The Ontario Human Rights Commission’s “Right to Read” Inquiry Acknowledged Concerns About training of and Availability of Teachers of the Visually Impaired in Ontario

On January 27,2022, the Ontario Human Rights approved its final report as a result of its “Right to Read” inquiry. It was a great disservice to students with vision loss that the Commission only focused on the right to read for one specific group of students with disabilities, namely students with learning disabilities. It did not focus squarely on another group of students with disabilities who face unfair recurring, systemic barriers  to their right to read, namely students with vision loss. Despite this failure, we managed to get the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s Right to Read inquiry to identify some of the key issues facing students with vision loss in its final report. Below are the key excerpts from that report.

Students with other disabilities

While students with reading disabilities were our focus, the inquiry revealed that many other students are at higher risk of reading failure. The OHRC heard that students with other disabilities such as intellectual disabilities, developmental disabilities, hearing disabilities, vision disabilities, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) also struggle with reading for many of the same reasons as students with reading disabilities. They face many of the barriers identified in this report and will benefit from the report’s recommendations.

Students with blindness, low vision or deaf blindness

The OHRC heard that students with blindness, low vision or deaf blindness also face serious barriers in learning to read. The fact these are “low-incidence” disabilities affecting fewer students does not mean that less attention should be paid to meeting their right to read. VIEWS for the Visually Impaired and the CNIB Foundation submitted that school boards across Ontario do not employ enough teachers of the visually impaired (TVI). A TVI provides hands-on direct training to students with vision loss on braille reading and writing where needed, on using assistive technology that is critical to literacy, and on other vital skills relevant to reading. The TVI also supports classroom teachers, special needs and educational assistants and other teaching staff and guides them on how to effectively teach students with vision loss.

VIEWS also outlined concerns with the training requirements for TVIs. VIEWS noted that three or fewer Additional Qualification (AQ) courses are all that is required to be a TVI, and these courses do not need to be delivered through a faculty of education. According to VIEWS, this is inadequate preparation to work with visually impaired students. At least five Canadian provinces and many other jurisdictions have higher training standards for TVIs. VIEWS submits that a qualified teacher should be required to complete a one-year graduate degree specializing in teaching students who are blind, low vision or deafblind and that Ontario should fund that graduate training, just as it now does for the one-year graduate-level program required in Ontario to qualify as a Teacher of the Deaf.

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