A Call for Support: Planning for Accessible Education

Do you think that every child in Manitoba has access to an education that meets their needs and equips them for a satisfying and useful life in their community?

As a result of a recent forum on accessible education in Manitoba, there was a call to action to draft a letter to go to Minister Scott Fielding and his colleagues at the Legislature to add an Accessible Education Standard to our Accessibility for Manitobans Act. This letter is shared below.  To show your support for this call, please go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/lettertominister and proceed to the sign up portion following the text. We appreciate your support and encourage you to share this with family, friends and colleagues.

Thanks to Education Solutions Manitoba and Barrier Free Manitoba for preparing and sharing the letter!


June 30, 2017

To: The Honourable Scott Fielding, Minister of Families
Cc: The Honourable Premier Brian Pallister
The Honourable Ian Wishart, Minister of Education and Training

Re: Commitment to Establish an Accessible Education Standard under The

Accessibility for Manitobans Act

Dear Honourable Minister:

We, the undersigned organizations and concerned citizens, are writing you, as the Minister responsible for the landmark 2013 Accessibility for Manitobans Act, to request that the provincial government establish an Accessible Education Standard under the critically important legislation.

Furthermore, we ask that this standard be developed and come into force within your government’s first term in office. Quality education is an essential gateway to labour market success, as well as to developing the capacity to participate and make meaningful contributions to one’s family, one’s community and the social and economic well-being of our province.

While Manitobans can be proud of progress made over recent decades to improve the educational opportunities and outcomes for students with disabilities, these students and their families continue to face a myriad of serious barriers. These barriers result in Manitobans with disabilities attaining much lower levels of educational achievement and have a disproportionate impact on their ability to achieve labour market success and broader adult life opportunities.

Barriers within our educational system, many of which contravene rights enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Human Rights Code, come at a tremendous human and economic cost, both for the individuals directly affected and for the overall economy. For example, Barrier-Free Manitoba has estimated that employment incomes in the province would increase by an estimated $260 million annually if the gap in employment rates between Manitobans with and without disabilities was decreased by 50%. The estimated annual increase in employment incomes associated with reaching full parity in employment rates is more than $520 million. Similarly, a reduction in the number of Manitobans with disabilities reliant on the provincial Employment and Income Assistance (EIA) program due to educational and labour market related disadvantages would result in substantial cost savings and increased tax revenue for government and taxpayers.

In 2013, Manitoba committed to breaking down barriers faced by those living with disabilities. The landmark Accessibility for Manitobans Act passed by a unanimous, all-party, all member vote in the Legislative Assembly in December 2013.

In so doing, it built on the precedent setting work done in Ontario. However, Manitoba now stands alone as the only one of the three provinces that have enacted similar legislation which has not committed to the development of an Accessible Education Standard. We believe that this represents an expensive and unfortunate oversight that needs to, and can easily, be remedied by your government.

This recommendation was included in Barrier-Free Manitoba’s February 10, 2017 brief submitted in response to an initial discussion paper released by government on a proposed Accessible Employment Standard.

We request that Manitoba’s Accessible Educational Standard identify and address barriers throughout the continuum of education settings, from child care through Kindergarten to Grade 12 to postsecondary and adult education, rather than dealing with the components of the system as separate and distinct silos.

The starting point in the development of this standard, as with all the standards under the AMA, is to identify current barriers and the measures required to remove them to ensure substantial progress toward full educational accessibility is achieved by 2023. The standard will need to complement what is in place already and to build on progress to date.

Extensive consultations with the many stakeholder groups, from front line staff to senior administrators, will also be essential to the development of a strong and effective Accessible Educational Standard.

In closing, the two other provinces to have enacted similar legislation to date have already recognized the need for and committed to the development of accessible educational standards. Manitoban students, their families and the citizens of our province deserve no less.

We, the undersigned organizations and concerned citizens, respectfully request that you and your government commit to develop an Accessible Education Standard under The Accessibility for Manitobans Act within your first term in office.

Sincerely,

The Undersigned

 

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