Posted by Sandie Baillargeon on January 3, 2016
As discussed in previous articles, all businesses are required to be compliant with accessibility standards to accommodate your patients who have disabilities.
In 2015 the Customer Service Standard was the first to standard to be met under AODA. Now that you have met that standard, there is still more work to do.
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, AODA, is a law in Ontario that allows the government to develop specific standards of accessibility and to enforce them. Recognizing the history of discrimination against persons with disabilities in Ontario, the purpose of this act is to benefit all Ontarians by:
a. Developing, implementing and enforcing accessibility standards in order to achieve accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities with respect to goods, services, facilities, accommodation, employment, buildings, structures and premises on or before January 1, 2025
b. Providing for the involvement of persons with disabilities in the development of accessibility standards.
Dental offices, depending on their size, need to meet the following requirements by January 1, 2016. If you haven’t already done so, it’s not too late. The sooner that you bring your office into compliance, the better. Please remember that significant penalties may be imposed for non-compliance.
Here are the requirements for 2016
Small offices (less than 20 employees) must provide training on the requirements of the accessibility standards referred to in the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation and on the Human Rights Code as it pertains to persons with disabilities to all employees and volunteers including all persons who participate in developing the organization’s policies. The training on the requirements of the accessibility standards and on the Code must be appropriate to the duties of the employees, volunteers and other persons.
You must also ensure that any processes currently in place for receiving and responding to feedback (questionnaires, surveys, etc.) are accessible to persons with disabilities by providing or arranging for the provision of accessible formats and communications, upon request. These organizations must also notify the public about the availability of accessible formats and communication supports.
When you receive feedback from your patients, it is a good way to learn about the possible barriers that may exist at your office. Collect comments from your patients with disabilities and invite the to give feedback on how you may provide accessible service. Let your patients know how to do this.
Here are some tips:
Determine how you want to receive feedback (e.g. in person, by telephone, in writing or by email)
How will you respond to feedback including complaints? Also decide who will be the person responsible for following up with the patients.
Determine how you will let your patients know about the process. Example:
You could post a sign in the reception area and/or include a message on the patient’s receipt informing them that they can submit feedback at the front desk, or by telephone, or through your website. You can make the details about the feedback process available online. Let your patient’s know that their feedback is valued and important. Respond to their feedback in a timely manner that lets them know that you are doing everything possible to make their dental care accessible.
Large offices, (over 20 employees) must, upon request, provide or arrange for the provision of accessible formats and communication supports for persons with disabilities in a timely manner that takes into account the person’s accessibility needs due to disability and at a cost that is no more than the regular cost charged to other persons. The dental office must consult with the person making the request in determining the suitability of an accessible format or communication support. Every large dental office must notify the public about the availability of accessible formats and communication supports.
Large dental offices will have to comply with the requirements set out in Part III, Employment Standards, of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation. The standards in Part III apply to employees and do not apply to volunteers and other non-paid individuals. This portion of the regulation contains several requirements involving revamping existing human resources practices to explicitly consider and respond to accessibility issues in the workplace relating to, for example, recruitment, accommodation, performance management, career development and return-to-work processes.
Please remember to let your patients know when accessible services are not available. Sometimes accessibility features or services require repair or are just temporarily out of service (e.g. an elevator or accessible washroom). When this happens, let your patients know by posting a notice. Tips:
- Make a list of the facilities and services people with disabilities rely on.
- Prepare a template notice in advance. Include: the reason for the disruption, how long the service will be unavailable and a description of alternative facilities or services, if available.
- Post the notice in a place where people are most likely to find it (e.g. the entrance door to your business, on your website, another high-traffic area).
A great way to train your staff on interacting with patients who have disabilities is to incorporate role-playing into your next staff meeting. This will really help you to understand the challenges that people with disabilities face on a daily basis. Discuss the feedback that you have received from your patients with disabilities and how you have responded. Your patients with disabilities will appreciate your compassion and professionalism when helping them to access the dental care that they need without barriers. For more information on Accessibility Standards for Dental Offices, or if you would like reprints of previous articles, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “accessibility articles”.