Extend-A-Family Waterloo Region has sent out their municipal election questionnaire. If elected, I am committed to ensuring that our students and educational community are supported, no matter their accessibility needs. There are a few of their asks that fall outside of the role of a school board trustee, however, as a citizen, I commit to advocating for these priorities.
According to Statistics Canada, 14% of the Canadian population aged 15 or older reported having an accessibility need that limited their daily activities. While I was unable to find concrete numbers on the number of students in Waterloo Region who have accessibility needs (be it physical, mental or learning-based), the Stats Can number could correlate to 1 in 7 students in Waterloo Region having an accessibility need. We also do not know the complexities of each of these students’ need nor the type of supports they need to have an equitable education.
My sister is a teacher who focused on junior grades before taking a string of long-term occasional (LTO) roles as an elementary resource teacher. There is a backlog (and a steep financial barrier) in the way that we diagnose and understand the complex learning and accessibility needs of our students, even more so for students with additional marginalizations (such as race, class, etc.). We need to ensure that, from in-take to IEP creation, the student is prioritized. On top of this, our classroom sizes are too large and there are not enough educational assistants (EAs) to ensure that the ratio of students to educators is at a level that supports the learning of all students. With a lower ratio of students to educators, educators can take the time and care to ensure that each student is supported, no matter their accessibility needs.
I have listed the Extend-A-Family Waterloo Region priorities and have bolded the ones that fall within the role of a school board trustee.
If elected, I promise to:
1. Engage with the local Developmental Services Ontario office to educate yourself on the housing and support needs of persons with developmental disabilities in our community.
2. Ensure that all demographic and population assessments of our municipality include a category that captures persons with developmental disabilities.
3. Ensure that ‘persons with developmental disabilities’ are specifically identified as a sub-category when determining the needs of ‘persons with disabilities’ in our community.
4. Ensure that 10% of all Planning Act benefits secured from developers is targeted to persons with disabilities.
5. Ensure that housing projects that include people with developmental disabilities will be a priority should you get elected.
6. Work with council to waive fees and development charges for zoning and building application for all housing projects that include people with developmental disabilities? This will reduce cost and provide a vital partnership that CMHC will look favourably upon, if applying for their funds.
7. Ensure that your municipality hires people with developmental disabilities.
8. Advocate for an Inclusion Facilitator for 1:1 camp support for camp programs within your municipality. Note: This currently exists in Cambridge and Kitchener.
9. Ensure that children with learning disabilities are not excluded from access to the services they need. Note: There is a recognized need for children and adults not deemed “complex enough” to meet various criteria (someone with a learning disability is ineligible for developmental services).
10. Ensure access to subsidized public transit for recipients of ODSP. Note: Subsidized bus passes will no longer be available to those with developmental disabilities once the Easy GO cards are implemented.