Ontario’s Accessibility Act

Filed Under (Activism, Autism and Learning, Critical Disability Studies, Inclusion) by Estee on 05-08-2009

By 2012, accommodating disabled persons in Ontario will become mandatory for all non profit organizations. Accommodating people with disabilities will be enforced, and this will make it necessary for all not for profit agencies — which includes hospitals, schools, religious organizations, transportation services and the like — to be able to utilize and/or make available Assistive Devices for non verbal individuals as well as other equipment, environmental provisions and the deliverance of the “products and services” (which entails what we commonly refer to as  accommodation) for a diverse population of individuals with various needs.

Under the Ontarian Accessibiltiy Act which became law in 2005, non profits will all have to comply by 2012 and other businesses by 2025. The use of such terms as “customer service,” positions the act to read that it requires to view our disabled population also as clients and consumers — the latter term which, in our current economic belief and behaviour, renders Ontario’s disabled as more “valuable” citizens.  It is true that the disabled are important part of our society and contributors to our economy, and it makes sad but true sense that our legislators have to enforce the accommodation of all our citizens by using these terms. Economic terms. We deliver a basic human right via “customer service.”

Now that it is soon to become mandatory for an area that I’m particularly interested in — schools — I wonder why there is continued resistance in Ontario to use AAC (Assistive Augmentative Communication).  Adam needs the computer in his school to communicate his understanding of the concepts being taught. It seems like simple ABC to me. In this day and age where technology is common and relatively inexpensive, and where autistic children can indeed excel, it makes little sense that we have to make enforceable the ways and means that autistic children can participate and be included in the classroom and with their peers. This argument goes beyond devices and right down to understanding how autistic children can learn and respond and how the format of the lessons and teaching styles need to be delivered. For if our children are now viewed as valuable “clients,” then one would think they should certainly be entitled to no less.

I for one am working with the act and terminology to encourage service providers unfamiliar with accommodating disabled people in Ontario to adapt and include. Once we can help others to understand that disabled children do not “pull their other children down,” but in fact propel them forward both as compassionate human beings as well as academically, we can create more just classrooms. “Research shows that for typical students in inclusive classrooms, academic performance was equal to or better than that of general education students educated in noninclusive classrooms.” (Exceptional Children, 64: (1998) 239-253) “And, contrary to the worries of many parents of typical students, the inclusion of students with severe disabilities (when there was appropriate support) did not reduce teaching time nor create many interruptions.” (Exceptional Children, 61,3 (1994): 242-253).

Yet the burden of proof will remain heavy upon us for some time. There is not really a day that we do not confront resistance to inclusion (or “barriers” which is a commonly used term), in the name of safety, medical needs, the guise of inclusion under the term “mainstreaming,” competition and more myths about why special needs children should not be included in our communities, schools and daily life. It is up to us to hold steady with this burden  to keep up the research and the dialogue about why inclusion is good for everyone.

As Adam goes to an inclusive school, it seems logical that we learn to teach by teaching and we learn to include by including. Legislation or no legislation, we will still have a lot of work to do in order to help others understand autism and autistic people as valuable and entitled in their own rite.


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About Me


I’m a PhD candidate at York University, Critical Disability Studies, with a multi-disciplinary background in the arts as a curator and writer. I am the Founder of The Autism Acceptance Project (www.taaproject.com), and an enamoured mother of my only son who lives with the autism label. I like to write about our journey, critical issues regarding autism in the area of human rights, law, and social justice, as well as reflexive practices in (auto)ethnographic writing about autism.