It is that time of year again when the kids have headed back to school. Back to routines, homework and lunches; this is a time of year that I enjoy because fall is my favourite season of the year but also because I like the routine and normalcy that back to school brings with it.
When you have a child with a disability there is so much advocating that needs to happen in order to get them an equal education to their peers. To many peoples surprise as a parent with a disability I have to advocate just to participate in my children’s education.
Technology is great, gone are the days that I have to send a sandwich baggie with $5 for a field trip or hot dog sale. But the apps and websites that many schools use to give parents the information about their kids days, grades, and activities are not accessible to me.
Now when I want to know what is on the calendar for the upcoming month or know what the kids have going on in the classroom, check in on their marks, or pay for that hot dog sale I need to use different apps and websites and many of them I can not access. I have not been able to access a monthly calendar for the last 3 school years.
Every year I need to let the teachers and school know that I am blind and would really appreciate communication to come in email form. Would the teacher also send me the upcoming events and activities in an email. And because teachers are over worked, under paid, and so many more things; this is just not a priority for them.
This is not something that I expect to change with the teachers, these are the things that I need to advocate to the school boards and decision makers on what apps and websites that are going to be used. It should be a requirement for them to be accessible. Same goes for the websites of schools. Putting up a PDF calendar in a link that is buried 25 links deep in a web page is frustrating. Once you find that calendar and find out that you actually can’t access that calendar is even more frustrating.
As a parent I want to be a part of my child’s education, I want to be able to support the teacher and my child to have the best school year possible. If I am kept out of the circle of communication then that is just not as easy for me.
There are many parents who have disabilities and still want to be able to volunteer in their children’s classrooms and activities and they are more than capable of doing that as well, but unfortunately they are kept at an arms length because the school is not sure how they would be able to help or how they would be able to keep the children safe. These are outdated stigmas that we need to change and when we talk about education and what that looks like for our children we need to think about how parents with all abilities are able to participate in the same way as other parents. And that they have access to simple things like a school calendar.
I am hopeful that in the next 5 years before my youngest graduates my advocacy in this area will pay off and we will see a shift in how accessible it is to be a part of our children’s education.
Until Next Time !
Ashley and Danson