Currently, there are still no AODA healthcare standards. However, an AODA standards development committee drafted recommendations of guidelines that AODA healthcare standards should include. These guidelines include accessibility awareness in healthcare.
The committee’s mandate from the Ontario government requires recommendations focused on the hospital setting. However, patients and healthcare workers with disabilities also face barriers in other parts of the healthcare system, including:
- Doctors’ offices
- Walk-in clinics
- Wellness centres
- Nursing homes
- Outpatient rehabilitation centres
- Health regulatory colleges
Therefore, outreach programs to spread awareness about the importance of accessible healthcare should support all these settings.
Accessibility Awareness in Healthcare
Members of the public are often unaware of how hospitals accommodate patients with disabilities, including:
- Accessible complaint processes
- Patient relations processes
As a result, patients may not request or receive accommodations they need. Therefore, the committee recommends that the government should create an outreach campaign to raise awareness about the accessible services in hospitals. For example, the campaign should include public service announcements appearing in different forms of media, such as:
- Print media
- Virtual or Internet ads
- Social media
The outreach campaign should be available in English, French, and additional languages. Similarly, the ads should include communication supports, such as Sign language interpretation and Real-Time Captioning. Likewise, outreach materials should be available in accessible formats.
Moreover, the government should work with each hospital to develop announcements specific to its services. For instance, one announcement should describe a local hospital’s process for receiving and responding to accessibility complaints, including:
- How to file a complaint about inaccessible goods, services, or facilities
- The timeline for the complaint process
- How to ensure accessible communication during the process
Likewise, the government should also consult people with disabilities to develop the announcements.
Announcements should inform the public about how each hospital:
- Respects patients’ right to accommodation
- Upholds principles of accommodation, such as dignity and independence
- Provides training to prevent:
- Ensures accessible communication, including in situations requiring informed consent
- Deals with third parties to provide accommodations
Announcements should show hospitals accommodating patients with a variety of disabilities. In addition, announcements should reveal how lack of accommodation can lead to poor health outcomes. Finally, the campaign should emphasize that all hospitals must be fully accessible by 2025, to comply with the AODA.
This campaign should help Ontarians learn about and advocate for more accessible ways to receive healthcare.