Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee

ODA Committee HomepageFactsheet; the Ontarians with Disabilities Act CommitteeWhat's New on the ODA Committee websiteCorrespondence between the ODA Committee and the Ontario GovernmentODA Committee Press ReleasesHansard from the Ontario Legislature re: ODAODA Committee Action Kits and TipsContact the ODA CommitteeOrganizational Members of the ODA
Who are we?Major ODA DocumentsODA News BriefsODA HandoutODA PamphletODA PostersRegional ODA EventsFree Membership form to Join the ODA Committee

Please Support a Strong & Effective ODA


ODA Committee Update
October 17, 2002


ODA Committee submits Brief to Ontario Human Rights Commission on Barriers to Education facing People with Disabilities

October 17, 2002


The ODA Committee has submitted a detailed brief to the Ontario Human
Rights Commission on barriers to education facing persons with
disabilities. The Commission announced this past summer that it was holding
a public consultation on this topic, and invited people to submit briefs.

Below is the 8-page text of the brief itself. We describe many barriers to
education that our membership has told us about over the year. It makes
specific recommendations based on previous briefs we have submitted to the

Our brief was intended to help the Commission by showing how our work in
the ODA area might help them. It also seeks to share with them our
knowledge that comes from past consultations we have ourselves conducted.
We did not do a new, separate consultation to prepare for this brief. This
is because this brief is in essence a compilation of our past work, as it
relates to the Commission's area of interest.

Our brief also includes over 30 pages of "schedules," i.e. appendices to
our brief. We are not setting these out in this email. If you want to see
the schedules, either visit the ODA Committee website in a few days, where
they will be posted, or email us to ask for them at:


The ODA Committee has also encouraged one and all to submit their own
briefs. As well, the Commission will be holding public hearings around
Ontario. We encourage you to contact the Commission and arrange to make a
presentation yourself about the barriers to education facing persons with
disabilities. Contact the Commission for more information on their public

We have received an email from the Commission thanking us for our brief. We
hope this will be yet another example of how the ODA Committee is trying to
share our knowledge and expertise in a positive and constructive way with
organizations and agencies that are working towards a barrier-free Ontario.

Send us your feedback at:



Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee
c/o Marg Thomas
1929 Bayview Avenue, Toronto ON M4G 3E8
Tel: (Voice direct) 416-480-7686
Fax: 416-480-7014
Voice mail: 416-480-7012
email: oda@odacommittee.net
TTY: c/o Susan Main 416 964-0023 ex. 343
Web site: www.odacommittee.net

October 7, 2002

Ontario Human Rights Commission
Education Consultation
Policy and Education Branch
180 Dundas Street West,
8th Floor
Toronto, Ontario
M7A 2R9
Fax: (416) 314-4533



The ODA Committee is a province-wide, grassroots, voluntary, non-partisan
coalition of individuals and over 100 community organizations organized in
23 regions of Ontario. Founded in late 1994, we have united to achieve a
barrier-free Ontario for all persons with disabilities through the prompt
passage and effective implementation of a strong, effective Ontarians with
Disabilities Act. We include over 100 organizational members and many
individual members, both with and without disabilities. Our membership
includes people of all ages, and includes many parents of children with
disabilities. Our organizational members are listed on our website.

We have extensive experience and expertise with the wide range of
disabilities. Through our volunteer efforts we have brought our message to
the Ontario Government, the opposition parties, the public and the media.
Our activities are amply documented on our website whose address is listed


For almost eight years the ODA Committee has led the charge to achieve a
barrier-free Ontario for persons with disabilities through the enactment
and effective implementation of strong and effective new provincial
legislation. Your review of barriers facing persons with disabilities to
equal educational opportunities addresses directly a range of some of the
barriers which we had addressed in connection with the Ontarians with
Disabilities Act. To the extent that the Ontarians with Disabilities Act
2001, passed by the Legislature last December, may not sufficiently and
effectively address those barriers, and to the extent that they could be
addressed within the potential purview of your current consultation, we
have a direct and strong interest in your consultation. The ODA Committee
commends the Ontario Human Rights Commission for undertaking this important
consultation, and welcomes the opportunity to share its expertise in
removing and preventing barriers facing people with disabilities..


The ODA Committee has heard over and over again across Ontario during our
activities that Ontario's education system at all levels is full of
barriers. These impede persons with disabilities from enjoying equal
educational opportunities. These barriers hurt students with disabilities,
teachers and other educational staff with disabilities, and other members
of the public who would benefit from the provision to all persons with
disabilities of equal educational opportunities. No one benefits from these
barriers. Ultimately everyone suffers from these barriers.

The ODA Committee has not undertaken a specific review of barriers in
Ontario's education system for purposes of making this submission to the
Commission. However, the ODA Committee has in the past undertaken very
extensive efforts at collecting and documenting barriers facing people with
disabilities in all facets of Ontario life. One major product of this
effort was our April 22, 1998 Brief to the Ontario Legislature entitled
"MAKING ONTARIO OPEN FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES: A BLUEPRINT FOR A STRONG AND EFFECTIVE ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT." That brief included a very extensive appendix, Appendix 1, entitled "LIFE IN A PROVINCE FULL OF BARRIERS." It listed all the many barriers in various aspects of Ontario life that we had heard about through an extensive series of public forums,
surveys, discussion groups and other information-gathering efforts which we
undertook across Ontario from 1995 to 1998.

Among other things, in that appendix is a detailed list of barriers in the
education system facing people with disabilities. It is not an exhaustive
list, but we believe it to be an informative and helpful compilation. We
include as Schedule A to this brief the relevant part of that 1998 Brief's

We also know that barriers to education were mentioned by a number of
presenters who appeared in the fall of 2001 before the Legislature's
Standing Committee which held public hearings on the proposed Ontarians
with Disabilities Act. While the Government rejected a large majority of
the recommendations which came forward from the disability community at
those hearings, we encourage the Commission to consider those submissions
as they apply to your current consultation. We are pleased to assist by
letting you know that all the public hearings are posted on our web site at
the addresses listed below. Our website is equipped with a search engine to
assist in sifting through the large quantity of materials on the web site.

To see all the transcripts of the public hearings on the ODA bill, go to:

Nov. 29, 2001 - Procedural Issues

November 30, 2001 - Ottawa hearings

December 3, 2001 - Windsor hearings

December 4, 2001 - Toronto hearings

December 5, 2001 - Toronto hearings

December 6, 2001 - Thunder Bay hearings

December 7, 2001 - Sudbury hearings

December 11, 2001 - Clause-By-Clause Debate and Votes on Amendments

To read the entire presentation made on behalf of the ODA Committee in
Toronto, visit:

We also encourage the Commission to review and take into account the
written briefs which were submitted to that Standing Committee, to the
extent that their contents apply to barriers to access to equal educational
opportunities. To assist you with this, we would be pleased to email to you
if you wish all of the briefs that the Standing Committee received in
electronic form on Bill 125. The Standing Committee's clerk was kind enough
to provide these to us in electronic form. We also encourage you to review
the briefs which the Standing Committee received in hard copy form only. To
obtain these hard copy briefs, please contact:

Ms Susan Sourial
Clerk of the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs Standing
Committees Branch
Room 1405, Whitney Block
Queen's Park
Toronto ON M7A 1A2
Tel: (416) 325-7352

The Standing Committee's staff prepared a very helpful 75-page analysis of
all the recommendations that the Standing Committee received. We recommend
that you review this. You can obtain it from Ms. Sourial or download it
from our website.

In addition, the ODA Committee recommends that the Commission review the
report which the Ontario Liberal Party's then-Disability Critic Steve
Peters prepared on barriers facing persons with disabilities in Ontario,
released November 23, 2000. That report, which is posted on our website,
summarizes barriers about which Mr. Peters learned about in his multi-city
public consultation tour, conducted in the spring of 2000. The ODA
Committee, being non-partisan, has offered to help any party that conducts
a public consultation in this area. We assisted Mr. Peters' efforts by
publicizing the consultation process, and encouraging individuals to come
forward to participate in it.


There are a number of protections now available in law for persons with
disabilities to try to get the Ontario Government and local school
authorities to remove these barriers, and to prevent the creation of new
barriers. Regrettably, none of these measures have been sufficiently
effective to date. These protections include:

(a) The Ontario Human Rights Code: The Code imposes a duty on educational
authorities to remove barriers facing people with disabilities, and to
prevent the creation of new ones. Yet after 20 years with this legislation
in place, Ontarians with disabilities still face far too many barriers.

Under the Code, they have to fight these barriers one at a time. Even with
reduction in the time for processing human rights complaints, the prospect
of fighting those barriers undoubtedly deters many from resort to this

(b) The Charter of Rights: Under the Charter, educational authorities have
a constitutional duty to accommodate the needs of students with
disabilities, and to remove and prevent barriers to equal educational
opportunity. (Eaton v. Brant County Board of Education, [1997] 1 S.C.R.
241; Eldridge v. British Columbia (Attorney General) [1997] 3 S.C.R. 624)
Yet the cost, delay, and personal hardships that an individual or family
must bear to bring a constitutional law suit against educational
authorities provides a similar deterrence to battling barriers one at a
time. The experience of the Eaton family is symbolic. Even after they had a
major victory in the Ontario Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court of Canada
overturned it.

(c) Special Education Appeals: This avenue under the Education Act deals
only with a limited range of education issues, and does not provide a
comprehensive way to ensure that existing barriers are removed and new ones
are prevented.

(d) The Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001: This new legislation was
enacted amidst Ontario Government promises that it would achieve a
barrier-free Ontario for people with disabilities as soon as reasonably
possible. It contains some tools that may help. School boards are required
under it to make annual accessibility plans. However they are not obliged
to ensure that those plans are effective, nor are they obliged to implement
them. The ODA 2001 includes a power on the part of the Ontario Government
to make standards in sectors such as education for the removal and
prevention of barriers, and to create effective enforcement mechanisms. The
Ontario Government pledged last year that they would do this. However no
steps have been announced towards this end in the 10 months since the
Legislature passed this legislation.

Included as Schedule B to this Brief is a list of the 13 important
commitments which the Ontario Government made in the fall of 2001 regarding
the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001, and the Government's official
statements in which those commitments were made. These commitments apply
with equal force to the education sector, and provide a good standard
against which to measure the actions taken to implement the ODA 2001.

In June 2002, the ODA Committee submitted a proposed workplan to the
Ontario Government, with detailed suggestions on steps it should take to
implement the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001. In it we recommend,
among other things, the following:

"15. By August 2002, the Accessibility Directorate should release
discussion papers on standards and time-lines for removing and preventing
barriers in public transit and in education (including in public schools,
private schools, colleges and universities). These Discussion Papers should
among other things set out examples of standards and time lines for barrier
removal and prevention which are used now in other jurisdictions.

17. Full province-wide public consultations on the topics of public transit
and of education should begin by October 2002. Draft regulations in these
areas addressing standards and time lines for barrier removal and
prevention should be proposed and published by March 2003, with a view to
final regulations being enacted four months later."

When the Ontario Human Rights Commission announced its public consultation
on barriers in education facing persons with disabilities earlier this
year, the ODA Committee made the following public statement on its website:

"The Ontario Human Rights Commission's initiative bolsters our call for
priority action by the Ontario Government in the field of education under
the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001. We recommend that the Ontario
Government, including the Accessibility Advisory Council, seek to
coordinate efforts this summer and fall with the Ontario Human Rights
Commission. We emphasize the importance of developing regulations under the
ODA 2001 to set standards for achieving a barrier-free education system
along the lines recommended in our proposed ODA Workplan. The time is ripe
for this, since the Ontario Government is now reviewing its entire funding
formula for education.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission will be holding province-wide hearings
this fall. This would provide a great opportunity for the Accessibility
Advisory Council to hold join consultations at the same time, to avoid a
duplication of efforts."

To date, we have received no indication from the Ontario Government that it
has adopted these recommendations.


The Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001, enacted last fall, did not
incorporate many of the important recommendations that we and many others
made to the Ontario Government in connection with that legislation. Many of
those recommendations are relevant to the removal and prevention of
barriers to education. We submit for your consideration the specific
blueprint for the Ontarians with Disabilities Act which we initially
submitted to the Ontario Legislature back in April 1998.(See Schedule C) To
the extent that the Commission finds these helpful as a model for how to
deal with barriers to educational opportunities for persons with
disabilities, we recommend that the Commission endorse and act on them.

The Ontario Government did not accept our recommendation that the ODA
establish an independent enforcement agency under the ODA 2001. As well, as
mentioned above, the Ontario Government has not yet acted on our
recommendation that it make as a priority the setting of standards in the
education sector. We therefore recommend that the Commission consider using
its mandate to fulfil these roles to the extent that it can.

This could include the Commission itself developing standards for
barrier-free education in Ontario as a "policy guideline," after
consultation with interested parties and stakeholders, including persons
with disabilities and parents of children with disabilities. The
Commission's current consultation may provide a good foundation for this.
As well, the Commission could use its power to initiate human rights
complaints to bring forward cases which will enshrine such standards in

In the Commission's consultation report on barriers to public
transportation facing persons with disabilities, released earlier this
year, the Commission called for the province to establish provincial
standards for accessible public transportation. The ODA Committee applauded
the Commission's recommendation. We built upon that recommendation by
ourselves calling for such standards to be developed under the ODA 2001. We
regret that the Ontario Government has not acted on either recommendation
in that sphere. This is the case despite the fact that the Ontario
Government gave itself power to set such standards in the ODA 2001, and
committed last fall to set standards in various sectors under the ODA 2001,
with input from the disability community.

Accordingly, we recommend that it would not be sufficient at this stage for
the Commission to simply call on the Ontario Government to set standards
for barrier-free education under the ODA 2001. We fear that none will be
forthcoming in the foreseeable future. It is advisable that the Commission
set about developing such standards itself in the education sphere. We
recommend that those standards comply with the 11 principles for the
Ontarians with Disabilities Act which the Ontario Legislature unanimously
adopted by resolution on October 29, 1998. That resolution is set out in
Schedule D to this brief.

We are aware that at present that large law suits are underway in Ontario
in relation to such matters as the provision of special education. The
establishment of strong and effective standards in this area could relieve
from parents and families the financial and emotional hardships associated
with conducting such litigation. There is particular concern about the
prospect of new barriers now being created in Ontario's education system
against persons with disabilities. For example, it has been widely reported
that the Ontario Government's take-over of the Ottawa school board earlier
this fall has led to the elimination of a significant number of special
education positions. This constitutes a new barrier. It breaches the
Ontario Government's pledge made on December 13, 2001 in the Ontario
Legislature that no new barriers will be created in Ontario.

There is room for confusion on how the school boards which have been
subject to provincial action this fall will discharge their duties to
develop accessibility plans under the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001.
Will these be undertaken by the Ontario Government, or the local school
boards? The need for strong and effective provincial standards is even more
pressing in light of this situation.

The forthcoming new funding formula for education in Ontario will require
special scrutiny by the Commission for its impact on the removal and
prevention of barriers in education against persons with disabilities.. It
is critical that the new funding formula facilitate the removal and
prevention of such barriers. It must not itself serve as a barrier to such

Finally, we wish to emphasize an important principle which the ODA
Committee set out in its April 22, 1998 brief to the Ontario Legislature.
There we stated: "To have equal educational opportunity, it is vital that
people with disabilities have the right to choose between the options of
integrated schooling in the mainstream, and education in specialized
classes and schools. In either case, they must have the appropriate
supports to accommodate their disability. Certain segments of the
disability community, such as the Deaf community, have emphasized the
importance of protecting and preserving specialized educational programs,
and emphasize the needs for schools for the deaf, as well as appropriate
support services that come from organizations such as the Canadian Hearing


We again applaud the Commission for undertaking this consultation, and
would be pleased to do whatever we can to assist in its success.


Go to Top of Page Top of Page


Index Page   |  Action Kits & Tips  | 

Website maintained by Barbara Anello

Please email your feedback on the website.

Last updated November 8, 2002 7:02 pm

Web Design Courtesy of Barbara Anello 
of AWS: Anello Web Services 
URL: http://welcome.to/aws