QUEEN’S PARK – Joel Harden, NDP MPP for Ottawa Centre and NDP critic for Accessibility and Persons with Disabilities, held a press conference Monday to announce his private member’s bill to proclaim October as Dyslexia Awareness Month in Ontario.
Harden was joined at the conference by Alicia Smith from the International Dyslexia Association – Ontario Branch, Riina Makk of Decoding Dyslexia Ontario, Anne-Boys Hope of Decoding Dyslexia Ontario and her daughter Sarah Hope, a student with lived experience of Dyslexia.
“We’re nowhere near full accessibility when it comes to early detection and early supports for children with dyslexia,” Harden said. “Ontario must keep its obligation under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) to make the province fully accessible by 2025. We want to build a society where everyone, regardless of disability of learning difference, has the ability to be themselves, and that requires government support.”
Dyslexia is the most common learning difference in Ontario, affecting at least 6 to 17 per cent of the population.
“There are at least two children in every Ontario classroom who have dyslexia,” Makk said. “Awareness is the first step to addressing dyslexia in Ontario. We want the Dyslexia Awareness Bill that is being introduced to get unanimous support.”
“If we were just given a chance to learn, we would, said Sarah Hope, a 13-year-old student with dyslexia and resident of Ottawa Centre. “We shouldn’t have to pay [a private company] to learn to read, it should be something you learn at school.”
Harden noted that Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland have already officially declared October as Dyslexia Awareness Month, and it is time for Ontario to follow suit.
Sarah’s mother, Anne-Boys Hope, stressed, “One of the reasons this awareness bill is really important to so many people is that it shines a light on an issue that has been hidden for a long time. Dyslexia is a common, yet widely unsupported learning difference; there are so many misunderstandings about it and what support our children need.”
Harden said that with awareness and the proper supports, students living with dyslexia will have the opportunity to thrive in the school environment.
He will present the bill in the Legislature Monday afternoon.