Letter sent to Premier, Education Minister requesting meeting, measures to eliminate barriers for students with disabilities

A group of organizations committed to creating a fully inclusive education system for all students, including those with disabilities, has penned a letter to Premier Doug Ford and Education Minister Lisa Thompson requesting a meeting to discuss recommendations for reforming Ontario’s education system.

The letter, dated December 14th, is co-authored by Community Living OntarioARCH Disability Law CentreBrockville and District Association for Community Involvement, the Inclusion Research Team at Brock University, the Canadian Research Centre on Inclusive Education at Western University, and Inclusive Education Canada.

The group is calling for a systemic review of the status of education in Ontario specific to students with disabilities and the ongoing barriers they face. Click here to read the letter in its entirety.

“Part of this review should include a comprehensive examination of the archaic statutory framework for the delivery of education services to students with disabilities with a view to modernizing it and bringing it in line with Canada’s international human rights obligations,” states the letter, which also points out that students with disabilities are often cut off from their peers, and are in classroom placements where they are not expected to participate in Ontario’s curriculum and do not receive academic credit for the work that they do.

“In order to remedy this situation, the Government should adopt a policy framework that encourages school boards to transition to an academic model in which education is provided to all students in one common learning environment and where instruction is designed to be delivered to students of mixed ability.”

The group would also like to see measures taken to ensure that school boards are abiding by their obligation to properly accommodate students with disabilities, as well as steps to report and prevent all forms of exclusion, both formal and informal.

Along with the recommendations, the organizations are asking that “…any bill of rights for stakeholders in the education system should explicitly include all students, including those with disabilities. It should recognize the right of students to be consulted on matters affecting their education and their right to participate in decisions about their own education, to the extent that they are able.”

The bill of rights would also include access to an impartial, accessible, and expeditious dispute resolution mechanism for all matters related to the education of students with disabilities. It would replace the Identification, Placement, and Review Committee process and provide parents with the necessary supports.

The group would also like to see greater accountability as part of the bill of rights that would “…ensure more robust monitoring of the performance of the education system, particularly with respect to the academic performance and inclusion of students with disabilities.”

The recommendations and the request for an expanded bill of rights follow a wide-ranging, multi-jurisdictional survey spearheaded by the six organizations. If Inclusion Means Everyone, Why Not Me? asked parents of students with intellectual disabilities about instances where their children faced barriers trying to access the education system. A report was subsequently published that identified numerous barriers, including the following:

  • 53% of parents reported that their child was not receiving proper academic accommodations;
  • 67% of parents reported that their child was excluded from the appropriate curriculum based on their level of learning; and
  • 32% of parents reported that their child did not have access to the appropriate support staff when it was required.

Click here to read the report.