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Accessibility Plan Part 1 – Baseline Report Section C


C. BARRIERS TO ACCESSIBILITY

The following are barriers Manitobans may face accessing WSD programs, facilities or services.

Attitudinal

Attitudinal barriers are behaviours, perceptions and assumptions that discriminate against or exclude persons because of their abilities, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, ethnic origin, ancestry, culture, socio-economic background or status, religion or spirituality, family status, mental and physical abilities, physical features including body size and shape, intelligence or ability, learning references, ancestry or place of birth, first language or mother tongue.

These barriers often emerge from a lack of understanding or education and can lead to judgment or misconceptions about another person.
Examples of attitudinal barriers include:

  • Assuming a person with a disability or mental illness is inferior.
  • Assuming that someone with a communication disability cannot understand you.
  • Forming ideas about a person because of stereotypes or a lack of knowledge.
  • Making a person feel as though they are receiving a “special favour” by providing their accommodations.

Winnipeg School Division staff, volunteers and students can help remove attitudinal barriers in the following ways:

  • Avoid making assumptions about a person’s disability or capabilities; many persons with disabilities talk about being frustrated with people assuming what they can or cannot do.
  • Teachers can encourage students to come forward and speak to you about the way they learn and what may be causing barriers in your course, classroom, or teaching.
  • Remember that students with disabilities do not have to disclose their disability to their teachers or to anyone else in the academic environment in order to receive accommodations.
  • Respect the privacy of persons who face barriers.
  • Insist on professional, civil conduct between and among students to respect people’s differences and create an inclusive environment.
  • Engage in the accommodation process in good faith and implement appropriate accommodations.

Information and Communication

Winnipeg School Division has met the linguistic needs of its communities in a variety of ways over the years. Interpreter services continues to grow and provide assistance to newcomers in WSD schools, and prior to online translation options, WSD translated a large quantity of materials into multiple languages for students and parents. Despite these efforts, the largest barrier to information and communication continues to be language. Nearly one-quarter of WSD students living with their parents are immigrants and in 37 percent of WSD homes, English is spoken along with another language. Providing information in multiple languages to help keep parents informed and engaged in their children’s education is challenging and costly. While technology permits instant translation for many documents, not all families have the resources to readily access online information, or know where to look for it due to the language barrier. 

Other information and communication barriers within WSD include a lack of access to FM signal or hearing aids for students who are hard of hearing and a lack of technology and software for level 1 and 2 students. Again, while many resources are available online, that is in itself a barrier for low-income families.

Oral instruction is a barrier in some classrooms for students who are deaf or hard of hearing, however, sound field systems installed in classrooms will ensure that these students can hear classroom instruction and direction.

Technology

While WSD has taken a proactive approach to technology in our schools and classrooms, there continues to be socio economic barriers within many of the communities we serve.
WSD is currently exploring the cost of purchasing and implementing assistive technology on its multiple web-based platforms for people who are blind or vision impaired. The division is working toward WCAG 2.0 compliance on the Connect Product.

Systemic

Winnipeg School Division offers many programs to assist all families, especially those living in poverty. The division values are to ensure equitable opportunities are available and often support is provided beyond education.

Poverty, is one of the systemic barriers in Winnipeg School Division which makes a difference for the learning of children. Poverty is not simply low income, but a complex, extreme and diverse set of compounding layers, often generational including:

  • Economic pressures
  • Impoverished spirit
  • Food insecurity
  • Lack of adequate housing
  • Mental distress/illness/addictions
  • Physical ill health
  • Social marginalization, isolation, lack of social network
  • Little resiliency, lack of alternatives
  • Impact of colonization
  • Access to education, family history with the education system
  • Safe communities

Incidence of low income ranged from 3% to 57% among neighbourhoods in the school division. There were 17 schools with an income below $40,000 (31% of schools) or/and there were 24 schools with income below $50,000 (44% of schools).

In addition to these layers of poverty, students or staff with disabilities living in poverty may experience:

  • Inadequate Funding which may lead to delayed education services.
  • Physical Inaccessibility to School/Facilities
  • Accommodation Process can be delayed
  • Transportation barriers
  • Lack of Individualization – need for individualized plans
  • Lack of relevant assistive technologies (assistive, adaptive and rehabilitative devices)
  • Negative Attitudes and Stereotypes which may result in bullying, harassment and/or violence

Physical and Architectural

Many of the schools in WSD were built during the early part of the last century in areas that are now highly developed. This limits the space for expansion to accommodate additions such as parking, elevators and ramps. All construction upgrades in WSD must be approved by The Public Schools Finance Board. Due to the extensive cost and scope of work of making all of the 89 existing facilities universally accessible, implementation is prioritized on a need to need basis or coordinated with major renovations and new projects.

Winnipeg School Division’s dedication to accessibility can be seen through many initiatives, including planning for the upcoming AMA standards. The overall goal of Winnipeg School Division is to ensure diverse, inclusive, equitable and accessible education for all.

Part 2 Section A


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