Currently, the AODA does not have a healthcare standard. A committee is making recommendations about what a healthcare standard should include. In the meantime, however, there are still AODA requirements for healthcare providers to follow. The Employment Standards have regulations that apply to healthcare providers. When providers follow these requirements, they make the medical professions more accessible to healthcare workers with disabilities. For instance, employment standards in healthcare apply to:
- Doctors’ offices
- Walk-in clinics
- Wellness centres
- Health Regulating Colleges
Employment Standards in Healthcare
Under the Employment Standards, healthcare providers need to make their employment practices accessible to job applicants and workers with disabilities. For example, all healthcare providers with at least one employee must:
- Make the hiring process accessible
- Provide accessible workplace information to workers with disabilities
- Create individualized workplace emergency response plans for all workers with disabilities
- Make workplace performance management, career advancement, and redeployment processes accessible
Moreover, healthcare providers with fifty or more workers must have processes in place to create:
- Individual accommodation plans for workers who disclose disabilities
- Return to work plans for workers who have been absent due to disability
More Healthcare Workers with Disabilities are Needed
Nonetheless, our recent articles have been exploring the many improvements needed before the Ontario healthcare system can truly care for patients with disabilities. For instance, patients need more access to:
- Healthcare spaces
- Transportation to and from healthcare spaces
- Medical information, including:
- Detailed AODA training for healthcare workers
In addition, patients need a healthcare system that welcomes more healthcare workers with disabilities. Doctors, nurses, therapists, medical technicians, pharmacists, dieticians, and other practitioners with disabilities would help their colleagues understand the need to accommodate patients with disabilities. Furthermore, colleagues with disabilities would give their coworkers clearer ideas about the capabilities of their patients. Finally, when healthcare spaces become accessible for workers with disabilities, patients with the same disabilities can also access them.
Eliminating Attitudinal Barriers
The shortage of healthcare workers with disabilities may be due to attitudinal barriers. Medical schools may feel that they cannot accept students with disabilities into their programs. They may feel this way because they do not know about accommodations that healthcare professionals with disabilities use. For instance, doctors who are deaf can use stethoscopes with visual read-outs. Likewise, nurses with visual impairments can use magnification technology to examine patients.
Alternatively, medical schools may think they are unable to accept candidates with disabilities because of technical standards. Technical standards are non-academic activities that all medical students must perform to gain their qualifications. For instance, medical students in residencies may need to physically examine patients, insert or remove stitches, and learn to use medical equipment. However, students and schools can work together to accommodate the needs of a student who cannot fulfill a technical standard. For example, a resident who is quadriplegic might work with a medical assistant. The assistant could follow the resident’s directions to perform physical tasks, while the resident uses their growing knowledge to assess each case and give the assistant instructions. Similarly, once this resident is a practising doctor, they can work with a nurse who performs the same role.
Another way of accommodating technical standards could be for schools to modify a student’s program based on their preferred area of specialization. For example, if a blind student plans to study psychiatry, their daily work will not involve the same tasks as the work of a family doctor. Therefore, a medical school or health regulating college could waive the technical requirements that this student would need to master but never use.
A More Inclusive Healthcare System is Needed
Schools or professional programs could also publicize their interest in accepting applicants with disabilities. More healthcare workers with disabilities would help to create a truly inclusive healthcare system.