"So many dreams at first seem impossible. And then they seem improbable. And then when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable."
~ Christopher Reeve

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Round and Round We Go

Here we go again, inclusion is back in the news. Or did it ever leave?

Frankly, I don't know about you, but I am beginning to have been finding it a little old for quite a while now.

Here's the thing folks, what we all (parent, teachers, everyone) need to remember.

Talking about "inclusion" as if the option of getting rid of it is even .. a possibility ... is ridiculous. You can't just sweep it out the door like yesterday's dirt and say "I know, let's try something new".

Remember this quote from Karen Casey back in December?
I don’t think we want to talk about caps for special needs students,” said Casey. “What we need to make sure is that we have the appropriate programming in the right environment for all students.“
As I said on the website, it amazes me how successive Ministers of Education always seem to be able to find the right words and yet, just as consistently, seem unable to implement any meaningful changes to support inclusion. Be that as it may, any whisper of inclusion being an issue for anyone is enough to SCARE many parents. In all honesty and even though I know better  - myself included, at least in my initial from the gut reaction.

So, here it is - what you and I need to remember and preach to others. Sing it from the rooftops.

It goes something like this.

INCLUSION IS NOT A PROGRAM



BUT MUCH MORE IMPORTANTLY, INCLUSION IS NOT AN OPTION.

We definitely need more resources to have inclusion work properly for everyone - our children, their classmates and their teachers. No one is going to argue with that. And yet, it's not always a question of resources, is it? Sometimes what is needed is as simple as a good solid dose of common sense.

Between my two children with special needs, I have dealt with the public school system for 17 years, seen a bit during that time.

The balancing of what’s best for every individual student with special needs will, of course, vary (and I think this is where the rub will often lie), but the entire concept of inclusion is legally protected by (from highest to lowest):
  1. the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms [sec. 15]
  2. the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act [ss. 4 & 5]; and
  3. the Nova Scotia Education Act*
You can read more about the interplay between those documents on a practical level here.

For the average parent, however, outside the IPP appeal process, the best bang for your buck can probably found at the provincial human rights level. While notoriously slow, human rights complaints are far from useless - in fact, we have seen some most excellent results from such complaints in the past.

So let them say what they will: Inclusion it not a program.

Inclusion is not a choice.

Inclusion is the law - from the highest levels of the land.



In my mind, the ONLY issue we should be dealing with is exactly how we will define the term "inclusion" for each child - I doubt there will ever any one-size-fits-all solution for students with special needs or that we could ever agree on one.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Spell it With Me Now ... A-C-C-O-M-M-O-D-A-T-I-O-N-S

For your human rights in employment education and entertainment today, I offer a little story about a pizza shop in Utah that had to pay out 'big dough' for failing to provide reasonable accommodations to an employee with Down Syndrome. 

Actually, from my (and perhaps your) point of view, it's even worse than your that - this wasn't just your garden variety failure to accommodate case - this particular employee had "happily did his job for more than five months with 'an independently employed and insured job coach* to assist him'.” 

Or, at least he had until an operating partner of the company saw him working with his coach, and ordered him fired.

Seriously? Some people companies people will never learn.

See, even though individuals with disabilities living in Utah do not have the benefit of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (or, more particularly, sec. 15 thereof) or any of Canada's federal or provincial human rights legislation, they do (as do all residents of the US) have the benefit of the the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”).
The ADA is one of America's most comprehensive pieces of civil rights legislation that prohibits discrimination and guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in the mainstream of American life -- to enjoy employment opportunities, to purchase goods and services, and to participate in State and local government programs and services...

To be protected by the ADA, one must have a disability, which is defined by the ADA as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment. The ADA does not specifically name all of the impairments that are covered.
Sound familiar?

However, unlike Canadians, Americans also have the benefit of the US' Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("the EEOC"). the organization that enforces the ADA in the employment context; meaning you bring your employment complaint to them and, if they think it is justified, they will sue the employer on your behalf. Making them, kind of, sort of like a human rights commission solely for employment issues.

At any rate, thanks to the fine work of the EEOC, Papa John's has not only 'agreed' to pay that employee damages in the amount of $125,000, but also to “review its equal employment opportunity policies, conduct training for management and human resources employees for its restaurants in Utah, and establish a new recruitment program for individuals with disabilities in Utah.”

The take-away(s) of the story for Papa John's (and all Canadian and American employers) is that

  • employers must provide "reasonable accommodations" to persons with disabilities and "engage in an interactive process to determine if an accommodation is reasonable yet not burdensome"; and
  • a long-term "independently employed and insured job coach" might just be a "reasonable accommodation" for a person with an intellectual disability.

Or, to put it another way, what he said:
“Employers must understand that they cannot refuse to provide an accommodation to individuals with intellectual disabilities. … Employers should embrace workers like Scott who work with such joy. I want employers to know that their obligation to provide a reasonable accommodation includes allowing a job coach at the workplace, if needed, absent undue hardship.”
* Which subject (that being "an independently employed and insured job coach to assist him") could be the subject of a blawg post all by itself, says she, as she continues to toil away at accessing funding for just such a beast for her own daughter.