More than just a bus trip: School busing, disability and access to education in Toronto, Canada

Elsevier, Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Volume 148, June 2021
Buliung R., Bilas P., Ross T., Marmureanu C., El-Geneidy A.

Children with disabilities in Ontario, Canada have their right to equal access to education protected by the 1990 Ontario Human Rights Code and the 1990 Education Act. These legislated rights require the delivery of stigma- and barrier-free education services to children with disabilities. However, the extent to which compliance is achieved by school boards and individual schools is questionable and warrants attention as a matter of both scholarship and public policy. In this paper, we take up and apply the concept of excess travel (i.e., the travel beyond what would be required given a more optimal distribution of housing and schools) to examine the extent to which students with disability and their families are required to undertake longer, more time-consuming school trips. Our analysis includes students who were bused to TDSB elementary (grade school) and secondary (high school) schools. We use TDSB student busing records for the 2016–17 school year obtained in collaboration with the TDSB between December 2017 and March 2018. Our findings indicate substantial excess travel, particularly for students who are labelled as deaf, physically disabled, or having a behavioural exceptionality. Excess travel time experienced by students with disability is concerning given that it can lead to missed classroom time and may limit opportunities for peer interaction. The availability of busing services for students with disability confers access to education, yet it may paradoxically produce disabling experiences.