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Your Federation

Leadership 2010

Persons with Disabilities: The Minority of Everyone

You may not have a disability now but you will probably have one eventually. That makes persons with disabilities “the minority of everyone,” says David Lepofsky.
Lepofsky, a lawyer and activist, was the keynote speaker at ETFO’s annual leadership conference. He has a master of laws from Harvard and holds two honorary doctorates. For many years he has been a leader of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, now the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Alliance. The group waged a decade-long campaign for laws to improve accessibility for persons with disabilities. He is also blind.

Lepofsky argued that the human-created environment creates disabilities. To illustrate his argument he told the story of a power blackout that occurred in the midst of a court case he was involved in. He said that before the blackout those in the courtroom might have noticed one person with a disability, “with an earphone or bumpy notes [i.e., notes written in Braille].” However, when the power failed “there was only one person who could proceed” – the person with the bumpy notes. “The change in the in human environment had created a disability for the rest of those in the room.”
As an activist, Lepofsky has spearheaded moves to make the created environment less disabling. He has twice sued the Toronto Transit Com- mission to force it to announce station stops, the first time on subway routes and again to get announcements on buses and streetcars.

Lepofsky pointed out that changes that help persons with disabilities help everyone. For example, the announcement of station stops on the transit system helps those who don’t know the system, those who can’t read, and those who can’t see their stop because buses are crowded. “The world is  full  of barriers and many of them  are  dumb,”  Lepofsky said. “They  don’t help anyone.” Citing electronic kiosks, inaccessible websites, and new electronic payment cards, he said, “New barriers continue to be created.” He urged his audience to ensure that their students  are  exposed,  at  least  once  during their school careers, to lessons that help them understand the importance of accessibility.
For more information please visit the website, aodaalliance.org.

Arts-focused professional learning
This fall, ETFO and the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association have collaborated on two professional learning projects focused on the arts. Students in grades 3 to 8 in 33 communities in northern Ontario saw the play Spirit Horse. It was adapted from the successful Irish play, Tir Na N’Og,by celebrated Ojibway playwright Drew Hayden Taylor. First Nations actors star in this story about two Aboriginal youths caught between their  traditional  ways  and  contemporary  urban  culture. The play serves as a catalyst for professional learning in drama, dance, music, and visual arts. To follow the progress of  the tour and read a blog with student responses visit SpiritHorse.ca. In southern Ontario, the two federations offered a six- part professional learning series based on the book ETFO Arts:Introducing Visual Arts, Drama, Dance, and Music in the Junior Grades. The two initiatives were funded by the Ontario Ministry of Education.

BuildinBetter  Schools outlines  ETFO’s education agenda for the 2011 Ontario provincial election. By releasing the document ETFO hopes to raise the profile of education in the next provincial election, and  get  parents and  the  public  thinking and  talking about what’s needed to make Ontario schools the best they can be. ETFO’s proposals focus on more meaningful student assessment, greater access  to  specialist  teachers, small  classes  for  all  elementary students, more resources for   special  needs  students, and greater focus on equal opportunity  and  inclusion. The  document  is  available on our website, etfo.ca.

Representative Council brings  together  presidents and  executive members  of ETFO locals three times  a year to discuss policies  and issues facing the federation. The meeting is chaired by the first vice-president, Susan Swackhammer. Those  attending the  October  meeting received updates on  the  provincial consultations relating to the proposed wage free a common benefits plan for all ETFO members.

Early childhood educatortook their place in Ontario kindergartens this fall as the new Early Learning Program began. Designated early childhood educators (DECEs) in eight Ontario school boards are now mem- bers of ETFO. The new members shown here are with the Toronto Catholic District School Board. They attended an  introductory  session  at  provincial  office  designed to  acquaint  them  with ETFO and their  new rights and responsibilities as union members.

ETFO WorldTeachers Day poster featured kindergarten teacher Cindy Lum and her students at Lord Dufferin Public School in Toronto.

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