For immediate publication
Toronto - Chief Commissioner Keith Norton today announced that the Ontario Human Rights Commission will hold public consultations this fall on human rights issues affecting persons with disabilities in Ontario's education system.
"The Commission is aware there are serious concerns regarding the accessibility and equality of educational services for students with disabilities," remarked Mr. Norton. "We share these concerns and are launching this consultation to encourage discussion, promote an understanding of the challenges people are facing, and ultimately deal with their human rights issues."
The Commission's concerns are raised in the Consultation Paper, Education and Disability: Human Rights Issues in Ontario. The paper looks at access to education for students with disabilities, accommodation issues, and the impact of stereotypes and attitudinal barriers. All interested parties are invited to consult on these and other issues raised in the paper. The consultation will focus on both public and private institutions, at the primary, secondary and post-secondary levels.
From the feedback received, the Commission will prepare a Consultation Report containing recommendations for improving access to and equality of education services for persons with disabilities in Ontario. The Commission will also develop specific guidelines to clarify the application of the Human Rights Code to disability issues in educational services.
"Education is a complex field, governed by numerous statutes and regulations, and many players. Along with our other initiatives, this consultation will better inform Ontarians about their rights and responsibilities, and clarify the scope of the Commission's powers," added Chief Commissioner Norton.
The Ontario Human Rights Code affirms the right to equal treatment in services, including education, without discrimination because of disability. The Commission's Policy and Guidelines on Disability and the Duty to Accommodate, released in March 2001, outlines the scope of these rights. It includes a broad understanding of disability, and sets out key policy positions on the duty to accommodate and the undue hardship standard.
The public consultations will be held across Ontario this fall. Interested parties are invited to provide written submissions and obtain information about the consultation from the Commission's Web site.
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