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BFM Releases Study on Barriers to Accessibility in Manitoba's Education Systems

Feb 22, 2018

Barrier-Free Manitoba is pleased to release the report from recent research on accessibility issues facing students with disabilities across our province’s educational systems – from child care through to post-secondary.

Over 660 students with disabilities, parents of students with disabilities and educational staff working with students with disabilities completed the online surveys that were part of the research. The views shared by these respondents provide a valuable window into the accessibility or lack thereof in our educational systems.

While the results remain exploratory and are not conclusive (a larger sample size would be needed), the five major findings are very troubling.

Finding One

Despite having been in place for many years, strikingly few respondents were aware of interdepartmental protocols and planning processes developed to guide transitions and educational planning. Even when used, most reported that either ineffective or only somewhat effective.

Finding Two

Within in K-12 settings, only roughly 75% of students and parents reported that they/their children attended neighborhood schools. Only 58% and 69% of students and parents respectively reported that they/their children spent most of their school day in a regular classroom (e.g., not in a segregated setting)

Finding Three

Students, parents and staff all reported very high levels of unmet needs in virtually all the types of school-based supports meant to be available in K-12 settings. These range from a high of 63% for “Culturally Relevant Supports” to 21% for “Resource Teacher / Guidance Counsellor”.

Percent of Respondent Reporting Unmet Need by Type of School-Based Support

Graph of percentages

Finding Four

Students, parents and educational staff reported alarming levels of systemic marginalization. On average, 86% of each of the respondent groups reported having experienced “Social Exclusion“ over the last three years. Another 70% reported Bullying”. Thirty-seven percent and 6%, respectively reported that students with disabilities faced “Suspension” and “Expulsion”.

Average Percent of Respondent Groups Reporting Marginalization Over Last Three Years by Type

graph of percentages

Finding Five 

Almost all of the respondents from child care to post-secondary reported experiencing at least one of seven types of barriers that stand in the way of equitable access to quality education. At least one of these barriers was reported by 89% of students, 99% of parents and 83% of staff.
On average, more than 50% of each of the three respondent groups reported experiencing “Social Barriers” (61%), “Attitude Barriers” (57%), “Programmatic Barriers” (55%) and “Information / Communication Barriers” (54%). “Policy Barriers”, “Physical / Structural Barriers” and “Transportation Barriers” were, on average, reported by a smaller percentage of respondent groups.

Average Percent of Respondent Groups Reporting Experiencing Barriers in Educational Systems by Type of Barrier

graph of percentages

These findings are troubling indeed. They suggest how very far our educational systems still have to go in order to meet their basic human rights obligation to provide Manitoban students with equitable access to quality education. Fulfilling these rights that are enshrined in provincial, national and international law will require a serious and realistic appraisal of systemic limitations by government, educational stakeholders and Manitobans with disabilities, followed by action and accountability for results.

This is why Barrier-Free Manitoba, along with individuals and organizations representing more than one in every ten Manitobans, has called on the Provincial government to develop and enforce a strong accessible education standard under the landmark Accessibility for Manitobans Act.

Backed by fresh and compelling evidence, we renew our call today for this essential but missing standard.

About the Report

This summary of key findings is from the report called A Window into the Accessibility of Manitoba’s Education Systems: From Early Learning and Childcare, through Nursery/Kindergarten to Grade 12 and into Post-Secondary that was completed by Education Solutions Manitoba. EMS is Education Solutions Manitoba is a consulting company providing professional development and strategic planning services to a wide range of education system stakeholders in Manitoba.

Barrier-Free Manitoba played important roles in helping design the survey and providing comment on drafts of the report.

Financial support for this research was provided by Community Living Manitoba who received funding from Employment and Social Development Canada under the Social Development Projects for People with Disabilities Program.

We invite you to review the full or Execctive Summary versions report

We also invite you to download this highlights report:

Finally, we are pleased to post PDF (apologies for not including Word version) of the three surveys:

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