National AccessAbility Week – May 28 to June 3

National-AccessAbiltity-Feature

This is National AccessAbility Week and it is a good time to think about accessibility at school and what we aspire for in a fully accessible school.

Students with physical disabilities need school classrooms, buildings and playgrounds to be physically accessible, but a fully accessible school includes many other features that make it inclusive and welcoming. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities (AODA) Act recognizes many types of barriers including:

  • attitudinal
  • communication
  • physical
  • policy
  • programmatic
  • social, and
  • transportation

Under the AODA Act, all school boards must develop multi-year accessibility plans and file annual accessibility compliance reports. Activities that school boards should have been completed by 2017 include:

  • Provide accessible customer service (as per Customer Service Standard)
    • train staff and volunteers to serve customers of all abilities
    • keep a written record of the training
    • welcome service animals and support persons
    • create accessible ways for people to provide feedback
    • put an accessibility policy in place so your employees, volunteers and customers can know what to expect
  • Make your transportation services accessible
    • Provide accessible vehicles or equal services
    • Provide integrated transportation services for students with disabilities
    • Provide transportation services that accommodate all students, including students with disabilities that travel on the same vehicle
    • Provide alternatives when integrated transportation services is not possible or unsafe
    • Consult with parents or guardians to develop individual school transportation plans for students with disabilities
  • Provide accessible emergency and public information
    • When asked, provide publicly available emergency information like evacuation plans or brochures, in an accessible format
    • Provide accessible emergency information to staff
  • Create accessibility policies and a multi-year plan
    • Create policies to help you achieve your accessibility goals
    • Tell your employees and customers about your policies
    • Buy goods, services or facilities that are accessible to people with disabilities
    • Include accessibility design, criteria and features when purchasing new goods, services or facilities for your organization
  • Provide accessibility awareness training to educators
    • Train educators on how to create and teach accessible programs
    • Keep records of the training
  • Provide accessible educational information
    • This includes program information, educational resources and student records in an accessible format such as large print or digital copies like accessible Microsoft Word files
    • Provide accessible school library resources when asked
    • If available, provide accessible versions of print resources and materials such as large print, electronic or audio versions
  • Train your staff on Ontario’s accessibility laws
    • Train all your employees and volunteers on the accessibility requirements that apply to their job duties and your organization
    • Make it easy for people with disabilities to provide feedback
    • This includes surveys or comment cards
  • Make websites accessible
    • This includes only new websites and old websites you significantly update and new web content you create
  • Make your employment practices accessible
    • Make how you hire, retain and provide career development opportunities accessible
    • Document your processes for developing individual accommodation plans and return-to-work plans
  • Provide accessible textbooks
    • If you produce educational or training textbooks, make them accessible or easy to convert into other formats like accessible Microsoft Word files, when asked
  • Make new or redeveloped public spaces accessible
    • outdoor play spaces
    • public outdoor paths of travel
    • on and off street parking areas
    • service counters

Every school board in Ontario is required to prepare an annual accessibility plan; to consult with people with disabilities in the preparation of this plan; and to make the plan public. As a student with a disability, or the family of the student, you can get involved in the accessibility plan for your school board.

Typically, the annual Accessibility Plan, and the school boards policies and procedures related to accessibility, can be found on the school board website. Most school boards have identified and made plans for improvement under 6 main headings:

  • Awareness/Attitudes
  • Buildings/Architecture/Facilities
  • Information and Communication
  • Policies and Procedures
  • Technology
  • Transportation

In addition, some school boards provide details on accessibility features for each school board. For example, Thames Valley District School Board website includes a description of accessibility features for each school.

Student and Parent Involvement:

  1. Check your school board website for information on accessibility
  2. Review the school board multi-year Accessibility Plan and Accessibility Policies
  3. Provide feedback on the Accessibility Plan with comments and suggestions
  4. If possible, review documents related to accessibility at the student’s school
  5. Identify accessibility features at your school as well as areas for improvement
  6. Share your school specific concerns with the Principal, School Council and school board staff responsible for accessibility

For more information about The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and the Accessibility Standards, check the Accessibility Ontario website.

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