Two years ago, we published a series of articles about the AODA’s lack of standards governing the healthcare sector. Currently, there are still no AODA healthcare standards. However, an AODA standards development committee has drafted recommendations of guidelines that AODA healthcare standards should include. 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 implement the Healthcare Standards Development Committee’s recommendations for removing barriers for people with disabilities.
The COVID-19 pandemic shows us how important healthcare is for every person in Ontario and around the world. In addition, the pandemic has emphasized the many barriers that already exist in the Ontario healthcare system for patients with disabilities. AODA healthcare standards could prevent and remove these barriers, and ensure that all Ontarians access the care they need.
AODA Healthcare Standards
Many improvements would allow the Ontario healthcare system to more fully meet the needs of 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. Similarly, peer support for patients with disabilities could provide valuable insights for both patients and medical professionals.
Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic shows us that access to all these elements of healthcare is vital. As more and more people are diagnosed with COVID-19, the need for accessible spaces and communication increases.
Finally, more people may develop disabilities as a result of COVID-19. For example, some disabilities that patients may develop during or after experiencing COVID-19 include:
Therefore, more guidelines governing the healthcare system would better support the growing number of patients with disabilities.
Our next series will explore the many barriers to healthcare for patients with disabilities, and the healthcare standards development committee’s recommendations to remove these barriers. We will also consider new or worsening healthcare accessibility barriers that patients encounter because of the pandemic, and how AODA healthcare standards can reduce these barriers to improve healthcare for all Ontarians during and after the pandemic.