I look forward to speaking at the May 31-June 2, 2017 conference on strategies for advocating for the implementation of UDL in our education system. As one illustration, on April 3, 2017, the Special Education Advisory Committee of the Toronto District School Board, which I chair, passed a comprehensive recommendation to TDSB on needed reforms to promote inclusion for students with special education needs. In that motion, among other things, was the following:
Recommendation 9. Ensure Universal Design in Learning Is Used in Classrooms across TDSB
TDSB should develop, implement and monitor a plan to ensure that all teachers and teaching staff understand, and effectively and consistently use, principles of Universal Design in Learning (UDL), and differentiated instruction, when preparing and implementing lesson plans and other educational programming. For example:
- TDSB should survey its front-line teachers to find out how much they now know about or were trained in UDL and differentiated instruction, how much they incorporate UDL and differentiated instruction into their lesson plans, and what supports would assist them to practice UDL and differentiated instruction in their teaching.
- TDSB should develop, implement and monitor a comprehensive plan to train its teachers, other teaching staff, teaching coaches and principals on using UDL and differentiated instruction principles when preparing lesson plans and teaching. Training on UDL and differentiated instruction should be mandatory, not optional.
- TDSB should include knowledge of UDL and differentiated instruction principles as an important criterion when recruiting or promoting teachers, other teaching staff and principals.
- TDSB should ensure teachers are provided with appropriate resources and support to successfully implement the UDL training. This could include appropriate adaptive technology and sufficient planning time for teachers who are sharing a team-teaching role. TDSB should also develop strategies for monitoring and assessing how effectively UDL and differentiated instruction are incorporated into lesson plans and other teaching activities on the front lines.
- TDSB should develop a specific strategy for monitoring and reinforcing the use of UDL and differentiated instruction in situations where a teacher in a regular classroom has very limited exposure to their students with special education needs, e.g. where a student, placed in a special education class, only spends an hour per day in a regular class.
- TDSB should review any curriculum, text books and other instructional materials and learning resources used in its schools to ensure that they incorporate principles of UDL.
- TDSB should ensure that teachers in the areas of science, technology, engineer and math (STEM) have resources and expertise to ensure the accessibility of STEM courses and learning resources. This should include ensuring that any math coaches hired under the new Ontario Government math strategy have the expertise in UDL and differentiated instruction, to effectively assist teachers in meeting the needs of students with disabilities.
- TDSB should provide teaching coaches with expertise in UDL to support teachers and other teaching staff across TDSB.
- An annual UDL/differentiated instruction training report should be presented to SEAC and TDSB trustees. It should include the training done in the past year and planned for the following year; including summary of the training content, audiences and learning outcomes.
Since the late 1970s, David Lepofsky has been active in a volunteer capacity, advocating for new laws to protect the rights of persons with disabilities in Canada. In 1980, he appeared before the Joint Committee of the Senate and the House of Commons on the Constitution of Canada, on behalf of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind for an amendment to the proposed Charter of Rights, to guarantee equality rights to persons with disabilities. The efforts of a great many combined to lead Parliament to pass the disability amendment to the Charter.
David will be offering a plenary on the Thursday morning of the conference as well as a workshop later that day.