The Ontario Human Rights Code guarantees the right to equal treatment in education, without discrimination on the ground of disability, as part of the protection for equal treatment in services. Education providers have a duty to accommodate students with disabilities up to the point of undue hardship. Students with disabilities are not always being provided with appropriate accommodation, and, in some cases, are falling victim to disputes between the various parties responsible for accommodation. The accommodation process is a shared responsibility. Each party has a duty to co-operatively engage in the process, share information, and canvass potential accommodation solutions. In this regard each party has a specific role to play:
Government: Under the Education Act, the Ministry of Education is responsible for setting out a process for identifying and accommodating disability-related needs in the publicly-funded elementary and secondary school systems. The Ministry must ensure that all exceptional pupils can access special education programs and services without payment of fees. The Ministry is responsible for funding levels and structures, legislating procedures, and creating appeal and monitoring mechanisms. The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities is responsible for providing similar educational services at the post-secondary level. Both ministries are also required, under the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, to complete an annual accessibility plan that addresses the identification, removal and prevention of barriers to people with disabilities.
School Boards: School boards are required to develop and maintain a special education plan outlining programs and services, to establish a Special Education Advisory Committee, and to participate in a board’s annual review of its special education plan, annual budget and financial statements. Under the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, they are also required to complete an accessibility plan.
Elementary and Secondary School Educators: Under the Education Act, school principals are responsible for referring exceptional students to a committee for identification and placement, for preparing an individual education plan for each exceptional student, and for communicating board policies and procedures to staff, students and parents. Teachers are responsible for participating in the accommodation process, assessing students’ progress, and communicating with parents. All education providers are required to investigate accommodation solutions and grant accommodation requests in a timely manner.
Post-secondary Institutions: These institutions must ensure that their facilities and services are accessible, that appropriate, effective and dignified accommodation processes are in place, and that students who require accommodations because of their disabilities are accommodated to the point of undue hardship. Under the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, they are also required to complete an accessibility plan. Educators at the post-secondary level are responsible for participating in the accommodation process (including the provision of specific accommodations), being knowledgeable about and sensitive to disability issues, and maintaining student confidentiality.
Students with Disabilities: A student with a disability, or his or her parent or guardian, is required to advise the education provider of the need for accommodation, participate in discussions regarding possible accommodation solutions, meet curriculum standards once accommodation is provided, and work with the accommodation provider on an ongoing basis to manage the accommodation process.
For further information see the OHRC’s Consultation Report entitled The opportunity to succeed: Achieving Barrier-free access for students with disabilities.