funded schools due to the COVID-19 crisis. Your Government had to move education for Ontario students to the online setting.

This move is entirely understandable, given the COVID-19 crisis. However, it creates quite a number of serious barriers and hardship for a third of a million or more students with disabilities in Ontario-funded schools.

For years, Ontario’s education system has been plagued by many serious accessibility barriers that impede learning by students with disabilities. The Ontario Government has not had a comprehensive strategy to remove those barriers and to prevent the creation of new barriers against students with disabilities in Ontario’s education system. That is why the Ontario Government is now in the process of developing an Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act . For over a decade, the AODA Alliance has led a non-partisan grassroots campaign to get the Ontario Government to develop and enact a strong and effective AODA Education Accessibility Standard.

The necessary swift move from the physical classroom to online learning during the COVID-19 crisis exacerbated those disability barriers. For that reason, students with disabilities as well as their parents, teachers, schools and school boards need the Ontario Government to quickly develop and implement a comprehensive action plan to ensure that the urgent needs of students with disabilities are effectively met during the COVID-19 crisis. From what we have seen, no such strong and effective provincial action plan is now in place. The Ontario Government has not committed to develop and implement one.

For example, in your April 26, 2020 statement, extending school closings to the end of May, you made no mention of students with disabilities. They number up to one in every six students in Ontario-funded schools. The only reference you made to any disabilities during your answers to the media’s questions was toward funding for a help line for students with mental health issues. That is a commendable initiative, but one which leaves out the unmet needs of the vast majority of students with disabilities .

Premier Ford has commendably stated that during the COVID-19 crisis, the Government is addressing the needs of the most vulnerable. Yet Ontario’s many school boards, schools and teaching staff have all been left largely to flounder on their own to figure out what to do for students with disabilities. This means they each must re-invent the wheel one school board, or even one teacher, at a time. This is an ineffective way to address the needs of Ontario’s most vulnerable students. It is especially unfair to parents of students with disabilities, who have to take a leading role in educating their own children at home, and who often have to try to work from home at the same time. It is also an inefficient use of public money.

Since the onset of this crisis in March, we have been publicly raising the pressing need for strong provincial action to meet the urgent needs of people with disabilities in the Government’s COVID-19 emergency planning. For example, we wrote Premier Ford to this effect back on March 25, 2020. The needs of students with disabilities in the COVID-19 crisis figure prominently among concerns we have publicly raised. We repeatedly offered to help your Government, and emphasized the need for the Government to work closely with the grassroots disability community. We regret that your government has largely not taken us up on those offers. For example, our March 25, 2020 letter to Premier Ford remains unanswered five weeks after we sent it.

We offer the following recommendations to you as examples of major priorities for students with disabilities. We would welcome the opportunity to work with you and your Government to implement them, and to identify further priorities:

1. Your Government should now announce that it will swiftly develop and implement a comprehensive action plan for meeting the urgent needs of students with disabilities during and in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis, to assist and support students with disabilities, as well as their families, their teaching staff, their schools and school boards.

This plan should address the needs of students with any kind of disability as defined in the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. It should not be limited to the out-dated and unduly narrow definitions that the Ministry of Education uses for students with special education needs or students with “exceptionalities” or for “exceptional pupils”.

2. This provincial action plan should be developed, implemented and overseen in close consultation with the grassroots disability community among others, and with front-line educators.

It is helpful that you have apparently met twice with your Government’s Ministry’s Advisory Committee on Special Education MACSE to get ideas. However, that is no substitute for consulting extensive grassroots disability community participation that is needed. We understand that a significant number of positions on MACSE remain vacant due to the Government’s not appointing people to fill those vacancies. Also, MACSE is designed to focus on “special education” which is not addressed to students with all kinds of disabilities, due to the Government’s unduly narrow definition of special education students.

As of the time of writing, your Government has not acted on our recommendation shared with the Premier five weeks ago that you get input on this topic from the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, appointed under the AODA. Your Government cancelled that Committee’s April 1, 2020 meeting, rather than using that opportunity to get input on this urgent topic.

3. As part of this provincial action plan, your Government should set up a command table for students with disabilities akin to the command table that is overseeing action on COVID-19 generally. It should be headed by a senior public official with demonstrated expertise in delivery of education to students with disabilities in the K-12 school setting. That senior public official should have full-time responsibility for leading the development and implementation of the provincial action plan for students with disabilities .

4. As a fundamental and immediate part of this provincial action plan, your Government should quickly gather and make publicly available to school boards, teaching staff, and to students with disabilities and their families, practical strategies and action tips for remotely teaching students with different disabilities. The Ministry of Education should canvass school boards, Faculties of Education, families, community disability organizations, Special Education Advisory Committees, as well as sources of experience and expertise elsewhere inside and outside Ontario (such as across Canada and in the US).

The Government should not simply create web pages with a blizzard of links to other websites. Parents, teachers and school board officials struggling with this crisis won’t have the time to plow through innumerable links in hopes of finding something helpful.

To this end, the AODA Alliance and Ontario Autism Coalition are trying now to organize an online Virtual Town Hall to give practical tips to teaching staff and parents on how to effectively teach students with different disabilities remotely during the COVID-19 crisis. We have publicly offered to partner with the Ontario Government on this. No one from the Ontario Government has answered. We would still welcome your participation in this project. We would welcome a speaker from the Ontario Government. Time is tight, as you will understand.

5. Your Government should include in this provincial action plan urgent measures to ensure that school boards are not creating new disability barriers while they move to online learning. For example, school boards are using a range of different platforms for holding online meetings and classes. Some have significant accessibility barriers. In contrast, the Zoom platform is designed with very substantial accessibility features. Ironically, we understand that Zoom is not being used in some parts of Ontario’s education system, thereby creating disability barriers. the Ontario Government should ensure that school boards know which platforms, like Zoom, are accessible, and ensure that only those platforms are used.

6. As part of this provincial action plan, new additional accessible resources and accessible online learning opportunities should be established to support students with disabilities during the summer months. You have announced that there will be some summer learning resources made available to students this summer. However we have seen no announcements of any provincial plans to ensure that these have full disability-accessibility. We have not seen any announcement of any plan to make resources or supports available to students with disabilities to help remediate the lost learning opportunities students with disabilities suffered during the COVID-19 school closures.

7. You have announced that TVO and its online resources are an important partner in the Government’s education strategy during the COVID-19 crisis. The provincial action plan we seek should include detailed plans to ensure that TVO’s online learning resources become fully accessible to students with disabilities. We have concerns about their accessibility.

On April 27, 2020, we wrote TVO to inquire about the steps they have taken to ensure the full accessibility of their online education resources. TVO has not answered. We would appreciate a prompt answer from TVO. We would also like to know what your Government did to investigate the accessibility of TvO’s online resources, before deciding to make TVO a key partner in your COVID-19 education strategy.

As but one example, we have not found an easy-to-use tool on TVO’s website to locate fully accessible course content and resources. This leaves school boards, teachers and families in a difficult position when trying to locate accessible online education resources and tools from your key partner, TVO.

8. This provincial action plan should include plans or proposals for school boards on what they should include for students with disabilities in their plans for re-opening schools, when the Ontario Government deems school re-opening to be possible. Many students with disabilities will face substantial added hardships when they return to school. They will need a surge of added supports to address these hardships. School boards must include this in their school re-opening plans.

9. The Government should not hold back on announcing this provincial action plan until all of its ingredients are finalized. Instead, the Government should start immediately to roll it out, and then announce new elements as they are ready to go. School boards, educators, parents and students need action now. They cannot await layers of protracted Government deliberative processes.

10. It is essential to avoid the longstanding Government education practice of producing long, detailed policy documents that call on school boards to themselves create long, detailed policy documents. That will only take time, waste money and delay progress. This provincial action plan must focus on getting action tips, tools and resources into the hands of school boards’ frontline educators, and to parents who are teaching their children at home, as quickly as possible. We are not looking for school boards to create policies that get posted on their websites and which may not translate into front-line action for students.

A week ago, on April 22, 2020, I spoke with your Ministry’s acting Assistant Deputy Minister responsible for special education Mr. Jeff Butler. During that conversation, (the first one we have had with anyone in your Ministry since the COVID-19 crisis began) it was evident that there was no provincial plan in place akin to what we are seeking. We described the critical need for such a plan, and for the Ministry to get right to work on it.

Mr. Butler kindly asked me to provide any resources to him and his staff that might be helpful to share with school boards. We appreciate that offer. However, we emphasized the need for the Government to reach out not only to us via that phone call, but to all key players, such as parents, teachers, school boards , and Special Education Advisory Committees among others.
We are now over seven weeks into this crisis. We would welcome an urgent phone meeting with you to follow up on this. We ask you to be sure to update the public on what the Government is doing for students with disabilities in each of your major public statements and announcements on education during the COVID-19 crisis. We are eager to do what we can to help you, your Government and your Ministry.

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]




Source link

AODA Alliance Asks Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce to Take Important Actions to Meet the Urgent Needs of Students with Disabilities 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/

AODA Alliance Asks Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce to Take Important Actions to Meet the Urgent Needs of Students with Disabilities During the COVID-19 Crisis

April 29, 2020

          SUMMARY

Ontario Minister of Education Stephen Lecce has been in the public spotlight a great deal speaking about the Ford Government’s plans to meet the needs of students during the COVID-19 crisis. But what is he and his Ministry planning to do for students with disabilities  during this crisis?

Today the AODA Alliance wrote Mr. Lecce. Our letter is set out below. We ask the Ford Government to take immediate action to address the urgent needs of students with disabilities in Ontario during this crisis. These students number up to a third of a million, if not more. We offer the Minister our help.

Meanwhile, as we announced last Friday, the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition are exploring the possibility of holding a Virtual Town Hall meeting next week to share ideas on what school boards, teachers and parents can do to help with the education of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. We’re inviting the Ontario Government partner with us in this effort. Stay tuned for more news on this important issue.

To learn more, check out and widely share:

* The AODA Alliance’s efforts over the past decade to advocate for full accessibility and inclusion for students with disabilities in Ontario schools.

* The AODA Alliance’s efforts on the COVID-19 crisis are available on our COVID-19 web page. Our long-term efforts to make education in Ontario accessible to and inclusive for students with disabilities are available on our education web page.

* The efforts by the Ontario Autism Coalition can be found on its web page and its Facebook page.

* The guest column by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky in the April 20, 2020 online Toronto Star, which summarizes our major COVID disability issues in one place.

* The widely viewed April 7, 2020 online Virtual Public Forum on what Government Must Do to Meet the Urgent Needs of People with Disabilities During the COVID crisis.

* The AODA Alliance’s April 14, 2020 Discussion Paper on Ensuring that Medical Triage or Rationing of Health Care Services During the COVID-19 Crisis Does Not Discriminate Against Patients with Disabilities.

* Action tips on how to help ensure that patients with disabilities don’t face discrimination in access to critical health care.

* The April 8, 2020 open letter to Premier Ford, organized by the ARCH Disability Law Centre, voicing concerns about the Ontario Government’s protocol for rationing medical care during the COVID crisis.

* The AODA Alliance’s March 25, 2020 letter to Premier Ford, which has gone unanswered.

There have been a jaw-dropping 454 days since the Ford Government received the groundbreaking 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 problems facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

There have been 35 days 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 ordeal facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis is worsened by that delay.

          MORE DETAILS

April 29, 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

April 29, 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 hope you are staying safe and healthy in the midst of this public health crisis. We write to ask your Government to take immediate, strong action to ensure that the urgent needs of at least a third of a million students with disabilities in Ontario are effectively met by Ontario’s education system as part of your Government’s COVID-19 emergency planning. We offer our help, and set out constructive suggestions for action. We need your Government to show strong leadership in this important area.

Since the latter part of March and at least up to the end of May, your Government has closed Ontario’s publicly-funded schools due to the COVID-19 crisis. Your Government had to move education for Ontario students to the online setting.

This move is entirely understandable, given the COVID-19 crisis. However, it creates quite a number of serious barriers and hardship for a third of a million or more students with disabilities in Ontario-funded schools.

For years, Ontario’s education system has been plagued by many serious accessibility barriers that impede learning by students with disabilities. The Ontario Government has not had a comprehensive strategy to remove those barriers and to prevent the creation of new barriers against students with disabilities in Ontario’s education system. That is why the Ontario Government is now in the process of developing an Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act . For over a decade, the AODA Alliance has led a non-partisan grassroots campaign to get the Ontario Government to develop and enact a strong and effective AODA Education Accessibility Standard.

The necessary swift move from the physical classroom to online learning during the COVID-19 crisis exacerbated those disability barriers. For that reason, students with disabilities as well as their parents, teachers, schools and school boards need the Ontario Government to quickly develop and implement a comprehensive action plan to ensure that the urgent needs of students with disabilities are effectively met during the COVID-19 crisis. From what we have seen, no such strong and effective provincial action plan is now in place. The Ontario Government has not committed to develop and implement one.

For example, in your April 26, 2020 statement, extending school closings to the end of May, you made no mention of students with disabilities. They number up to one in every six students in Ontario-funded schools. The only reference you made to any disabilities during your answers to the media’s questions was toward funding for a help line for students with mental health issues. That is a commendable initiative, but one which leaves out the unmet needs of the vast majority of students with disabilities .

Premier Ford has commendably stated that during the COVID-19 crisis, the Government is addressing the needs of the most vulnerable. Yet Ontario’s many school boards, schools and teaching staff have all been left largely to flounder on their own to figure out what to do for students with disabilities. This means they each must re-invent the wheel one school board, or even one teacher, at a time. This is an ineffective way to address the needs of Ontario’s most vulnerable students. It is especially unfair to parents of students with disabilities, who have to take a leading role in educating their own children at home, and who often have to try to work from home at the same time. It is also an inefficient use of public money.

Since the onset of this crisis in March, we have been publicly raising the pressing need for strong provincial action to meet the urgent needs of people with disabilities in the Government’s COVID-19 emergency planning. For example, we wrote Premier Ford to this effect back on March 25, 2020. The needs of students with disabilities in the COVID-19 crisis figure prominently among concerns we have publicly raised. We repeatedly offered to help your Government, and emphasized the need for the Government to work closely with the grassroots disability community. We regret that your government has largely not taken us up on those offers. For example, our March 25, 2020 letter to Premier Ford remains unanswered five weeks after we sent it.

We offer the following recommendations to you as examples of major priorities for students with disabilities. We would welcome the opportunity to work with you and your Government to implement them, and to identify further priorities:

  1. Your Government should now announce that it will swiftly develop and implement a comprehensive action plan for meeting the urgent needs of students with disabilities during and in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis, to assist and support students with disabilities, as well as their families, their teaching staff, their schools and school boards.

This plan should address the needs of students with any kind of disability as defined in the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. It should not be limited to the out-dated and unduly narrow definitions that the Ministry of Education uses for students with special education needs or students with “exceptionalities” or for “exceptional pupils”.

  1. This provincial action plan should be developed, implemented and overseen in close consultation with the grassroots disability community among others, and with front-line educators.

It is helpful that you have apparently met twice with your Government’s Ministry’s Advisory Committee on Special Education MACSE to get ideas. However, that is no substitute for consulting extensive grassroots disability community participation that is needed. We understand that a significant number of positions on MACSE remain vacant due to the Government’s not appointing people to fill those vacancies. Also, MACSE is designed to focus on “special education” which is not addressed to students with all kinds of disabilities, due to the Government’s unduly narrow definition of special education students.

As of the time of writing, your Government has not acted on our recommendation shared with the Premier five weeks ago that you get input on this topic from the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, appointed under the AODA. Your Government cancelled that Committee’s April 1, 2020 meeting, rather than using that opportunity to get input on this urgent topic.

  1. As part of this provincial action plan, your Government should set up a command table for students with disabilities akin to the command table that is overseeing action on COVID-19 generally. It should be headed by a senior public official with demonstrated expertise in delivery of education to students with disabilities in the K-12 school setting. That senior public official should have full-time responsibility for leading the development and implementation of the provincial action plan for students with disabilities .
  1. As a fundamental and immediate part of this provincial action plan, your Government should quickly gather and make publicly available to school boards, teaching staff, and to students with disabilities and their families, practical strategies and action tips for remotely teaching students with different disabilities. The Ministry of Education should canvass school boards, Faculties of Education, families, community disability organizations, Special Education Advisory Committees, as well as sources of experience and expertise elsewhere inside and outside Ontario (such as across Canada and in the US).

The Government should not simply create web pages with a blizzard of links to other websites. Parents, teachers and school board officials struggling with this crisis won’t have the time to plow through innumerable links in hopes of finding something helpful.

To this end, the AODA Alliance and Ontario Autism Coalition are trying now to organize an online Virtual Town Hall to give practical tips to teaching staff and parents on how to effectively teach students with different disabilities remotely during the COVID-19 crisis. We have publicly offered to partner with the Ontario Government on this. No one from the Ontario Government has answered. We would still welcome your participation in this project. We would welcome a speaker from the Ontario Government. Time is tight, as you will understand.

  1. Your Government should include in this provincial action plan urgent measures to ensure that school boards are not creating new disability barriers while they move to online learning. For example, school boards are using a range of different platforms for holding online meetings and classes. Some have significant accessibility barriers. In contrast, the Zoom platform is designed with very substantial accessibility features. Ironically, we understand that Zoom is not being used in some parts of Ontario’s education system, thereby creating disability barriers. the Ontario Government should ensure that school boards know which platforms, like Zoom, are accessible, and ensure that only those platforms are used.
  1. As part of this provincial action plan, new additional accessible resources and accessible online learning opportunities should be established to support students with disabilities during the summer months. You have announced that there will be some summer learning resources made available to students this summer. However we have seen no announcements of any provincial plans to ensure that these have full disability-accessibility. We have not seen any announcement of any plan to make resources or supports available to students with disabilities to help remediate the lost learning opportunities students with disabilities suffered during the COVID-19 school closures.
  1. You have announced that TVO and its online resources are an important partner in the Government’s education strategy during the COVID-19 crisis. The provincial action plan we seek should include detailed plans to ensure that TVO’s online learning resources become fully accessible to students with disabilities. We have concerns about their accessibility.

On April 27, 2020, we wrote TVO to inquire about the steps they have taken to ensure the full accessibility of their online education resources. TVO has not answered. We would appreciate a prompt answer from TVO. We would also like to know what your Government did to investigate the accessibility of TvO’s online resources, before deciding to make TVO a key partner in your COVID-19 education strategy.

As but one example, we have not found an easy-to-use tool on TVO’s website to locate fully accessible course content and resources. This leaves school boards, teachers and families in a difficult position when trying to locate accessible online education resources and tools from your key partner, TVO.

  1. This provincial action plan should include plans or proposals for school boards on what they should include for students with disabilities in their plans for re-opening schools, when the Ontario Government deems school re-opening to be possible. Many students with disabilities will face substantial added hardships when they return to school. They will need a surge of added supports to address these hardships. School boards must include this in their school re-opening plans.
  1. The Government should not hold back on announcing this provincial action plan until all of its ingredients are finalized. Instead, the Government should start immediately to roll it out, and then announce new elements as they are ready to go. School boards, educators, parents and students need action now. They cannot await layers of protracted Government deliberative processes.
  1. It is essential to avoid the longstanding Government education practice of producing long, detailed policy documents that call on school boards to themselves create long, detailed policy documents. That will only take time, waste money and delay progress. This provincial action plan must focus on getting action tips, tools and resources into the hands of school boards’ frontline educators, and to parents who are teaching their children at home, as quickly as possible. We are not looking for school boards to create policies that get posted on their websites and which may not translate into front-line action for students.

A week ago, on April 22, 2020, I spoke with your Ministry’s acting Assistant Deputy Minister responsible for special education Mr. Jeff Butler. During that conversation, (the first one we have had with anyone in your Ministry since the COVID-19 crisis began) it was evident that there was no provincial plan in place akin to what we are seeking. We described the critical need for such a plan, and for the Ministry to get right to work on it.

Mr. Butler kindly asked me to provide any resources to him and his staff that might be helpful to share with school boards. We appreciate that offer. However, we emphasized the need for the Government to reach out not only to us via that phone call, but to all key players, such as parents, teachers, school boards , and Special Education Advisory Committees among others.

We are now over seven weeks into this crisis. We would welcome an urgent phone meeting with you to follow up on this. We ask you to be sure to update the public on what the Government is doing for students with disabilities  in each of your major public statements and announcements on education during the COVID-19 crisis. We are eager to do what we can to help you, your Government and your Ministry.

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]



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AODA Alliance Writes Premier Doug Ford to Urge Actions to Protect the Urgent Needs of Ontarians with disabilities During the Covid Crisis


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/

March 25, 2020

SUMMARY

The current COVID crisis is especially threatening for people with disabilities. As a result, we today wrote Ontario Premier Doug Ford to call for strong action to protect the urgent needs of Ontarians with disabilities during this critical time. Our letter is set out below.

In our letter, we:

* Ask Premier Ford to direct his senior officials to act on the recommendations for action in the March 20, 2020 AODA Alliance Update, which lists vital action that Ontarians with disabilities need our governments at all levels to take.

* Ask Premier Ford not to totally freeze during this COVID crisis the work of Standards Development Committees appointed under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, even if some of their work must briefly be delayed, and

* Urge Premier Ford to convene via virtual meetings the available members of the Standards Development Committees now in place to brainstorm options for The Government could take to address the urgent needs of Ontarians with disabilities during The Governments emergency planning to deal with the COVID crisis.

We again offer The Government our assistance with any efforts to ensure that the needs of Ontarians with disabilities are safeguarded during this crisis.

We also set out below the March 23, 2020 letter to Ontario Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho from NDP MPP Joel Harden. Mr. Harden offers good ideas for Government action during this crisis.

A total of 419 days have passed since the Ford Government received the final report of the Independent Review of the AODAs implementation that former Lieutenant Governor David Onley conducted. We are still waiting for The Government to announce a serious plan of action to implement its recommendations regarding the AODAs implementation and enforcement.

We always welcome your feedback on these issues, and any others! Email us at [email protected]

MORE DETAILS

March 25, 2020 letter from the AODA Alliance to Ontario Premier Doug Ford

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
1929 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8
Email: [email protected]
Visit: www.aodalliance.org

March 25, 2020

Via Email: [email protected]
To: Hon. Doug Ford, Premier
Room 281, Legislative Building
Queen’s Park
Toronto, Ontario
M7A 1A1

Dear Premier Ford,

Re: Ensuring that the Urgent Needs of 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities Are Fully Addressed in The Governments emergency Planning for the COVID Crisis

We appreciate all the hard work that the Government has been shouldering in the face of the horrible COVID virus crisis that is engulfing our province and the entire world. We know that at all levels, The Government is working under very difficult circumstances to head off unprecedented health and economic crises that we all now face.

It is vital that The Governments emergency planning include strong and effective measures to ensure that the emergency needs of 2.6 million people with disabilities are effectively met. Ontarians with disabilities are already a vulnerable and disadvantaged part of our society. They will disproportionately suffer this crisiss hardships.

On March 20, 2020, the AODA Alliance made public a comprehensive call for strong government action on this front. We ask you to share it with your Governments senior officials. Please direct them to take the emergency actions listed there to address this part of the crisis.

It is also essential that The Government not over-react to this crisis by taking action that works against the important needs of Ontarians with disabilities. For example, yesterday, in the wake of this crisis, the Accessibility Ministry announced that it has put on hold the ongoing work on developing new accessibility standards for the time being. Its March 24, 2020 email to members of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee (of which AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky is a member) included the following:

Note: SDC stands for Standards Development Committee.

Please be advised that due to the current circumstances, the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility will be suspending all planned SDC meetings, whether in person or teleconference, as well as any technical sub-committee/small team meetings until further notice.

At the request of the Chair, please release your April dates but continue to hold the May and June dates until further notice. We will keep you updated over the coming weeks.

The Ministry will continue to work on developing a revised workplan, in conversation with yourself on the restart of the SDC meetings when it becomes possible to do so.

It is understandable that The Government cancelled the April 1, 2020 meeting of the K-12 Standards Development Committee, even as a virtual meeting, given the immediacy of the crisis. However, there was no need for The Government to have made an announcement that suspends all work of Standards Development Committees, even the informal work of sub-committees. Those sub-committees use email and conference calls to informally brainstorm ideas to bring forward when the full Standards Development Committee next meets. They have important work now in progress. No Government staff take part in those meetings.

Of course, some Standards Development Committee members may have limited time on hand due to the crisis, as well as work or family obligations. However, for any who are isolated at home, with time on their hands, The Government should encourage them to feel free to carry on with their work. The Government should not send out a message that will sound to some like everything is to be entirely frozen until further notice.

Far from now shutting down the work of Standards Development Committees for the time being, The Government should now hurry to draw on these expert committees for help with emergency planning for the COVID crisis. Their membership was hand-picked based on their expertise in important areas concerning accessibility for people with disabilities.

We call on The Government to quickly convene virtual meetings of these Standards Development Committees to brainstorm ideas for measures that The Government should implement as part of its emergency planning, to help reduce this crisiss disproportionate hardships for Ontarians with disabilities. For example:

1. The Health Care Standards Development Committee should be asked to identify hardships facing people with disabilities in the health care system during this crisis, and to identify urgent measures that The Government could include in its current emergency health care planning to prevent the creation of new barriers against patients with disabilities. A good source of ideas for that discussion is the AODA Alliances recent Framework for ensuring that the health care system is accessible to patients with disabilities.

2. The Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee should be asked to identify important emergency steps that colleges and universities can now take to ensure that post-secondary students with disabilities can fully take part in their programs, especially as they rapidly shift to remote online learning and testing.

3. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee should be asked for ideas on what the Ministry of Education and school boards should be offering for home learning and remote learning opportunities and supports for students with disabilities during school closures.

4. The Employment Standards Development Committee should be asked for recommendations for urgent measures to help ensure that employees with disabilities can continue to work remotely, free from accessibility barriers.

5. The Information and Communications Standards Development Committee should be asked for recommendations for urgent measures that employers, school boards, colleges, universities, health care providers (like hospitals) and governments can take, as so much is moving to the online realm during this crisis, to ensure that digital accessibility is ensured. As well, recommendations for urgent measures could be sought for ensuring that people with communication disabilities can effectively communicate with such critical services as first responders during this crisis.

Some Standards Development Committee members may be unavailable to take part in this brainstorming. Lets just get whomever is available around the virtual table as soon as possible to put their heads together in the public interest.

There is no need to comply with the full procedural strictures that the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act spells out for formal Standards Development Committee proceedings. This is because the aim would not be for these committees to formulate and vote on formal collective recommendations for new accessibility standards to be enacted under the AODA. Rather, The Government should call on their members to simply brainstorm ideas which individual members could offer and which The Government could collect, share with the public, and infuse into its emergency planning where appropriate.

We dont suggest for a moment that only Standards Development Committee members should be consulted on these important issues. However, with the crisis now upon us all, these Committees are an easily-reached and readily available source of expertise that is right at hand.

In conclusion, we repeat what our March 20, 2020 call for action had emphasized. In this crisis, we are all experiencing more than ever the harms caused by past Government failures to effectively act on accessibility for people with disabilities. As but one example, there are real harms now flowing from the Governments having left the work of Standards Development Committees frozen from the day it took office in June 2018 up until months later. Had the work of the Health Care Standards Development Committee not been frozen for over a year after June 2018, The Government would now have the benefit of its final recommendations as it rushes to put in place emergency health care services to combat the COVID virus.

Lets learn the lessons of the past, and not stop the work of Standards Development Committees any longer than necessary and any more than necessary. Lets accelerate their work where it will help us combat the societal effects of the COVID virus.

We remain at your service to help in any way we can. We wish you and all those working for the Government, as well as all Ontarians, health and safety in the wake of this crisis.

Sincerely,

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

Copies to:
The Hon. Raymond Cho Minister for Accessibility and Seniors [email protected]
Christine Elliott, Minister of Health and Deputy Premier [email protected]

March 23, 2020 Letter to Ontario Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho from NDP MPP Joel Harden

Hon. Raymond Cho
Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility
College Park
5th Floor
777 Bay St.
Toronto, ON, M5G 2C8

March 23, 2020

Dear Minister Cho,

At this extraordinary time, we must do everything we can to support those who need it most. That is why I am writing to share with you two ideas for your Ministry that will ease the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic for seniors and people with disabilities.

In our constituency of Ottawa Centre, the Good Companions Seniors Centre runs an innovative program called the Seniors Centre Without Walls. The initiative allows seniors and people with disabilities to call a toll-free number and connect with each other remotely, allowing them to participate in educational seminars, music, interactive games and more.

During this public health emergency where seniors and people with disabilities are asked to stay home for their own safety, there is a heightened risk of social isolation. As I write to you, thousands of seniors and people with disabilities are living alone, cut off the from the activities that previously provided them with human to human connection.

That is why I am asking the Ministry of Seniors & Accessibility to work with Seniors Active Living Centres to expand the Seniors Centre Without Walls so that every senior or adult with a disability in Ontario can access this service. In doing so, special consideration should be paid to ensuring that Francophone and minority language speaking seniors are able to participate.

On a related note, we must ensure that Ontarians who are deaf or hard of hearing are able to receive crucial information on the availability of government services, business closures, and public health updates in the midst of this crisis.

Thats why I am requesting ASL interpretation for all government press conferences related to COVID-19, and the publication of official announcements in accessible formats. We need to make sure that all 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities have the information they need to protect themselves and their families.

Minister, thank you for your consideration of this letter and its requests. I look forward to working with you to support our vulnerable seniors and people with disabilities in the days ahead.

My very best,

Joel Harden
Official Opposition Critic for Seniors, Accessibility and People with Disabilities MPP for Ottawa Centre

CC: Monique Doolittle-Romas
David Lepofsky
Sarah Jama




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AODA Alliance Writes Premier Doug Ford to Urge Actions to Protect the Urgent Needs of Ontarians with disabilities During the Covid 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/

AODA Alliance Writes Premier Doug Ford to Urge Actions to Protect the Urgent Needs of Ontarians with disabilities During the Covid Crisis

March 25, 2020

          SUMMARY

The current COVID crisis is especially threatening for people with disabilities. As a result, we today wrote Ontario Premier Doug Ford to call for strong action to protect the urgent needs of Ontarians with disabilities during this critical time. Our letter is set out below.

In our letter, we:

* Ask Premier Ford to direct his senior officials to act on the recommendations for action in the March 20, 2020 AODA Alliance Update, which lists vital action that Ontarians with disabilities need our governments at all levels to take.

* Ask Premier Ford not to totally freeze during this COVID crisis the work of Standards Development Committees appointed under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, even if some of their work must briefly be delayed, and

* Urge Premier Ford to convene via virtual meetings the available members of the Standards Development Committees now in place to brainstorm options for The Government could take to address the urgent needs of Ontarians with disabilities during The Government’s emergency planning to deal with the COVID crisis.

We again offer The Government our assistance with any efforts to ensure that the needs of Ontarians with disabilities are safeguarded during this crisis.

We also set out below the March 23, 2020 letter to Ontario Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho from NDP MPP Joel Harden. Mr. Harden offers good ideas for Government action during this crisis.

A total of 419 days have passed since the Ford Government received the final report of the Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation that former Lieutenant Governor David Onley conducted. We are still waiting for The Government to announce a serious plan of action to implement its recommendations regarding the AODA’s implementation and enforcement.

We always welcome your feedback on these issues, and any others! Email us at [email protected]

          MORE DETAILS

 March 25, 2020 letter from the AODA Alliance to Ontario Premier Doug Ford

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

1929 Bayview Avenue

Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8

Email: [email protected]

Visit: www.aodalliance.org

March 25, 2020

Via Email: [email protected]

To: Hon. Doug Ford, Premier

Room 281, Legislative Building

Queen’s Park

Toronto, Ontario

M7A 1A1

Dear Premier Ford,

Re: Ensuring that the Urgent Needs of 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities Are Fully Addressed in The Government’s emergency Planning for the COVID Crisis

We appreciate all the hard work that the Government has been shouldering in the face of the horrible COVID virus crisis that is engulfing our province and the entire world. We know that at all levels, The Government is working under very difficult circumstances to head off unprecedented health and economic crises that we all now face.

It is vital that The Government’s emergency planning include strong and effective measures to ensure that the emergency needs of 2.6 million people with disabilities are effectively met. Ontarians with disabilities are already a vulnerable and disadvantaged part of our society. They will disproportionately suffer this crisis’s hardships.

On March 20, 2020, the AODA Alliance made public a comprehensive call for strong government action on this front. We ask you to share it with your Government’s senior officials. Please direct them to take the emergency actions listed there to address this part of the crisis.

It is also essential that The Government not over-react to this crisis by taking action that works against the important needs of Ontarians with disabilities. For example, yesterday, in the wake of this crisis, the Accessibility Ministry announced that it has put on hold the ongoing work on developing new accessibility standards for the time being. Its March 24, 2020 email to members of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee (of which AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky is a member) included the following:

Note: SDC stands for Standards Development Committee.

“Please be advised that due to the current circumstances, the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility will be suspending all planned SDC meetings, whether in person or teleconference, as well as any technical sub-committee/small team meetings until further notice….

At the request of the Chair, please release your April dates but continue to hold the May and June dates until further notice. We will keep you updated over the coming weeks.

The Ministry will continue to work on developing a revised workplan, in conversation with yourself on the restart of the SDC meetings when it becomes possible to do so….”

It is understandable that The Government cancelled the April 1, 2020 meeting of the K-12 Standards Development Committee, even as a virtual meeting, given the immediacy of the crisis. However, there was no need for The Government to have made an announcement that suspends all work of Standards Development Committees, even the informal work of sub-committees. Those sub-committees use email and conference calls to informally brainstorm ideas to bring forward when the full Standards Development Committee next meets. They have important work now in progress. No Government staff take part in those meetings.

Of course, some Standards Development Committee members may have limited time on hand due to the crisis, as well as work or family obligations. However, for any who are isolated at home, with time on their hands, The Government should encourage them to feel free to carry on with their work. The Government should not send out a message that will sound to some like everything is to be entirely frozen until further notice.

Far from now shutting down the work of Standards Development Committees for the time being, The Government should now hurry to draw on these expert committees for help with emergency planning for the COVID crisis. Their membership was hand-picked based on their expertise in important areas concerning accessibility for people with disabilities.

We call on The Government to quickly convene virtual meetings of these Standards Development Committees to brainstorm ideas for measures that The Government should implement as part of its emergency planning, to help reduce this crisis’s disproportionate hardships for Ontarians with disabilities. For example:

  1. The Health Care Standards Development Committee should be asked to identify hardships facing people with disabilities in the health care system during this crisis, and to identify urgent measures that The Government could include in its current emergency health care planning to prevent the creation of new barriers against patients with disabilities. A good source of ideas for that discussion is the AODA Alliance’s recent Framework for ensuring that the health care system is accessible to patients with disabilities.
  1. The Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee should be asked to identify important emergency steps that colleges and universities can now take to ensure that post-secondary students with disabilities can fully take part in their programs, especially as they rapidly shift to remote online learning and testing.
  1. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee should be asked for ideas on what the Ministry of Education and school boards should be offering for home learning and remote learning opportunities and supports for students with disabilities during school closures.
  1. The Employment Standards Development Committee should be asked for recommendations for urgent measures to help ensure that employees with disabilities can continue to work remotely, free from accessibility barriers.
  1. The Information and Communications Standards Development Committee should be asked for recommendations for urgent measures that employers, school boards, colleges, universities, health care providers (like hospitals) and governments can take, as so much is moving to the online realm during this crisis, to ensure that digital accessibility is ensured. As well, recommendations for urgent measures could be sought for ensuring that people with communication disabilities can effectively communicate with such critical services as first responders during this crisis.

Some Standards Development Committee members may be unavailable to take part in this brainstorming. Let’s just get whomever is available around the virtual table as soon as possible to put their heads together in the public interest.

There is no need to comply with the full procedural strictures that the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act spells out for formal Standards Development Committee proceedings. This is because the aim would not be for these committees to formulate and vote on formal collective recommendations for new accessibility standards to be enacted under the AODA. Rather, The Government should call on their members to simply brainstorm ideas which individual members could offer and which The Government could collect, share with the public, and infuse into its emergency planning where appropriate.

We don’t suggest for a moment that only Standards Development Committee members should be consulted on these important issues. However, with the crisis now upon us all, these Committees are an easily-reached and readily available source of expertise that is right at hand.

In conclusion, we repeat what our March 20, 2020 call for action had emphasized. In this crisis, we are all experiencing more than ever the harms caused by past Government failures to effectively act on accessibility for people with disabilities. As but one example, there are real harms now flowing from the Government’s having left the work of Standards Development Committees frozen from the day it took office in June 2018 up until months later. Had the work of the Health Care Standards Development Committee not been frozen for over a year after June 2018, The Government would now have the benefit of its final recommendations as it rushes to put in place emergency health care services to combat the COVID virus.

Let’s learn the lessons of the past, and not stop the work of Standards Development Committees any longer than necessary and any more than necessary. Let’s accelerate their work where it will help us combat the societal effects of the COVID virus.

We remain at your service to help in any way we can. We wish you and all those working for the Government, as well as all Ontarians, health and safety in the wake of this crisis.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Copies to:

The Hon. Raymond Cho Minister for Accessibility and Seniors [email protected]

Christine Elliott, Minister of Health and Deputy Premier [email protected]

 March 23, 2020 Letter to Ontario Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho from NDP MPP Joel Harden

Hon. Raymond Cho

Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility

College Park

5th Floor

777 Bay St.

Toronto, ON, M5G 2C8

March 23, 2020

Dear Minister Cho,

At this extraordinary time, we must do everything we can to support those who need it most. That is why I am writing to share with you two ideas for your Ministry that will ease the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic for seniors and people with disabilities.

In our constituency of Ottawa Centre, the Good Companions Seniors’ Centre runs an innovative program called the “Seniors Centre Without Walls”. The initiative allows seniors and people with disabilities to call a toll-free number and connect with each other remotely, allowing them to participate in educational seminars, music, interactive games and more.

During this public health emergency where seniors and people with disabilities are asked to stay home for their own safety, there is a heightened risk of social isolation. As I write to you, thousands of seniors and people with disabilities are living alone, cut off the from the activities that previously provided them with human to human connection.

That is why I am asking the Ministry of Seniors & Accessibility to work with Seniors Active Living Centres to expand the “Seniors Centre Without Walls” so that every senior or adult with a disability in Ontario can access this service. In doing so, special consideration should be paid to ensuring that Francophone and minority language speaking seniors are able to participate.

On a related note, we must ensure that Ontarians who are deaf or hard of hearing are able to receive crucial information on the availability of government services, business closures, and public health updates in the midst of this crisis.

That’s why I am requesting ASL interpretation for all government press conferences related to COVID-19, and the publication of official announcements in accessible formats. We need to make sure that all 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities have the information they need to protect themselves and their families.

Minister, thank you for your consideration of this letter and its requests. I look forward to working with you to support our vulnerable seniors and people with disabilities in the days ahead.

My very best,

Joel Harden

Official Opposition Critic for Seniors, Accessibility and People with Disabilities

MPP for Ottawa Centre

CC:       Monique Doolittle-Romas

David Lepofsky

Sarah Jama



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