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Re: Development of a new accessibility standard for education

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November 17, 2017

Hon. Mitzie Hunter
Minister of Education
Mowat Block 22nd Flr
900 Bay St, Toronto, ON M7A 1L2

Hon. Deb Matthews
Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development
Mowat Block 3rd Flr
900 Bay St, Toronto, ON M7A 1L2

Hon. Tracy MacCharles
Minister Responsible for Accessibility
Mowat Block 6th Flr
900 Bay St, Toronto, ON M7A 1L2

Dear Ministers,

Re: Development of a new accessibility standard for education

I hope this finds you well. I am writing today regarding the government’s commitment to develop a new accessibility standard for education in Ontario. Regulatory standards are an effective way to address specific accessibility barriers and complement the aim of Ontario’s Human Rights Code. Standards need to align with legal obligations under the Code and with the interpretive policies of the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC).

The OHRC welcomes the development of a new standard. The process to develop the standard should canvas the full scope of barriers. We continue to hear first hand that many students with disabilities are not getting the interventions they need. The OHRC first raised concerns in a 2003 report identifying many barriers at all levels of the education system. We followed up in 2004 with our Guidelines on accessible education to make sure everyone involved in the system fulfills the duty to accommodate under the Code in a timely way. We raised concerns again last year in a letter to the former Minister of Education. Unfortunately barriers continue today and cases are ongoing at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.

It is important that students with disabilities are involved in the development of the standard as well. The 2016 report, We Have Something to Say, written by young people with “special needs”, supported by the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth, highlights the huge gap between the promise of the school system and the experiences of students with disabilities. “I used to think that school was supposed to be a mirror of what society could be, but what I found it to be was a mirror of what society is”, said a youth. We believe that a new accessibility standard for education can be a step towards filling that gap.

The OHRC has identified education as a priority in its 2017-22 Strategic Plan, with a special focus on addressing systemic discrimination in the education system. We are starting with an update of our current guidelines and will be releasing a new policy on accessible education in the spring. The development of the new standard would benefit from our policy work and in turn assist the education sector to understand how to fulfill its legal obligations under the Code.

We are available to meet with you and your staff, as well as the Standards Development Committee, once the members are appointed, to provide any assistance we can. Feel free to contact us anytime and we will follow up with the Accessibility Directorate’s AODA Standards Development and Review Branch as well.


Renu J. Mandhane, B.A., J.D., LL.M.
Chief Commissioner

Irwin Elman
Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth

Copy:  Hon. Yasir Naqvi, Attorney General of Ontario
OHRC Commissioners