TORONTO, Dec. 3, 2015 /CNW/ - The Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth (the Advocate's Office) marks the International Day of Persons with Disabilities as a day to raise awareness about the issues facing young people with disabilities.
Of the 2.7 million children under the age of 18 in Ontario, approximately 300,000 have special needs that are tied to one or more disabilities, and the barriers that many face tied to social inclusion in classrooms, daycares and communities across this province.
"There are many gaps between what is promised and what is actually delivered when it comes to serving Ontario's children and youth," said Provincial Advocate Irwin Elman. "I believe that the gaps for children and youth with special needs must be addressed as a central first step in creating a barrier-free Ontario that includes children and youth. We must elevate the voices of young people and put them at the center of conversations in search of meaningful change."
To elevate the voices of young people with special needs, the Advocate's Office launched the "I Have Something to Say" (IHSTS) project, which focuses on collaborating and creating a space where children with special needs can communicate with policymakers, government and service providers on how they can better meet their needs and support them in realizing their full potential. Guided by a youth advisory committee established by the Advocate's Office in 2013, the project aims to place the voice of children and youth at the center of a discussion about how systems of care can ensure the rights of children with special needs are respected across sectors, ministries and jurisdictions.
As part of this project, the Advocate's Office launched a website and social media page to invite young people, their families and caregivers to participate in a dialogue about their needs by submitting written work, art, songs, videos and other media their ideas for change. To date, there have been over 150 submissions from approximately 1,000 individuals across the province. The Advocate's Office has also visited schools, organizations that serve children with special needs, hospitals and community services to garner people's input. The project will culminate in a summit hosted by the Advocate's Office in spring 2016 where people involved in the work will meet with decision makers to address change. To learn more about the "I Have Something to Say" project and our plan to host an event with the IHSTS team as they prepare to share their message with Ontario, visit IHSTS Facebook.
About the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth
The Office of the Provincial Advocate reports directly to the Legislature and provides an independent voice for children and youth, including children with special needs and First Nations children. The advocates receive and respond to concerns from children, youth and families who are seeking or receiving services under the Child and Family Services Act and the Education Act (Provincial and Demonstration Schools). The Provincial Advocate may identify systemic problems involving children, conduct reviews and provide education and advice on the issue of advocacy and the rights of children. The Office is guided by the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and has a strong commitment to youth involvement.
The Provincial Advocate's comments to the UN Committee on 2013 is available at: document
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SOURCE Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth
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