Thinking About the Obstacles People Face


This year’s Touchstone Award recognizes Professor Laverne Jacobs. BY Brigitte Pellerin 22 Feb 2021

If we are to address disability inequality, says Professor Laverne Jacobs, we need to start by acknowledging the structural inequalities facing people with disabilities in daily life

Unfortunately, it took a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic to force society to think about equality issues differently, she notes. “Nevertheless, this is the biggest catalyst that I have seen in our time.”

Jacobs, who founded and directs the Law, Disability & Social Change Project at Windsor University, is the recipient of this year-s
Touchstone Award that recognizes efforts to further equality in the legal community.

As a Black woman with a disability, she hopes the award will encourage legal professionals to think about the obstacles faced by people with disabilities. ‘”Nothing should be done “without us,” she says. “And so I hope that this award will also inspire further allyship than what already exists.”

Jacobs, who experienced a spinal cord injury during her career, has been involved with the Ontario Bar Association since she was a graduate student. She served on the executive of its Administrative Law Section. This experience “has provided me with opportunities to think about the challenges faced by people with disabilities in the administrative justice system,” she explains, noting that access and equality for marginalized communities within the administrative justice system features prominently in her work.

Jacobs often reflects on intersectional challenges. She proudly points to the student researchers at the Law, Disability & Social Change Project to illustrate how their interests range from family law and business law to administrative and criminal matters, and other fields not directly related to disability.

“The students, despite their backgrounds and areas of legal interest are brought together through an effort to view situations in society through the lens of disability equality,” she explains. “When the students graduate and enter into practice, they are thinking about how disability inequality manifests itself in their practice area and, more fundamentally, with respect to the client circumstances that arise before them.”

Understanding the law is important, she says. But meaningfully advancing equality “is to set the law aside and think about how to be a good human being.”

The Touchstone Award celebrates the accomplishments of an individual or an organization who has excelled in promoting equality in the legal profession, the judiciary, or the legal community in Canada. The award recognizes successful promotion or furthering of equality at the national level or a significant contribution relating to race, gender, disability, sexual orientation or other diversity issues in the recipient’s community.

Laverne Jacobs is Associate Dean (Research & Graduate Studies) and an Associate Professor at the University of Windsor, Faculty of Law. She teaches, researches and writes in the areas of law and disability, administrative law and human rights. Her work is characterized by an interest in the everyday experiences of people with disabilities, particularly as they engage with the law, and in ensuring equality, inclusion and fairness within the legal system. Dr. Jacobs is particularly interested in issues at the intersection of disability, equality and the administrative justice system. She has published and presented widely in her fields, in Canada and internationally.

Dr. Jacobs founded and directs The Law, Disability & Social Change Project, a research and public advocacy centre at Windsor Law that works to foster and develop inclusive communities. Working from the disability rights motto, “nothing without us”, the centre undertakes a variety of projects that aim to feed grounded research and theory into policy development and legal decision-making. She is also co-director of the Disability Rights Working Group at Berkeley Law’s Center for Comparative Equality & Anti-Discrimination Law.

Professor Jacobs held the inaugural Fulbright Visiting Research Chair in Canadian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and was a Visiting Scholar at Berkeley Law’s Center for the Study of Law and Society. Outside of the University, she has held Order-in-Council appointments as a part-time member of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario and as a member of the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Dis

Original at https://www.nationalmagazine.ca/en-ca/articles/people/profiles/2021/thinking-about-the-obstacles-people-face




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Students With Disabilities Face More Obstacles Returning to Class: Advocates


Osobe Waberi, The Canadian Press
Published Saturday, August 22, 2020

TORONTO — Advocacy groups in Ontario say students with disabilities will face additional obstacles returning to class following the pandemic, leaving parents unsure if their children will be fully and safely included in school reopening plans.

The Ontario Autism Coalition and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance held an online town hall meeting Friday to discuss what they say is the provincial government’s “failure” to put parents at ease with the school year looming.

OAC president Laura Kirby-McIntosh said when it comes to welcoming children with disabilities back to school, the province is doing the bare minimum at best.

“The Ministry of Education’s guide to reopening Ontario schools is not really a plan,” she said in an interview. “What we get is some very nice words.”

Kirby-McIntosh said the province’s school system is designed primarily with non-disabled children in mind, and while children with disabilities are treated as an afterthought.

“One thing that COVID has done very effectively is it has exposed systemic issues across our society — of racism, medical infrastructure — and now we are getting to school infrastructure.”

A spokeswoman for Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the government has allocated $10 million in additional funding specifically dedicated to supporting students with special education needs.

“We are spending more money than any other province on special education,” Caitlin Clark said.

However, Kirby-McIntosh said schools run on more than just money.

“They run on good planning,” she said. “Yes, they are spending more money on schools, but why wait until the third week of August to announce that? I don’t feel that we are ready, it is not good enough.”

AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky said both his group and the Autism Coalition have offered plenty of proposals and advice to the government, before and during the pandemic, in relation to students with special needs.

“Not one public official at the Ministry of Education picked up the phone to ask for more information, and they have done nothing about it,” he said.

Lepofsky said students with disabilities risk not being fully supported during the pandemic and through their education. Even worse, he said, is the looming fear of being told they can not attend in-person learning come the fall school year.

Toronto District School Board spokesman Ryan Bird assured parents that when it comes to students with special needs, the board has a number of congregate sites available for them in the fall.

“These schools specialize in supporting these students and that will continue,” he said, noting the TDSB is trying to get as much information as possible to parents in the upcoming days and weeks.

“We get the frustration from parents, and we understand that there are important decisions to be made in sending your child back to school in September,” he said.

“We realize the time is ticking.”

Original at https://www.cp24.com/news/students-with-disabilities-face-more-obstacles-returning-to-class-advocates-1.5075009




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Students with disabilities face more obstacles returning to class, Ontario advocates say


TORONTO — Advocacy groups in Ontario say students with disabilities will face additional obstacles returning to class following the pandemic, leaving parents unsure if their children will be fully and safely included in school reopening plans.

The Ontario Autism Coalition and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance held an online town hall meeting Friday to discuss what they say is the provincial government’s “failure” to put parents at ease with the school year looming.

OAC president Laura Kirby-McIntosh said when it comes to welcoming children with disabilities back to school, the province is doing the bare minimum at best.

“The Ministry of Education’s guide to reopening Ontario schools is not really a plan,” she said in an interview. “What we get is some very nice words.”

Read more:
‘I need help’: Coronavirus highlights disparities among Canadians with disabilities

Story continues below advertisement

Kirby-McIntosh said the province’s school system is designed primarily with non-disabled children in mind, and while children with disabilities are treated as an afterthought.

“One thing that COVID has done very effectively is it has exposed systemic issues across our society — of racism, medical infrastructure — and now we are getting to school infrastructure.”

A spokeswoman for Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the government has allocated $10 million in additional funding specifically dedicated to supporting students with special education needs.

“We are spending more money than any other province on special education,” Caitlin Clark said.

However, Kirby-McIntosh said schools run on more than just money.

“They run on good planning,” she said. “Yes, they are spending more money on schools, but why wait until the third week of August to announce that? I don’t feel that we are ready, it is not good enough.”






Pandemic hard on children with autism


Pandemic hard on children with autism

AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky said both his group and the Autism Coalition have offered plenty of proposals and advice to the government, before and during the pandemic, in relation to students with special needs.

Story continues below advertisement

“Not one public official at the Ministry of Education picked up the phone to ask for more information, and they have done nothing about it,” he said.

Lepofsky said students with disabilities risk not being fully supported during the pandemic and through their education. Even worse, he said, is the looming fear of being told they can not attend in-person learning come the fall school year.

Toronto District School Board spokesman Ryan Bird assured parents that when it comes to students with special needs, the board has a number of congregate sites available for them in the fall.

“These schools specialize in supporting these students and that will continue,” he said, noting the TDSB is trying to get as much information as possible to parents in the upcoming days and weeks.

“We get the frustration from parents, and we understand that there are important decisions to be made in sending your child back to school in September,” he said.

“We realize the time is ticking.”




© 2020 The Canadian Press





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Students with disability face more obstacles amid coronavirus: advocates 


Advocacy groups in Ontario say students with disabilities will face additional obstacles returning to class following the pandemic, leaving parents unsure if their children will be fully and safely included in school reopening plans.

The Ontario Autism Coalition and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance held an online town hall meeting Friday to discuss what they say is the provincial government’s “failure” to put parents at ease with the school year looming.

READ MORE: Coronavirus highlights disparities among Canadians with disabilities

OAC president Laura Kirby-McIntosh said when it comes to welcoming children with disabilities back to school, the province is doing the bare minimum at best.

“The Ministry of Education’s guide to reopening Ontario schools is not really a plan,” she said in an interview. “What we get is some very nice words.”

Story continues below advertisement






Parents say Alberta students with disabilities being left out


Parents say Alberta students with disabilities being left out

Kirby-McIntosh said the province’s school system is designed primarily with non-disabled children in mind, and while children with disabilities are treated as an afterthought.

“One thing that COVID has done very effectively is it has exposed systemic issues across our society — of racism, medical infrastructure —  and now we are getting to school infrastructure.”

A spokeswoman for Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the government has allocated $10 million in additional funding specifically dedicated to supporting students with special education needs.

“We are spending more money than any other province on special education,” Caitlin Clark said.

However, Kirby-McIntosh said schools run on more than just money.

“They run on good planning,” she said. “Yes, they are spending more money on schools, but why wait until the third week of August to announce that? I don’t feel that we are ready, it is not good enough.”

Story continues below advertisement






Warning ignored from B.C. disability advocate about essential hospital visitors


Warning ignored from B.C. disability advocate about essential hospital visitors

AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky said both his group and the Autism Coalition have offered plenty of proposals and advice to the government, before and during the pandemic, in relation to students with special needs.

“Not one public official at the Ministry of Education picked up the phone to ask for more information, and they have done nothing about it,” he said.

Lepofsky said students with disabilities risk not being fully supported during the pandemic and through their education. Even worse, he said, is the looming fear of being told they can not attend in-person learning come the fall school year.

Toronto District School Board spokesman Ryan Bird assured parents that when it comes to students with special needs, the board has a number of congregate sites available for them in the fall.

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: Payments for Canadians with disabilities still in limbo amid coronavirus 

“These schools specialize in supporting these students and that will continue,” he said, noting the TDSB is trying to get as much information as possible to parents in the upcoming days and weeks.

“We get the frustration from parents, and we understand that there are important decisions to be made in sending your child back to school in September,” he said.

“We realize the time is ticking.”



© 2020 The Canadian Press





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