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 creating accreditation processes for accessibility 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, all these settings should have accreditation processes.
Accreditation Processes for Accessibility in Healthcare
Under the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR), hospitals must provide accessible services, including:
- Customer service policies
- Welcoming customers with:
- Training all workers and volunteers
- communicating with customers in ways that take their disabilities into account
- Providing information accessibly, including web content
- Notifying customers about temporary service disruptions
- Accessible feedback processes
- Accessible features on their premises, such as:
However, hospitals may not be providing these services. As a result, the committee recommends that the government should create processes to accredit hospitals that do obey provincial accessibility laws. For instance, Accreditation Canada should change its Leadership and Governance Standards, to address the need for accessible service in healthcare. These changed standards should include:
- A statement about the need to provide accessible services
- Guidelines for providing these services
- Assessments to verify whether hospitals are complying with IASR requirements
The government should consult people with disabilities, or organizations representing them, during the creation of these guidelines.
Moreover, the accreditation process should involve observing families during their interactions with hospital services and staff. Accreditors can use these observations to determine if a hospital is providing all required accommodations and following accessibility best practices. Likewise, accreditors should also view hospitals’ documentation, to ensure that it accurately reflects the services a hospital is providing. For example, a hospital’s customer service policy might express welcome for support persons. However, in practice, the hospital might separate patients from their support persons.
In addition, the government should create a toolkit to help hospitals recognize and comply with the AODA. Likewise, a resource containing best practices would also support hospitals in complying with current and future AODA standards.