Disability and Attitudinal Barriers, Part 2


In Part 1 of this article, we explored some attitudinal barriers that people with disabilities face. We considered how attitudinal barriers are often due to false assumptions people have about life with a disability. Here, we will consider more examples of attitudinal barriers, and how to remove them.

Disability and Attitudinal Barriers 

Assuming that All Disabilities are the Same

Service providers sometimes assume that treating all customers equally means that every customer with a disability has the same service needs. For instance, they might assume that all customers with disabilities communicate using support persons. As a result, staff might always speak to a customer’s companion, instead of speaking directly to the customer. Similarly, they might tell every customer with a disability to use the elevator, rather than stairs. Likewise, they might assume that every customer can read large print, and refuse to offer information in other ways.

However, these guesses are also far from fact. People with different disabilities often have different service needs. For instance, some people communicate through support persons while others do not. Therefore, service providers should always speak directly to a customer with a disability. They should not start by asking another person questions about the customer with the disability. Similarly, some people always use elevators while others prefer stairs, especially if a stairless route is longer. Service providers can meet more customers’ needs if they point out all routes. Likewise, some customers find large print useful while others cannot use any print. Therefore, providers should never tell non-print-reading customers that they can only offer large print. Instead, they should work with customers to find other ways of offering information accessibly, such as by reading aloud.

Invisible Disabilities

Another assumption service providers sometimes make is that all disabilities are visible. In other words, providers may expect to see that someone has a disability because they use an assistive device or a service animal. Therefore, service providers might believe that only someone who looks disabled can use services for people with disabilities. For instance, they might question why a customer who can walk without a cane has an accessible parking pass. Likewise, they might ask a customer who looks sighted why they need staff to read something aloud.

However, many people with disabilities do not use assistive devices or service animals. Instead, their disabilities are invisible. Nonetheless, these disabilities are real. For instance, someone may use an accessible parking pass because they have a heart condition that limits their stamina. Similarly, someone may ask staff to read aloud because they have a learning disability affecting how they process print.

Removing Attitudinal Barriers

The removal of other types of barriers may be costly or time-consuming. In contrast, businesses should not need much money or time to remove attitudinal barriers. Instead, they can start removing these barriers by exposing staff to truthful information about people with disabilities. For example, businesses can choose to offer forms of AODA training that allow staff to discuss what they learn. Discussion-based training can help staff learn more about the daily lives of people with disabilities. Moreover, businesses can invite people with disabilities to visit their premises and speak to their staff. These arrangements can give staff accurate knowledge about how to interact with customers and workers who have disabilities. These customers and workers will do more business with staff who respect them while recognizing their needs.




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Preventing and Removing Information and Communication Barriers, Part 2


In Part 1 of this article, we explored how organizations can prevent or remove information or communication disability barriers. For the most part, removing or preventing information or communication barriers involves accessible formats or Communication supports. In Part 2, we outline other things staff should know about preventing or removing information or communication barriers.

Preventing and Removing Information and Communication Barriers, Part 2

Some businesses may be in the process of removing barriers, such as by making their websites accessible. Similarly, businesses might need funding for services like Sign language interpretation or captioning. In the meantime, staff can help people access their information in other ways. For instance, staff can prevent barriers in organizations such as:

In any of these venues, staff can read print documents aloud, such as pamphlets, menus, or forms. Some clients may wish to record the reading aloud in order to refer to it again. Moreover, staff can fill in forms according to a customer or client’s instructions. Alternatively, staff can email the Word or HTML version of a document to a customer. Similarly, staff can create text transcripts of live events. They can then provide copies of the transcripts to customers. Staff should work with each customer to find out the best way of giving information.

Staff Awareness

Furthermore, staff should be aware that most customers will benefit from some formats or supports but not others. For instance, large print will benefit customers who are visually impaired, but customers who are blind cannot use it. Similarly, staff should be aware of basic differences between supports. For example, staff should know that closed captioning and audio description provide contrasting services. Closed captioning benefits customers who are deaf, while audio description benefits customers who are blind.

Therefore, staff should notify every customer about all formats or supports they have. This courtesy allows customers to choose the support that works best for them, instead of being offered the wrong support. Moreover, customers also avoid the barrier of needing to find and ask a staff member for support. In addition, customers without disabilities may also be interested in a business’s accessibility. If they have loved ones, neighbours, or colleagues with disabilities, they may spread awareness about businesses with accessible information.

Preventing Barriers

Moreover, designers of new information and communications can prevent barriers from happening in the first place. For instance, they can create captions for all audio content, or provide text transcripts in advance, when possible. Likewise, they can design new PDF documents using text, rather than images. Furthermore, they can consult with people who have disabilities to find out if they have designed barriers without meaning to. For instance, they can hire people with disabilities to test the accessibility of all new web content. In this way, businesses can also learn how to avoid barriers in future. Finally, businesses should state in their accessibility policies that their staff are willing to resolve barriers. As a result, people will create fewer information or communication barriers and move more freely.




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Preventing and Removing Information or Communication Barriers, Part 1


In our last article, we explored how information and communication barriers limit access for people with various disabilities. In this article, we will consider how businesses can prevent or remove barriers. Preventing and removing information or communication barriers makes businesses welcoming to people of all abilities.

Preventing and Removing Information or Communication Barriers, Part 1

Businesses can find many solutions to help people access information and communication.

For example, businesses can have:

Different kinds of businesses can find ways of removing information or communication barriers, including:

Accessible Format Awareness

When businesses are removing information and communication barriers using accessible formats, Staff should know how to help people access those formats. For instance, staff should know:

  • What information is available in what format(s)
  • Where hard copies are kept 
  • Whether hard-copy Braille or large print versions can be created upon request
  • How customers can find web versions
  • Whether alternate-format versions are up-to-date

Staff should know the differences between a current printed version of a document and the version a customer can read. For example, staff can keep a printed list of the differences clipped to the Braille version of a document. They can then let the customer know what the differences are.

Communication Support Awareness

Similarly, when businesses offer communication supports, staff should know:

  • What supports are available for what kinds of interaction
  • Where on-site communication devices are stored, and best practices for serving customers using them
  • Whether plain-language versions of documents are available and how to access them
  • How to arrange Real-Time Captioning (RTC) or Sign language interpretation
  • Whether text transcripts of events are available
  • How far in advance arrangements should be made

When a presentation differs from its transcript, staff can make note of the differences and let customers know what they are.

Solutions

Some of these solutions are low-cost. For instance, businesses can photo-copy documents in large print. Similarly, they can create new documents in accessible formats, such as Word files. In contrast, other solutions may be more costly. For example, businesses can hire a Sign language interpreter or real-time captioner for live events. Moreover, they can produce documents in Braille with a Braille printer, or have a third party produce them. However, federal, provincial, or local funding may help businesses create information with fewer barriers.

In some cases, businesses may not receive funding to create formats or supports. Alternatively, ensuring that their websites are accessible may be an on-going or complex process. However, businesses should have as many different formats or supports as they can. Not all formats or supports will work for every customer.

When the formats or supports that customers need are not available, staff still need to make their premises accessible. Part 2 of this article will outline strategies that staff can use when preventing or removing information or communication barriers.




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Part 2 of Accommodation in University and College


In Part 1 of this article, we discussed how an education standard could mandate a process for accommodation in university and college. We also explored how this process could be based on the AODA’s existing guidelines for accommodating workers with disabilities. In Part 2, we will outline how a standardized process for creating accommodation plans could help more students succeed in school.

Accommodation in University and College

Currently, there are no rules in the AODA outlining a single process for accommodation in university and college. Instead, according to a report by the National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS), each school must develop its own process. As a result, schools’ accommodation policies may differ widely.

For instance, schools may ask students to prove their need for accommodation in different ways. Some schools, as in the Employment Standards’ guidelines, may ask for proof of the tasks a student performs differently. For example, a student may submit a medical form stating that they have severe, moderate, mild, or no difficulty with tasks involving:

  • Attention or concentration
  • Fine motor or gross motor skills
  • Hearing
  • Managing distractions or stress
  • Physical stamina
  • Short-term or long-term memory
  • Sitting or standing
  • Social or emotional skills
  • Speech
  • Vision

Once a student hands in their form, they can talk to an accessibility counsellor about the accommodations the school can offer them.

Accommodation Based on Diagnosis

In contrast, other schools may tell students that they must disclose a medical diagnosis of disability before receiving accommodations. As a result, students waiting to see a doctor and be diagnosed may not receive the support they need. In addition, schools may require that students prove their disability through different assessments. For example, there are different assessments that people can take to diagnose a learning disability. A student may qualify for accommodations under one assessment, but not under a different assessment. Therefore, if a school only accepts one assessment, it denies accommodation to people who have proof of disability through another assessment.

Lack of Accommodation Policies

Furthermore, some schools do not have accommodation policies at all. In this case, a student must approach a school administrator, or arrange separate accommodations for every class with each of their professors. Staff with little training about students with disabilities may reject a student’s accommodation request because they do not understand it. For instance, a professor might not know about the need to accommodate students with invisible disabilities, such as mental health challenges.

A standard process for accommodation in university and college, similar to the Employment Standard’s process, would solve all these problems. Moreover, students could bring their accommodation plans with them from one school to another. For instance, a student in a program involving courses at college and university would not need two accommodation plans. Similarly, a student starting graduate school at a new university could bring their undergraduate accommodation plan with them. The new school could update the plan if needed, to address new tasks or contexts. However, they would not have to spend time rewriting a plan that has been written before.

Another way to make accommodation easier for everyone involved is universal design. Our next article will describe what universal design is and how it makes school more accessible.




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Part 1 of Accommodation in University and College


The AODA does not yet have an education standard. Two committees are making recommendations about what an education standard should include. Some of these recommendations could be based on elements from the existing AODA. For instance, the Employment Standards have rules about individual accommodation plans for workers with disabilities. An education standard could mandate similar rules for accommodation in university and college.

Accommodation in University and College

In elementary and high school, students are learning about themselves, their abilities, and the accommodations that help them succeed in school. Their families, classroom teachers, and other support staff are also finding out which accommodations work best for them and which ones work less well. In contrast, students in higher education often have enough experience to know which accommodations they will need. In this way, they are similar to people who need accommodations to do their jobs. Therefore, the AODA’s regulation on workplace accommodation processes could also apply to students in university and college.

Likewise, the Employment Standards also have rules about return-to-work processes for workers who have been absent from work due to disability. Unlike other workers with disabilities, workers new to disability may not know what accommodations they need. As a result, they work with medical or technology professionals, and their managers, to plan their accommodations. Students taking a leave of absence from university or college because of a new disability could benefit from a standard return-to-school process. Similarly, students new to disability at the start of university or college could use a similar process to find out what their accommodations should be.

Accommodation Plans at Work

Under the Employment Standards, workers needing accommodations meet with their managers to arrange them. During this discussion, the worker and employer do not need to talk about exactly what the worker’s disability is. Instead, they should talk about how the worker will perform certain functions of the job. The worker’s accommodation plan must list strategies or arrangements that would allow the worker to perform each job function. An employer may deny the worker’s accommodation request. However, this denial must be in writing.

Accommodations in Higher Education

In contrast, there is no single process for planning accommodation in university or college. Instead, according to a report by the National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS), each school must develop its own process. As a result, schools’ accommodation policies may differ widely. Students’ chances to succeed in class may depend not on their needs, but on where they go to school.

In Part 2 of this article, we will outline how a standardized process for creating accommodation plans could help more students succeed in school.




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Educators with Disabilities: Part 2


In Part 1 of this article, we outlined what educational institutions must do to accommodate educators with disabilities under the current AODA. We also briefly discuss the benefits of having more educators with disabilities in schools. In Part 2, we explore why some educational institutions may not be hiring educators with disabilities. We also consider strategies that school boards and teacher’s colleges can use to welcome more educators with disabilities into their schools.

Educators with Disabilities, Part 2

The shortage of educators with disabilities may be due to attitudinal barriers. For instance, schools, colleges, or universities may think they cannot hire candidates with disabilities. They may feel this way because they do not know about accommodations that teachers with disabilities use. For instance, some accommodations that teachers with disabilities might use are informational. For example, a teacher who is deaf might have an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter in the classroom.

Moreover, other accommodations might involve changes to workstations, such as a raised desk. In another example, a teacher could make presentations in advance instead of writing on the board. Furthermore, other accommodations could involve a teacher’s schedule. For example, if a teacher needs to start later in the day, the first class every day could be scheduled as their planning time. Likewise, a teacher with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may need to avoid noisy places like the cafeteria at lunch. This teacher might instead take responsibility for supervising smaller groups at lunch or after school, such as students in detention. Finally, teachers may use structural accommodations, like automatic doors or accessible washrooms.

Many accommodations, such as rearranging tasks and asking students to hand their work in online, are not costly. In contrast, other accommodations, such as classroom ASL interpreters or installing accessible washrooms, are more expensive. However, government funding is available for employers, including schools, to offset accommodation costs.

Student Teachers with Disabilities

Alternatively, teacher’s colleges may feel that they cannot accept students with disabilities into their programs. They may feel this way because they believe that people need certain abilities to teach. For example, they may think that all teachers need to make eye contact with students and respond to raised hands. However, a student-teacher who is blind could not teach this way. Instead, they might keep track of who is paying attention by listening. Similarly, they could have students say their names when they want to speak in class instead of raising their hands. Student-teachers with disabilities can create teaching strategies that may look unusual, but work for them and their students. Teacher’s colleges should respect these strategies and support student-teachers as they develop more.

School boards or teacher’s colleges could also publicize their interest in accepting applicants with disabilities. More educators with disabilities would help to create a truly inclusive school system.

For many students with disabilities, finding employment in education and other fields involves job placements. In our next article, we will explore how to make job placements accessible for students with disabilities.




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Educators with Disabilities: Part 1


The AODA does not yet have an education standard. Two committees are making recommendations about what an education standard should include. In the meantime, however, there are still AODA requirements for educational institutions to follow. The Employment Standards have regulations that apply to educational institutions. When providers follow these requirements, they make school more accessible to educators with disabilities. For instance, employment standards in education apply to:

  • Public and private schools
  • School boards
  • Colleges
  • Universities
  • School libraries
  • Producers of educational or training materials, such as textbook publishers

Employment Standards in Education

Under the Employment Standards, schools, school boards, and academic publishers need to make their employment practices accessible to job applicants and workers with disabilities. For example, all schools and school boards with at least one worker must:

Moreover, schools and school boards with fifty or more workers must have processes in place to create:

More Educators with Disabilities are Needed

In addition, students need a school system that welcomes more educators with disabilities. Educators include people who:

  • Design courses
  • Create or teach lessons
  • Are school board staff

For example, educators may include:

  • Teachers
  • Teaching assistants
  • Educational assistants
  • Early childhood educators
  • School board staff
  • Professors
  • University teaching assistants

However, best practice suggests that educators also include:

  • Child and youth workers
  • Support staff
  • Administrative staff

Best practice counts these school staff as educators because they all work with students as part of their jobs.

Teachers and other staff with disabilities would help their colleagues understand the need to accommodate students. Furthermore, colleagues with disabilities would give their coworkers clearer ideas about the capabilities of their students. Finally, when school spaces become accessible for workers with disabilities, students with the same disabilities can also access them.

In Part 2 of this article, we will explore why some schools and school boards may not be hiring educators with disabilities. We will also consider strategies that school boards and teacher’s colleges can use to welcome more diverse staff into their schools.




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Braille Instruction in Schools Part 2


In Part 1 of this article, we explored some of the accessible formats that students with visual impairments can learn to read in school. We also discussed how eye specialists and teachers of the visually impaired (TVIs) may sometimes decide that Braille should not be one of these formats. In this article, we consider why some specialists may think that students should not learn Braille. We also suggest that more Braille instruction in schools could help more students achieve greater success as adults.

Students with Visual Impairments

Why Specialists may not Choose Braille

Eye doctors may choose not to recommend Braille because they cannot read Braille and they think it is harder to learn than print. Similarly, TVIs may think that Braille is hard because they learned as adults and do not use Braille in their every-day lives. However, young children learn Braille as easily as their fully sighted peers learn print. Some children learn both writing systems at the same time. Others learn Braille after they have learned print.

Alternatively, specialists may think that students who can read some print should use it as long as they can. Specialists may hope that reading print will help students with visual impairments feel more like their fully sighted classmates. However, students who will need Braille one day will need to learn to accept their difference from sighted classmates. If they learn Braille at younger ages, they may accept their differences more easily than they would in later grades.

Audio and Computer Technology

Moreover, teachers and doctors may believe that Braille is becoming obsolete. Instead, they may recommend that children with all degrees of visual impairment learn using audio and computer technology. These methods are useful and students can easily learn them at the same time as Braille. However, if students always use them instead of Braille, they may have trouble in school. For instance, they may have trouble hearing a teacher if they are trying to find a textbook page by listening. Likewise, they may have trouble hearing the teacher and taking notes with a screen reader. In contrast, students can easily keep up when they can hear the teacher and feel their book or notes.

Similarly, students who always use audio or computers rely on their technology more than sighted print readers. When this technology breaks down, these students have no other way to learn. In contrast, students who read Braille can continue learning when technology breaks down. When students read Braille, they read letter-by-letter on a page or screen the way fully sighted people read print. Teachers do not tell fully sighted students that they should listen instead of reading. Therefore, audio by itself is not equal to print, but Braille is.

Solutions

Braille is easier to produce now than ever before. People can print documents in Braille using translation software and Braille printers. In addition, students with visual impairments can use Braille displays to read information on computer or phone screens. These students will grow up to use Braille at work. A recent report from the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) indicates that blind people who read Braille have more success finding jobs than blind people who do not read Braille. Blind adults can also move around more independently if they can read Braille on signs, room numbers, and elevator buttons. In short, blind people often have a better quality of life if they learn Braille in school.

An education standard could implement many solutions for the shortage of Braille instruction in Ontario schools. A standard could mandate that all TVIs have enough Braille training to confidently teach their students. With training, sighted TVIs can read Braille as easily as TVIs who are blind. Government could partner with other sectors to develop more education and training programs for TVIs. Campaigns could increase public awareness about the need for teachers of Braille, so that more people would follow this career path. More Braille instruction in schools will ensure that each student learns in the ways best for them.




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