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 improving accessibility training for healthcare providers.
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 improved accessibility training for healthcare providers.
Improving Accessibility Training for Healthcare Providers
AODA customer service training does not prepare healthcare providers thoroughly enough to properly accommodate patients with disabilities. In addition, training is often out of date, and sometimes contains ableism. Therefore, the committee recommends that the government should develop up-to-date, in-depth training for healthcare providers on interacting with and accommodating patients with disabilities. To ensure that the content of this training is accurate and respectful, the government should consult people with disabilities, and educational specialists, as they develop the modules. This consultation should ensure that healthcare providers gain the knowledge and skills needed to reduce barriers for patients, including attitudinal barriers.
Training modules should be standardized, so that every worker in every Ontario hospital receives the same high-quality training. Moreover, the modules should contain clear learning outcomes, and should test what the trainees have learned. This format, similar to the structure of workplace safety training, encourages trainees to recognize that their learning impacts other people’s quality of life.
The content of training should be updated regularly, including:
- To reflect changing knowledge and best practices
- As legislation changes
- At least every two (2) years
Furthermore, the government should also mandate similar training in all colleges that educate regulated health professionals. Graduates should begin their professional lives with an awareness of accessibility law. Likewise, annual refresher training should be part of the process for these professionals to renew their college memberships, and continue to practice.
Who should receive improved accessibility training in healthcare?
Once the government has developed this training, hospitals should provide it to all healthcare workers who interact with the public. For instance, healthcare workers who should receive training include, but are not limited to:
- Administrative staff
- Hospital volunteers
- Third parties doing business for or in a hospital
All these workers should receive their training during workplace orientation, before they first interact with the public. Workers should also have yearly refresher training. If workers do not update their training every year, they should not be allowed to interact with the public until their training is updated.
In addition, the government should verify that hospital workers are receiving their training, through the accessibility compliance report required under the AODA. This report should include questions for hospitals about what percentage of their workers have completed their mandated training.
Our next article will explore the content of improved accessibility training for healthcare providers.