Letter from the chair

The Honourable Raymond Cho
Minister for Seniors and Accessibility
777 Bay Street
5th Floor, Toronto, Ontario
M7A 1S5

Dear Minister,

The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee (the Committee) has completed the first phase of our work on the development of new accessibility standards for K-12 education.

As Chair and on behalf of the Committee, I am pleased to submit to you our Initial Recommendations Report.

I want to thank you for the privilege of chairing this Committee, one with such dedicated and passionate members. The diversity of lived, community and education sector experience in our membership has been invaluable to the work of this Committee.

As well, the ongoing COVID‑19 pandemic brought on many challenges to our work, as changed our meeting format and voting processes to an entirely on-line format, but with the support of your Ministry, we were able to do so successfully.

COVID‑19 has also had a significant impact on the education system in our province, impacting students with disabilities and their families to a great degree. With that in mind, our Committee’s Planning for Emergencies and Safety working group submitted a report to Education Minister Lecce and I in July 2020, outlining advice and recommendations on emergency planning and safety for students with disabilities in K-12 education during the COVID‑19 pandemic. The report was posted on your Ministry’s website in August 2020.

As requested in your mandate letter, and as set out in the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 in this initial report we have defined the long-term objective of the proposed K-12 Education standards and each of the measures, policies, practices and requirements which we propose to be implemented before January 1, 2025, as well as the timeframe for their implementation. Our work was informed by the lived experience of people with disabilities, as well as the responses to the survey conducted by Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility, Ministry for Education and Ministry for Colleges and Universities in 2017.

As you wisely requested, a joint technical sub committee was established, with membership from both the K-12 and Postsecondary Education Committees, to consider areas of commonality, with a special focus on transition planning. A separate set of recommendations has been developed by that sub committee.

Through many thoughtful discussions, our committee has chosen to focus our recommendations on the following eight barrier areas: Attitudes, Behaviours, Perceptions, and Assumptions; Awareness and Training; Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment; Digital Learning and Technology; Organizational Barriers; Social Realms; Physical and Architectural Barriers; and Emergency Planning. There was also a member group that focused on accountability measures and timelines for each of the Committee’s recommendations.

The Committee worked hard to focus on solutions when drafting this Initial Recommendations Report. Implementing these recommendations and removing barriers to accessibility in K-12 education also requires changing the hearts and minds of Ontarians. Attitude is a significant barrier to this change, accessibility is a benefit to everyone, and every child matters in Ontario.

As school boards, educators and the disability community read these recommendations they will be able to identify and celebrate their own ongoing efforts to advancing accessible and inclusive education. We encourage the public to read it with a mindset that embraces change and recognizes the opportunity for progress. The recommendations of the Committee will help build an education system that is accessible for persons with disabilities, and in turn help prepare them for a lifetime of the fullest possible self-reliance, resilience, and participation as citizens. This is aligned with both the 2020 Ontario Budget's "recovery" pillar and the government's commitment to the province's long-term economic sustainability.

Ensuring that we move forward on these recommendations will bring transformational change in the sector. This will be a change that embraces equitable education for students of all abilities. All decisions made regarding accessibility and students with disabilities should be made with the input of advocates and the disability community, bolstered by the central principle of nothing about us without us. Every child has the right to learn and grow in an accessible and inclusive environment, and we are confident that our work is a step towards that reality.

We look forward to receiving public feedback on these recommendations and meeting with you and Minister Lecce to discuss this report.


Lynn Ziraldo
Chair of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee