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Minister Acknowledges the Growing Support for an Accessible Education Standard

Jan 16, 2018

Classroom with a teacher and students

Barrier-Free Manitoba kicked the New Year into gear by sending an updated version of the June 30, 2017 letter to Minister Scott Fielding (the Minister responsible for the AMA) asking for the government's commitment to develop and enforce an accessible education standard.

The updated version of the letter had been signed by 1,300 individuals and 70+ organizations that represent well over 1 in every 10 Manitobans. Copies of the letter were also sent to Premier Pallister and Education and Training Minister Ian Wishart.

Minster Fielding has now responded by letter (PDF - see full text below) and recognized the growing list of individuals and organizations calling on government to develop and enforce a strong accessible education standard. The Minister acknowledged that considerable work remains to make Manitoba accessible and inclusive for all citizens. The Minister also indicated that the case for the development of the accessible education standard would be considered as part of the upcoming comprehensive 4-year review of the AMA.

Click here for information on the updated letter sent to Minister Fielding on January 1, 2018, 

As further follow up, BFM looks forward to releasing findings from our survey research on the barriers to equitable educational opportunities and outcomes that continue to face Manitoban students with disabilities (and their familes).

The Text of the Minister's Letter

Thank you for your January 1, 2018, email and the updated June 30, 2017, correspondence requesting that the Government of Manitoba establish an accessibility standard for education under The Accessibility for Manitobans Act (AMA). I note the growing list of individuals and organizations that share Barrier-Free Manitoba's (BFM) support of an additional standard affecting education.

I am pleased that you were able to meet with senior staff of the Department of Education and Training on November 8, 2017, to discuss the proposed standard and the distribution of a BFM survey seeking input from Manitoba school divisions, among others. My understanding is that you also discussed how Manitoba differs from Ontario and Nova Scotia, which plan to introduce an education standard. Most significantly, the Appropriate Educational Programming in Manitoba Standards for Student Services plays an important role in assuring accessibility for students with disabilities. Another difference from Ontario is that Manitoba has enacted only one of the AMA's five standards; therefore, it will be some time before we can analyze what is missing in existing education and AMA regulations to assure fully accessible education at all ages.

The Manitoba Government will soon be appointing an independent party to conduct its four-year review of AMA's effectiveness and to make recommendations on the way forward. This is an ideal opportunity to consider community support for additional standards. I am pleased that you plan to share the results of the BFM survey regarding the experiences of persons disabled by barriers when accessing education.

As Minister responsible for the AMA, I will continue to seek the advice of the Department of Education and Training on how an accessibility standard in education could enhance existing legislation and policies to ensure full inclusion of Manitoba learners affected by barriers.

There is much to celebrate regarding AMA progress to date. All but two of the 75 public sector organizations required to submit accessibility plans in 2016 have met this requirement, and the remaining two are forthcoming. Many of the smaller municipalities with 2017 deadlines have also posted their plans. The same organizations have shown great leadership in implementing the first standard in the area of customer service. By training all public sector staff, including Manitoba's largest employers, public awareness about the AMA and accessible service has grown considerably.

The Manitoba Government is also supporting the Accessibility Advisory Council (Council) to make steady progress on standard development. Beginning in February 2018 the Council will assist me in reviewing the feedback received through the final phase of public comment before considering additional amendments to the Accessibility Standard for Employment and then submitting this standard to Cabinet. In the meantime, the Information and Communications Standard Development Committee is organizing a public session on January 24, 2018, to seek input on the priorities that the Information and Communications Standard should address. Once the Council submits its recommendations for this standard, I will identify next steps to develop the final two standards in transportation and the built environment.

The government is proud of what it has accomplished to date to support the AMA. However, we fully understand considerable work remains to make Manitoba accessible and inclusive for all citizens. I look forward to the ongoing input from BFM in the development and implementation of the AMA.


Scott Fielding
Minister of Families

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