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The chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, Renu Mandhane, is seen in Vaughan, Ont., on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel

TORONTO - Ontario's human rights watchdog is launching a public inquiry into issues affecting students with reading disabilities.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission says a quarter of the province's Grade 3 students, and 53 per cent of those with reading disabilities, are falling short of provincial standards.

The data comes courtesy of the latest figures from the Education Quality and Accountability Office.

The commission says lagging behind on literacy can have lifelong consequences and increase the likelihood of dropping out of school, experiencing mental health disabilities, getting involved with the criminal justice system and experiencing homelessness.

It says these outcomes can be avoided with early intervention and says the inquiry will look into whether school boards are using evidence-based tools to support disabled students.

The Right to Read inquiry will hear from school boards, educators, parents and students across the province and expects to release its results in 2020.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 3, 2019.