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Dyslexia is the most common learning disability AND there are at least two children with dyslexia in every Ontario classroom.

~From Decoding Dyslexia Ontario

If you have a child with dyslexia in the Ontario education system, undoubtedly you have heard about the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s (OHRC) launch of its Right to Read public inquiry. In a nutshell, the Commission is investigating the Ontario education system, asking why thousands of Ontario students with reading disabilities—particularly dyslexia—are not getting the support they need to learn how to read.

More than one-quarter of Grade 3 students, and 53% of Grade 3 students with special education needs did not meet the provincial standard for reading. Students with reading disabilities are not getting the supports they need. This is all the more troubling because reading disabilities can be remediated with early intervention and support.

~From the Ontario Human Rights Commission, Right to Read Inquiry, October 3, 2019 Press Release

How advocates raised awareness about Dyslexia

For many years, parents of dyslexic students in Ontario had been sounding the alarm about schools failing to teach their dyslexic children how to read. Parents of children with dyslexia were frequently told their children would “grow out of” their reading disabilities. After years of ongoing frustration—seeing no improvement in their children’s reading abilities and self-esteem plummeting—the parents united and demanded that public schools provide effective, evidence-based reading instruction.

The OHRC Inquiry is responding to EQAO literacy results and concerns raised by parents, students and advocates that Ontario’s public education system may be failing to meet the needs of students with reading disabilities. Decoding Dyslexia Ontario—a volunteer, parent-led, grassroots organization—the Ontario Branch of the International Dyslexia Association and Dyslexia Canada provided information to the OHRC about the barriers facing students with dyslexia and pressed for change. The OHRC took their concerns seriously and announced it would investigate.

“Our grassroots parents group was honoured to be included in the launch of the Right to Read Inquiry on October 3, 2019,” says, Anne Boys-Hope, volunteer, parent and founding Board Member of Decoding Dyslexia Ontario (DD-On). (See: OHRC English Right to Read videos)

How the choir of voices made themselves heard

“We have been advocating for change directly with the Ministry of Education for the past five years,” says Ms. Boys-Hope. “More recently, we started reaching out to MPPs. For example, Ottawa parents met with MPP and disability/accessibility critic, Joel Harden last year. This led him to bring forward a bill in November 2019, proclaiming October as Dyslexia Awareness Month.” (OLA Press Release.)  

Can the Inquiry help dyslexic students in Ontario?

“We hope the Inquiry will lead to awareness and action so that schools adopt the most effective
methods to teach all children to read and prevent a lifetime of struggle,” says Ms. Boys-Hope. “This is the conversation we are finally having in Ontario, and that’s thanks to the Right to Read inquiry.”

Five Key Qs and As  on the Right to Read Inquiry

1. Why the OHRC agrees that reading is a right?

According to an excerpt from the Right to Read Inquiry Backgrounder, the OHRC says:

“Reading is a foundational skill. Without the proper interventions and accommodations, people with reading disabilities may not learn to read and may have difficulty with other subjects in school (for example, word problems in math). Along with academic problems, this can lead to social and emotional effects, including increased stress and anxiety, problems with self-image and depression. In adulthood, low literacy can lead to under-employment and higher rates of homelessness, incarceration and suicide. Failing to address dyslexia can lead to intergenerational cycles of illiteracy.”

2. What will the Inquiry do?

  • The OHRC will hold public hearings across Ontario in 2020 to hear from parents, students and educators about their experiences, challenges and concerns arising from their experience in Ontario’s public education system.
  • The Commission will also assess whether school boards use scientific evidence-based approaches to meet students’ right to read.

3. How can you find out more and get involved?

4. What will the OHRC findings and recommendations do to make changes?

Persons or companies found to have discriminated are not sent to jail but can be made to compensate an applicant or make changes in the way they operate. See Ontario Human Rights Code guide

5. When will the Commission release its report?

The OHRC will release a formal report on findings and recommendations later in 2020.

Other related links you may be interested in

Anne Boys-Hope is an Ottawa parent and a founding board member of Decoding Dyslexia Ontario (she also co-chairs the Ottawa chapter with Natalie Gallimore). Decoding Dyslexia Ontario’s works to raise dyslexia awareness, empower families to support their children who are dyslexic, and communicate evidence-based practices regarding the identification, remediation, and support for students with dyslexia. They work closely with the Ontario Branch of the International Dyslexia Association and Dyslexia Canada. 

  • CBC Radio Ontario Today has featured three call-in programs (Nov 13, 14, 2019 and Jan 15, 2020) since the Inquiry launched. Callers with dyslexia of all ages, as well as parents, advocates and education professionals called-in. Definitely worth listening to!
  • https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-45-ontario-today/clip/15755666-ontarios-human-rights-commissioner-standing-up-for-kids-who-cant-read.

Marion May is the Blog Curator and Content Writer for The Open Door blog as well as a reading and spelling tutor for The Open Door, tutoring children between the ages of seven and 10. Her blog content is “local, organic and specific” and is relevant for parents of children with dyslexia.

Marion formerly tutored teenaged students in a literacy remediation program at Sir Guy Carleton Secondary School in Ottawa. She also worked as a paid fundraiser and grant proposal writer for The Excellence in Literacy Foundation, a national non-profit aimed at helping marginalized youth. She began her career in radio broadcasting and news writing and has worked in the area of promotional writing for several federal government departments and agencies, including the National Research Council.

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