Students with disabilities continue to confront numerous barriers in Ontario’s publicly funded school system. Such barriers impede students with disabilities from fully participating in and benefitting from an accessible, equitable, and inclusive education system in Ontario. As such, the Ontario Government is enacting Education Accessibility Standards under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005. Under the act, accessibility standards are regulations that spell out the barriers that are to be removed or prevented, what must be done to remove or prevent them, and the timelines required for these actions. The call for Education Accessibility Standards to be developed and enacted under the act initially came from the disability community. This call eventually achieved bi-partisan support by all three Ontario political parties, and support from key labour unions representing many of those working on the front lines of Ontario's education system.

In 2017, two Standards Development Committees were established by the Ontario Government to make recommendations on what Education Accessibility Standards should include. The K–12 Education Standards Development Committee was responsible for making recommendations on what the accessibility standards should include to address barriers in Ontario's publicly funded schools from Kindergarten to Grade 12. The Postsecondary Education Standards Development Committee was appointed to make recommendations on what the accessibility standards should include to address barriers in Ontario’s postsecondary education institutions (for example, colleges and universities). Each committee has developed their own initial recommendations report to address their specific area but still have communicated and coordinated their recommendations throughout the process.

In this report, the K–12 Education Standards Development Committee brings forward for public comment and feedback a comprehensive series of initial recommendations on what the K–12 Education Accessibility Standards should include. It is the result of the extensive joint efforts of government-appointed representatives from the disability community and the education sector to identify the barriers that students with disabilities face and the measures needed to remove and prevent them.

The committee’s work has been informed by global, national, and provincial research and evidence-based practices in education. Furthermore, an emphasis was placed on gathering information and research from the lived experiences of students, families and community members living with disabilities. To be sure, their voices were essential in informing the initial recommendations. The committee also recognized how important it was to address the intersections of disability with race, culture, religion, language, ethnicity, socio-economic status, gender, sexual orientation and other dimensions of student/family identity when making recommendations on advancing a barrier-free education for all.

As school boards and diverse school communities read these initial recommendations, they will likely be able to identify and celebrate their own ongoing efforts at advancing accessible and inclusive education for students with disabilities. This document is intended to help identify where they are, and what else they need to do to prevent and remove barriers that impede access and inclusion in educational life for all students.

These initial recommendations are intended to help educators ensure that students with disabilities can fully participate in and be on a footing of equality from all that Ontario's education system has to offer. They aim to help school boards save the cost of having to re-invent the wheel when it comes to accessibility, and the cost of leaving barriers in place that disadvantage students with disabilities. They seek to ensure that in Ontario’s education system, public money is never used to create new barriers that negatively impact students with disabilities or to perpetuate existing barriers.

These initial recommendations also aim to implement the rights of students with disabilities to equity and equality in education, guaranteed to them since 1982 by the Ontario Human Rights Code and by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In addition to students with disabilities, there are others who will substantially benefit from these initial recommendations. For example, they will help parents/caregivers, siblings, grandparents and other family members who have disabilities, teachers and other school staff and volunteers who have disabilities, and any members of the public with disabilities who might wish to interact with and benefit from Ontario's education system.

The K–12 Education Standards Development Committee hopes that the promised Education Accessibility Standards will achieve a real change in the practices and culture regarding accessibility within the school system. This will unleash both the potential of all students with disabilities and of the professionals employed to educate them.


The committee spent their initial meetings discussing and identifying barriers to accessible education in the K–12 sector. Committee members considered a wide range of barriers upon which to focus their work. As a result of many thoughtful discussions, ten main categories of barriers emerged:

  1. attitudes, behaviours, perceptions and assumptions
  2. awareness and training
  3. curriculum, instruction and assessment
  4. digital learning and technology
  5. organizational barriers
  6. social realms
  7. physical and architectural barriers
  8. planning for emergency and safety
  9. timelines and accountability
  10. transitions (Education Joint Technical Sub-Committee)

Based on the ten agreed upon themes, committee members were divided into corresponding small groups based on expertise and personal background. The chair asked each small group to draft recommendations to remove accessibility barriers from their assigned barrier area. The small groups met over the course of several months to draft their recommendations.

Teams then brought forward initial recommendations to the full committee for discussion and review before final voting. The committee members were collaborative, engaged and dedicated throughout their experience of working together in small groups and as a full committee.

Education Joint Technical Sub-Committee

In order to ensure that the work of both the K–12 and Postsecondary Education Committees remains aligned, the minister asked both chairs to form a joint technical sub-committee representing members from both sectors and from the disability community. The Education Joint Technical Sub-Committee is made up of members from both the K–12 and postsecondary committees. The sub-committee is responsible for sharing information across the two committees and for considering areas of commonality, in addition to considering the area of transition planning as a priority.

Vision for an accessible student-centred education system


The act requires Standards Development Committees to establish long-term objectives to inform the development of accessibility standards. The establishment of long-term objectives at the beginning of the standards development process helps guide and inform Standards Development Committees in determining which accessibility requirements will help achieve the identified goals. Long-term objectives summarize the intended outcome of the standards and are subject to review together with the final standards under the act.