OHRC initiatives related to disability and education
1999 – 2019
Letter to Minister of Education re: Policy/Program Memorandum (PPM) – school board policies on service animals
The OHRC responded to the Ministry of Education’s consultation on its draft PPM for school board policies on service animals in schools. The OHRC recommended revisions such as recognizing that the duty to accommodate disability also includes individual needs not related to learning needs.
OHRC Submission regarding the government consultation on the education system in Ontario
The OHRC encouraged the government to apply a human rights lens to all aspects of the education system, including addressing barriers to equality and discrimination in education against students with disabilities.
Submission to inform the Third Review of the Accessibility Act for Ontarians with Disabilities
The OHRC provided recommendations including that the government continue to develop new accessibility standards for education.
Submission to inform Canada’s response to recommendations made during the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (3rd cycle)
The OHRC proposed that Canada prioritize certain recommendations, notably those related to accessible education for students with disabilities, and provided suggestions on how Canada could implement these recommendations.
Letter to Ministers re: accessible education for students with disabilities
The OHRC shared its Policy on accessible education for students with disabilities and Recommendations on improving outcomes for students with disabilities with the Ministers of Education; Training, Colleges and Universities; and Seniors and Accessibility, and encouraged the government to continue to develop new accessibility standards for education pursuant to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
Recommendations: Improving education outcomes for students with disabilities
The OHRC set out 29 actions that the Ministry of Education, school boards, private educational providers, and post-secondary institutions should take to make the education system inclusive, function effectively, and allow students with disabilities to thrive.
Policy on accessible education for students with disabilities
The OHRC released a policy that provides students and families with up-to-date information about their human rights and responsibilities, and offers practical guidance to education providers to meet their legal duty to accommodate.
Letter re: University-mandated leave of absence policy raises human rights concerns
The OHRC expressed concerns that the University of Toronto’s proposed policy fell short of meeting the duty to accommodate students with mental health disabilities. The OHRC recommended that the policy not be approved in its current form.
Letter re: Implementing recommendations on First Nations special education
The OHRC wrote to the Minister of Education, asking that they implement the recommendations in the May 2017 Ontario First Nations Special Education Review Report that relate to concerns with Ontario’s role in First Nations special education.
Letter re: Development of a new accessibility standard for education
The OHRC wrote to the Minister of Education, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development, and the Minister Responsible for Accessibility, welcoming the government’s commitment to develop a new accessibility standard for education in Ontario. The OHRC emphasized the importance of having students with disabilities involved in developing the standard and offered assistance.
With Learning in Mind
The OHRC wrote to public colleges and universities in Ontario asking them to implement measures to reduce systemic barriers to post-secondary education for students with mental health disabilities. The report describes the systemic barriers the OHRC identified, the modifications to post-secondary institutions’ policies and procedures requested by the OHRC, and the institutions’ self-reported progress in implementing the requested changes.
Policy statement on medical documentation
The OHRC released a policy statement that provides an overview of the role of medical professionals in the accommodation process, and the type and scope of medical information needed.
Ontario Human Rights Commission Strategic Plan 2017-2022
The OHRC identified education as a priority in its Strategic Plan, with a special focus on addressing systemic discrimination in the education system.
Letter to the Ministry of Education regarding the provincial and demonstration schools consultation
The OHRC offered assistance to the Ministry of Education during its consultation involving certain provincial and demonstration schools for students with disabilities.
Follow-up letter to the president of each public college and university in Ontario
The OHRC wrote a follow-up letter on revisions to medical documentation guidelines and accommodation, continuing to request responses from each individual institution.
Letter to the president of each public college and university in Ontario
The OHRC asked all public colleges and universities in Ontario to revise medical documentation guidelines and accommodation requirements for post-secondary students with mental health disabilities, to remove potential barriers.
Letter re: Diagnosis requirements for OSAP and federal grants
The OHRC wrote to the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities to ask the Ministry to stop requiring students to disclose their specific mental health disability diagnosis to establish eligibility for the Ontario Student Assistance Program and Bursary for Students with Disabilities and other grants.
Dhanota v York University
The OHRC intervened and reached a settlement in a case about the type of medical documentation that needs to be provided to support a request for accommodation for a mental health disability, and worked with the university and the student who filed the claim to develop new documentation guidelines to access academic accommodations.
Tang v McMaster University, 2015 HRTO 551
The OHRC intervened to make submissions about the discrimination analysis in a case that alleged the university had failed to provide appropriate accommodations and did not inquire about the student’s disability-related needs (Post-Concussive Syndrome and Mild Traumatic Acquired Brain Injury).
OHRC submission re: Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2013-2014 Legislative Review
The OHRC made recommendations to prevent and eliminate discriminatory practices, including barriers faced by persons with disabilities. In particular, the OHRC recommended that the government begin seeking public input on other priority areas for new regulated standards under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, such as accessibility standards for the education system.
Teaching human rights in Ontario: A guide for Ontario schools
The OHRC published its third edition of this guide, updated to reflect the many changes that happened in human rights over the past decade, including on discrimination on the ground of disability and the OHRC’s Guidelines on Accessible Education.
Student v Simcoe County District School Board
The OHRC assisted the parties, a student with autism and the board, in reaching a settlement by consulting on public interest remedies, specifically preparing and delivering training.
DS v London District Catholic School Board, 2012 HRTO 786
The OHRC referred and had carriage over two complaints that alleged that the board failed to accommodate two students with ADHD and learning disabilities.
Moore v BC (Ministry of Education), 2012 SCC 61
The OHRC intervened in Moore, a landmark Supreme Court of Canada case that dealt with the denial of meaningful access to education for a student with dyslexia. The Supreme Court agreed with the OHRC’s position and upheld the original decision that discrimination had occurred.
LC v Toronto District School Board, 2011 HRTO 1336
The OHRC referred and had carriage over a case that alleged the Board failed to accommodate the needs of a student with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
OHRC Submission re: the Ministry of Community and Social Services Proposed Integrated Accessibility Regulation under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005
The OHRC raised several concerns about the proposed Integrated Accessibility Regulation, notably on exemptions for private educational institutions and materials that educational institutions offer that should be “conversion ready.”
Sigrist and Carson v London District Catholic School Board, 2010 HRTO 1062
The OHRC referred and had carriage over a case about whether the Special Education Tribunal has exclusive jurisdiction over the identification, placement and accommodation of students with special needs.
CM v York Region District School Board, 2010 HRTO 1494
The OHRC intervened to argue whether the definition of “age” in the Code is contrary to the Charter with respect to the particular proceeding.
Letter to the Editor, Toronto Star re: Canada’s ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
The OHRC acknowledged Canada’s ratification of the Convention as an important step forward.
Letter re: Ratification of UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
The OHRC encouraged the Government of Canada to ratify, implement and give effect to the Convention, highlighting the Convention’s obligations on identifying and eliminating obstacles and barriers to accessibility in schools, and the Government of Ontario’s initiative to change safe schools legislation and policies to address adverse treatment and punishment of students with behaviour-related disabilities.
Brown v Trebas Institute Ontario Inc, 2008 HRTO 10
The OHRC successfully argued that the private college discriminated against the student, who is blind, by failing to take appropriate steps to implement the required accommodation and by applying an enrolment policy that conflicted with the duty to accommodate. The HRTO ordered all of the public interest remedies the OHRC requested, such as requiring the college to designate a position in its administrative structure with primary responsibilities for meeting the accommodation needs of students with disabilities.
Sigrist and Carson v London District Catholic School Board, 2008 HRTO 14
The OHRC successfully added the Ministry of Education as a respondent. The OHRC argued that the Ministry could potentially be liable for its alleged failure to take more timely action to assist the student’s parents in resolving their concerns about the board’s alleged failure to appropriately accommodate the student’s needs.
Davidson v Lambton Kent District School Board, 2008 HRTO 294
The OHRC successfully added the Ministry of Education as a respondent. The OHRC argued that the Ministry has a role in how school boards exercise their responsibilities, even relating to particular students, and could potentially be liable for discrimination where its definition of exceptionalities (here, ADHD) prevented or delayed a student from receiving required accommodations.
Student v Toronto Catholic District School Board
The OHRC successfully settled a case involving a student with Anxiety Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The settlement required the board to conduct individual assessments for students with special needs, and implement measures to improve communication between students and staff on accommodations.
Student v Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board et al
The OHRC successfully settled a case involving a student of Arab descent with ADHD, requiring the board to reintroduce an anti-racism policy and deliver training.
Equal access to education for students with disabilities during strikes
The OHRC highlighted the human rights principles that apply to educating students with disabilities during strikes, walkouts, work stoppages or other job actions involving educational assistants. This fact sheet serves as a resource for government, unions, school boards and others to act proactively to ensure equal access to education for students with disabilities during strikes or other work stoppages.
OHRC v Ontario (Ministry of Education)
The OHRC successfully settled its own complaint against the Ministry of Education relating to applying safe schools provisions under the Education Act and related school discipline policies that had a disproportionate effect on students with disabilities and racialized students. The settlement resulted in amendments to the Act that require principals and school boards to consider mitigating factors before suspending or expelling students. The Ministry also mandated the creation of alternative education programs for suspensions of longer than five days, and introduced new Policy and Program Memoranda on progressive discipline.
Pukas v Halton District School Board
The OHRC successfully mediated a settlement between the complainant and the board requiring the board to assign educational assistant supports, whether in self-contained supports or otherwise, to the point of undue hardship.
Arzem v Ontario, 2006 HRTO 17
The OHRC referred 245 cases of children with Pervasive Development Disorders (which includes Autism Spectrum Disorder) who were ineligible for Applied Behaviour Analysis and Intensive Behavioural services because of the program’s age restrictions. The OHRC successfully argued that denying Code protections for children under age 18 violated the equality provision of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
OHRC v Toronto District School Board
The OHRC successfully settled its own complaint against the board relating to the disproportionate impact of the safe school provisions of Ontario’s Education Act and related board policies on students with disabilities and racialized students. The board committed to collecting data and considering mitigating factors in school discipline policies.
OHRC v Dufferin-Peel Catholic School Board
The OHRC mediated a settlement requiring the board to take race and disability into account as mitigating factors in its school discipline policies.
OHRC v Toronto District School Board
The OHRC filed a Commission-initiated complaint against the board, alleging that the application of school discipline legislation and policies was having a discriminatory impact on racialized students and students with disabilities.
OHRC v Ontario (Ministry of Education)
The OHRC filed a Commission-initiated complaint against the Ministry, alleging that the application of school discipline legislation and policies was having a discriminatory impact on racialized students and students with disabilities. OHRC concerns were based on submissions received during its racial profiling inquiry, its consultation on disability issues in Ontario’s education system, and an external report prepared for the OHRC that supported these concerns with evidence from Nova Scotia, the United States and Britain.
Submission to the Toronto District School Board Safe and Compassionate Schools Task Force
The OHRC made a submission to the Task Force raising concerns that applying school disciplinary legislation, regulations and policies may be having a discriminatory effect on students from racialized communities and students with disabilities. The submission included several recommendations for the Ministry of Education and school boards across the province, including collecting data on suspensions and expulsions to monitor and safeguard against discriminatory application of safe school legislation.
Letter to Ministers re: Follow-up to OHRC Consultation Report
The OHRC wrote to the Minister of Education and the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities to inquire into their progress on the recommendations in the OHRC’s 2003 consultation report, The Opportunity to Succeed: Achieving Barrier-free Education for Students with Disabilities.
Guidelines on accessible education
The OHRC provided guidance to help education providers and students with disabilities fulfill their duties and rights under the Code. The Guidelines provide clarification on: the principles of accommodation; creating a welcoming environment for all students; the accommodation process; the right to confidentiality and the disclosure of information; appropriate accommodation; accommodation planning; the undue hardship standard; and roles and responsibilities of the people involved in the accommodation process.
Planning for the accommodation needs of students with disabilities
The OHRC highlighted that as part of the duty to accommodate, education providers are responsible for taking steps to plan for accommodating students with disabilities, emphasizing the importance of institutional accessibility plans, individual accommodation plans, transitioning, and collecting data for effective planning.
The Ontario Safe Schools Act: School Discipline and Discrimination
The OHRC’s external report found that in the Greater Toronto Area and other parts of Ontario, there is a strong perception, which is supported by some independent evidence, that Ontario’s Safe Schools Act and Regulations and the school board policies on discipline, were having a disproportionate impact on racialized students, particularly Black students, and students with disabilities.
The Opportunity to Succeed: Achieving barrier-free education for students with disabilities
The OHRC reported on what it heard in its education consultation, and recommended actions for schools, school boards, post-secondary institutions, government, and other responsible parties to promote compliance with human rights law and policy. This report also set out the OHRC’s own commitments.
Main barriers to education for students with disabilities
The OHRC identified inadequate funding, physical inaccessibility, the accommodation process, the lack of individualization, ineffective dispute resolution mechanisms, and negative attitudes and stereotypes as some of the main barriers to education service for students with disabilities.
Roles and responsibilities in the accommodation of students with disabilities
The OHRC spotlighted the roles and responsibilities of students with disabilities (or their parent or guardian), education providers, unions, professional associations, and third-party education service providers in accommodating students with disabilities, including the accommodation process and providing education services.
Letter to Ministers re: Access to preschool programs for deaf/hard of hearing children
The OHRC wrote to the Minister of Children’s Services and the Minister of Education about access to preschool programs for deaf/hard of hearing children.
Education and disability: Human rights issues in Ontario’s education system
The OHRC identified human right issues in education and invited feedback from interested parties, through written submissions and participation in public hearings, on the issues identified in the consultation paper and on other human rights issues in education.
Commission launches public consultations on disability issues in Ontario’s education system
The OHRC announced that it will hold public consultations on human rights issues affecting persons with disabilities in Ontario’s education system. It held public consultation sessions in Hamilton, North Bay, Ottawa and Toronto. This initiative stemmed from the OHRC’s public consultations on disability and the duty to accommodate in 1999, as it developed its Policy and guidelines on disability and the duty to accommodate, where several submissions raised important issues relating to disability and education in addition to complaints of systemic discrimination.
Policy and guidelines on disability and the duty to accommodate
This policy replaced the previous set of guidelines established in 1989, and reflected progressive developments in understandings of disability and the duty to accommodate.
Teaching human rights in Ontario: An educational package for Ontario schools
The OHRC published a new edition of the Guide, first introduced in 1995, and included information on the OHRC’s Policy and guidelines on disability and the duty to accommodate.
Accommodating students with disabilities: roles and responsibilities
The OHRC highlighted that the accommodation process is a shared responsibility among government, school boards, elementary and secondary school educators, post-secondary institutions, and students with disabilities (or their parent or guardian). Each party has a specific role and a duty to co-operatively engage in the process, share information, and canvass potential accommodation solutions.
Accommodating students with disabilities: principles
The OHRC identified three accommodation principles for education providers to prevent and remove barriers that impede students with disabilities from fully taking part in the education environment, promote inclusive design, and accommodate remaining needs: respect for dignity, individualized accommodation, and inclusion and full participation.
1999 – 2000
Update to Discover Together
The OHRC worked on developing a teaching resource on “human rights and dsabilities” as part of the updated disability awareness resource teacher’s manual, Discover Together. The manual is designed to help teachers introduce non-disabled students to a variety of disability issues, and to increase their awareness of the abilities of people with disabilities. The package was re-released by the Equity Department of the Toronto District School Board and distributed to all elementary schools in the Toronto District School Board.
Student v Windsor Board of Education and Greater Essex County District School Board
The OHRC referred a case between the complainant and the school boards resulting in a settlement requiring the respondents to create an activity fee surcharge for all Adult Continuing Education students, to develop a fund for the sole purpose of paying the cost of services for students with special needs.
Public consultations on disability and the duty to accommodate
The OHRC consulted extensively with approximately 150 stakeholders, including educational institutions, to evaluate the need for revisions to the 1989 Guidelines for assessing accommodation requirements for persons with disabilities and to seek views on proposed revisions.
Meloche by his Litigation Guardian Theresa Kales v Greater Essex County District School Board
The OHRC referred a case between the complainant and the board. The resulting settlement required the board to establish a fund to support deaf and hearing-impaired students with the costs associated with therapeutic intervention, as well as hire a teacher with the ability to provide American Sign Language instruction.