Our last article outlined the AODA healthcare standards development committee’s recommendation of improved accessibility training for healthcare providers. This article will explore the content of this training.
Content of Improved Accessibility Training for Healthcare Providers
Training should inform healthcare workers that there are different models of understanding disability. Moreover, the model someone uses can impact that person’s interactions with people who have disabilities. For instance, the definition of disability under the AODA focuses on how the bodies and minds of people with disabilities differ from the bodies and minds of non-disabled people. In other words, the definition uses a medical model of understanding disability. However, the definition does not help people understand how these physical and mental differences impact the every-day lives of individuals with disabilities.
In contrast, the Accessible Canada Act, and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, include definitions that use a social model of disability. This model explains disability in terms of how barriers in structures and services exclude people with disabilities. This model focuses on the need to remove or prevent barriers, to improve access for people with disabilities.
Furthermore, training should alert healthcare workers that people experience disability in various ways. For instance, some people are born with disabilities, while other people gain disabilities later in their lives, including:
- As children or teenagers
- In adulthood
- Through ageing
In addition, people’s disabilities may be:
- Visible or invisible
- Permanent, episodic, or temporary
- Stable or progressive
Moreover, some people have one disability, while others have more than one. While some patients disclose their disabilities, others may choose not to disclose, to avoid stigma or discrimination. Furthermore, healthcare workers should recognize that disability impacts people of all:
- Racial, cultural, or ethnic backgrounds
- Gender identities and gender expressions
- Marital and family status
- Sexual orientations
- Economic status
As a result, some patients with disabilities may experience intersectional discrimination. Therefore, healthcare workers should learn to provide care in ways that respect people’s backgrounds and identities, including Indigenous Peoples.
Healthcare workers should also have training on concrete ways to remove and prevent barriers for their patients with disabilities. For example, training should prepare healthcare providers to:
- Create accessible websites, which include information:
- Design hard-copy print to be accessible for patients who are visually impaired
- Communicate with patients who are Deaf, deafened, or hard of hearing
- Use plain language, and person-first language
- Maintain oral care, if patients are unable to do so
- Develop policies, practices, and procedures for accommodating patients
- Work with community-based services for people with disabilities
- Ensure equal access to services during emergencies, such as a pandemic
- Work with non-medical support persons
Healthcare workers should also recognize that some patients with disabilities may be victimized by their support persons.
Healthcare workers should also know how to create and implement processes to assess whether patients can give informed consent. Some patients may not have the capacity to consent, and need to rely on substitute medical decision-makers who consent on their behalf. However, other patients with disabilities have the capacity to consent, but cannot use it because they face communication barriers. Healthcare workers should know how to correctly assess patients’ capacity to consent, and provide any accommodations needed to remove barriers that prevent patients from consenting.
Finally, training should prepare healthcare workers to complete accessibility compliance reports, as required under the AODA, using examples and scenarios.
This extensive training content will prepare healthcare workers to interact with patients who have a variety of disabilities, backgrounds, and experiences.