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Ontario Human Rights Commission takes further action to aid students with disabilities

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November 30, 2004

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For immediate publication

Toronto - Following through on its commitment to help educational institutions, teachers, and parents better understand the duty to accommodate students with disabilities in Ontario’s schools, colleges and universities, Chief Commissioner Keith Norton announced the release of Guidelines on Accessible Education today.

Speaking to an audience of parents, educators, and advocacy groups this morning, Mr. Norton stated, “These Guidelines are the result of extensive consultation with many people who work daily to meet the needs of students with disabilities.  They exist to support students with disabilities in the fulfillment of their right to access education services.  They also exist to support education providers in meeting their responsibilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code.”

The Guidelines set out the Commission’s interpretation of how Ontario’s Human Rights Code applies to the provision of educational services for students with disabilities.  They outline steps in the accommodation process and clarify a number of issues including: principles of accommodation, creating a welcoming environment, guidance on determining the most appropriate accommodation for students with disabilities, benefits of accommodation planning, and roles and responsibilities of parties to the accommodation process.

“The consultation process has been as much about educating and building awareness of this important issue as it has been about developing a workable set of guidelines,” said Mr. Norton.  By clearly setting out the Commission’s view of the responsibilities of all parties to the accommodation process, and by providing direction to these parties on how to best achieve compliance with the Code, it is hoped that the Guidelines will help to prevent discrimination and reduce disputes throughout the process.

The Guidelines are a companion to the Commission’s Consultation Report entitled, The Opportunity to Succeed: Achieving Barrier-free Education for Students with Disabilities, which was released in October 2003. The Consultation Report canvassed human rights issues that arise in the provision of education to students with disabilities and outlined actions required by responsible parties to promote compliance with the Code and Commission policy.  Through the consultation process, the Commission was able to determine areas where it could provide guidance to parties to assist them in better understanding their rights and obligations under the Code.

For copies of the Guidelines on Accessible Education, The Opportunity to Succeed: Achieving Barrier-free Education for Students with Disabilities, please visit the Ontario Human Rights Commission Web site.