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Right to Read: public inquiry into human rights issues affecting students with reading disabilities

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Background

Reading is a fundamental skill that students must have to navigate their school experience and their later lives. Students with reading disabilities have the right to learn to read. Yet, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) is concerned that Ontario’s public education system may be failing to meet the needs of students with reading disabilities (dyslexia and other learning disabilities that affect reading).

On October 3, 2019, the OHRC announced a public inquiry into potential human rights issues that affect students with reading disabilities in Ontario’s public education system. 

About the inquiry

The Right to Read inquiry is reaching out and hearing from parents, students and educators across the province about their experiences, challenges and concerns arising from their experience in Ontario’s public education system.

The inquiry is also assessing whether school boards use scientific evidence-based approaches to meet students’ right to read. The OHRC will assess school boards against five benchmarks that are part of an effective systematic approach to teaching all students to read:

  • Universal design for learning (UDL)
  • Mandatory early screening
  • Reading intervention programs
  • Effective accommodation
  • Psycho-educational assessments (if required).

The OHRC selected the following eight school boards to assess their compliance with their obligation to provide equal treatment to students with reading disabilities. These boards provide a representative sample of boards across Ontario:

  • Hamilton Wentworth District School Board
  • Keewatin-Patricia District School Board
  • Lakehead District School Board
  • London District Catholic School Board
  • Ottawa-Carleton District School Board
  • Peel District School Board
  • Simcoe-Muskoka Catholic District School Board
  • Thames Valley District School Board.

Get involved

We invite you to complete an online survey and attend one of our upcoming public hearings or community meetings.

Complete a survey

The OHRC is conducting a survey to support the Right to Read inquiry. This survey will help us to understand and report on the experiences of students with reading disabilities in Ontario public schools as part of assessing whether they have meaningful access to education as required by the Ontario Human Rights Code (Code).

This survey is for students with reading disabilities or their parents and guardians. It takes 15 to 20 minutes to complete. You do not have to complete the survey all at once. You can come back to it at any time as long as you use the same computer or smartphone.

To complete the survey click here.

If you have difficulty or need help completing this survey, contact the OHRC at 416-314-4547 or by email at legal@ohrc.on.ca.

A separate survey will be available for educators and others.

Public hearings

The OHRC is holding public hearings to allow students, parents or guardians and other stakeholders to share their stories and lived experiences related to reading disabilities.

January 14, 2020:            Brampton

                                           Chris Gibson Recreation Centre
                                           125 McLaughlin Rd N, Brampton, ON, L6X 1Y7
                                           Registration begins at 5:30 p.m.
                                           Public hearing: 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
                                           Notify the OHRC about accommodation needs by: December 31, 2019

January 29, 2020:            London

                                           Amethyst Demonstration School Auditorium
                                           1515 Cheapside Street, London, ON, N5V 3N9
                                           Registration begins at 5:30 p.m.
                                           Public hearing: 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
                                           Notify the OHRC about accommodation needs by: January 15, 2020

February 25, 2020:          Thunder Bay 

                                           Public Library – Waverley Community Hub Auditorium
                                           285 Red River Road, Thunder Bay, ON, P7B 1A9
                                           Registration begins at 5:30 p.m.
                                           Public hearing: 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
                                           Notify the OHRC about accommodation needs by: February 11, 2020

March 10, 2020:              Ottawa

                                           Nepean Sportsplex
                                           1701 Woodroffe Avenue, Nepean, ON, K2G 1W2
                                           Registration begins at 5:30 p.m.
                                           Public hearing: 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
                                           Notify the OHRC about accommodation needs by: February 25, 2020

How to participate

There are three ways to participate:

  1. Fill out a survey at least two weeks prior to the hearing and be given a time slot to make a seven-minute presentation.

There will be up to 10 time slots for people to make presentations to the panel. Seven minutes will be allotted to their presentation, followed by three minutes for questions from the panel. To be considered for the seven-minute presentation, you must complete the OHRC Right to Read survey at least two weeks before the date of the public hearing located closest to you. You must select the box at the end of the survey agreeing to have the OHRC contact you for further information.

The OHRC will review the surveys and if you are selected to make a presentation, the OHRC will contact you and give you a time slot. You will be sent a speaker’s guide and consent form to sign and bring to the hearing (or sign at the hearing). Time slots are limited and not everyone may be able to make a presentation.

Presentations must be respectful and must not name any individuals (e.g. teacher/principal) or a specific school. Speakers may identify the school boards.

  1. Attend the hearing and register to speak during the “open mic” session, on a first come, first served basis.

At the end of the evening, there will be a 30 minute “open mic” session. During that time, there will be an opportunity for people attending the hearing to make a two-to-three-minute presentation (on a first come first served basis, and time permitting). If you wish to make an “open mic” presentation, you do not need to tell the OHRC in advance but on the day of the hearing, you must pre-register at the registration table and sign a consent form.

Presentations must be respectful and must not name any individuals (e.g. teacher/principal) or a specific school. Speakers may identify the school boards.

  1. Attend to observe.

There is no need to pre-register to attend to observe.

Format

An inquiry panel made up of Chief Commissioner Renu Mandhane and inquiry lawyers will hear presentations from the public on the issues identified in the Right to Read inquiry terms of reference.

As the hearings are open to the public, presenters and speakers should be aware that media may be present. Presentations may also be recorded by others and shared through social media or other means. The OHRC will video-tape the proceedings.

If you have Code-related accommodation needs (e.g. for disability), you must advise the OHRC by email at communications@ohrc.on.ca at least two weeks before the date of the hearing you wish to attend so appropriate arrangements can be made. Captioning will be provided.

Light refreshments will be available.  

Unfortunately the OHRC cannot cover travel costs for those attending the hearings.

Community meetings

The OHRC will also hold community meetings in Hamilton, Barrie and Kenora in early 2020.

Legal authority for collecting personal information

Section 31 of the Code allows the OHRC to collect information as part of conducting a public interest inquiry. This collection is also consistent with s. 38(2) of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA). The OHRC recognizes the importance of protecting personal information, protecting human dignity and maintaining public trust and confidence. We will take all reasonable steps to ensure that personal information is treated confidentially and is only used for the purposes it was collected for, and to prevent unauthorized access, use or disclosure of your personal information as directed by the FIPPA. For more information see our Protection of personal information and privacy safeguards policy.

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