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 involving people with disabilities in healthcare service planning.
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 involve people with disabilities in healthcare service planning.
Involving People with Disabilities in Healthcare Service Planning
When senior management in hospitals make changes to services, the new services they provide must be accessible for patients with disabilities. Therefore, the committee recommends that all hospitals create and implement a process to consult with members of the community who have disabilities about the development of:
- Health service plans
- Quality assurance plans
- Capital plans
Policies and plans developed during this consulting process should result in services that better meet patients’ accessibility needs. When hospital administrators know what these needs are at the planning stage, accessibility can be proactive, instead of reactive.
In addition, senior management should also create five-year accessibility plans for their hospitals. Furthermore, when hospital quality committees develop strategic plans or quality improvement plans, these plans should address the needs of people with disabilities.
Consulting about Procurement and Facilities
Similarly, administrators should also consult people with disabilities when their hospitals:
- Procure new equipment
- Develop or contract new services
- Renovate or lease buildings or property
People in these consultations may be community members who have disabilities, or professionals who specialize in technical or clinical accessibility. These consultants can guide hospital administrators in using a universal design approach when they buy equipment, contract services, and renovate or lease buildings. Universal design means thinking in advance about how people with a variety of abilities and circumstances can use a space, product, or service. Therefore, consultants can help administrators ensure that more of their patients can use their new equipment, spaces, or services.
Access to Existing Equipment
In addition, all patients must have access to the current equipment and services a hospital provides. However, patients may experience many barriers to this access, including:
- Physical barriers in spaces
- Inaccessible medical equipment
- Attitudinal barriers, including staff who are unaware of:
Therefore, administrators should also consult people with disabilities to create processes that will prevent or remove these access barriers. For instance, hospitals should create resources to remind staff about accessible medical equipment their hospital has, and where this equipment is stored. Likewise, frequent refresher training would help staff feel confident in accommodating patients who need to use this equipment. Furthermore, administrators should have plans in place to buy, repair, or replace specialized equipment used to accommodate patients with disabilities, when needed.
Funding for Accommodations
Finally, the committee recommends that the Ministry of Health should create a fund for hospitals to buy assistive devices or accessible equipment. This funding should also be used to pay for other accommodations patients may need when they access healthcare services. Each hospital should consult with its accessibility committee, and with community members who have disabilities, when choosing this equipment. Hospitals should then include the purchase of this equipment in their yearly accessibility plans.
All these consultations will help hospitals find out what their patients with disabilities need to access high-quality healthcare. This knowledge will allow healthcare staff to meet these needs.
dedicated to set aside funding for patient accommodations.