The right to read: Legal and human rights resources

“Learning to read is not a privilege, it is a human right.”

Renu Mandhane, former OHRC Chief Commissioner, 2019

In Canada, since the early 2000s, dyslexia has been recognized under the psychological assessment category “learning disability.” Learning disabilities fall on a spectrum of severity from mild to severe. If a learning disability is assessed and diagnosed as severe enough to impact one’s daily activities, dyslexia may be considered as a disability under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Section 15), as well as under Canadian and provincial human rights legislation.

In Ontario, students with dyslexia have the right to learn to read like all students. They also have the right to receive appropriate special education support under the Education Act and other related Ministry of Education and School Board policy. Moreover, the Ontario Human Rights Code guarantees the right to equal treatment in educational services, without discrimination on the ground of disability, as part of the protection for equal treatment in services. Education providers have a duty to deliver accessible education and also to accommodate students with disabilities up to the point of undue hardship. This protection applies to elementary and secondary schools, colleges and universities, both public and private.

Concerns that Ontario’s public education system may be failing to meet the needs of students with reading disabilities (dyslexia and other challenges that affect reading) led to the launch of the Right To Read inquiry by the Ontario Human Rights Commission in 2019.

Video: OHRC video provides a snapshot of the progress of Right to Read, the OHRC’s public inquiry into human rights issues affecting students with reading disabilities in Ontario’s public education system, October 2020.

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