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Lieutenant-Governor Talks Accessibility at Ajax Event

David Onley speaks at conference on geriatric care hosted by Lakeridge Health
Apr 16, 2010 – 04:30 AM
By Reka Szekely

AJAX — When it comes to accessibility, it’s places like Lakeridge Health in Durham that are showing the way for other organizations, said Lt.-Gov. David
Onley in Ajax on Wednesday.

Mr. Onley was the keynote speaker at a Bridging the Gap in Geriatric Care conference organized by Lakeridge Health, held at the Ajax Convention Centre and attended by more than 125 from across the region. His talk focused on accessibility in general and how accessibility issues affect seniors in particular.

At Lakeridge, he said, it was a combination of intelligent architecture, assistive devices and general attitude that combined to create a safe and more
embracing environment for everyone.

“As an advocate for accessibility, I thank you for actually helping to show the way for rest of society,” said Mr. Onley. “Perhaps you haven’t thought of
it that way before but, in effect, that’s what’s happening because when a facility is made accessible and safer for the elderly, it becomes safer and more
accessible for everyone.”

Carol Anderson, vice-president patient services for Lakeridge, explained the focus of the conference.

“The gap is where we are today in terms of the care of frail seniors relative to where we want to be,” she said.

Seniors account for half the patients hospitalized at Lakeridge Health even though they make up about five per cent of the general population.

“This is an absolute phenomenon that has changed the way we deliver care in the hospital,” she said.

As a result, Lakeridge Health hospitals and other hospitals must consider issues such as potential fall risks, lighting and noise sensitivity and focus even more heavily on the proper use of medication for seniors.

Topics covered during the conference included driving and the elderly, updates in geriatric medicine, elder abuse and nutrition for seniors.

The lieutenant-governor is personally familiar with the challenges of providing good care for seniors. His parents were part of the Brotherhood Foundation, which opened The Wexford Residence, a Toronto retirement and nursing home, in the 1970s.

“I’ve always been aware that many of our better seniors’ facilities lead the way and continue to lead the way in terms of accessibility, not just the physical, although that’s very important, but also attitudinal,” he said following his talk.

Mr. Onley shared some startling figures with the group, pointing out that 15.5 per cent of Ontarians have a disability, which represents 1.8 million people.

“It makes disabled people the largest minority group in the province,” he said.

However, when the immediate family members of people with disabilities are taken into account, 53 per cent of Ontarians are affected by accessibility issues. And as the population ages, that number could be 60 per cent in a dozen years, said Mr. Onley.

Right now, the Province is in the fifth year of implementing the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, which will take two decades to fully implement. Mr. Onley
said while much progress has been made, he can still point to endless examples of barriers, even in cases where attempts have been made to be accessible. This includes washrooms with accessible stalls with heavy sets of doors that can be opened only in one direction by people using wheelchairs, or elevators
that have braille on the numbers, but the numbers are too high for everyone to reach.

Still, there are positive signs, such as the way the public supported Paralympic athletes as they competed in Vancouver and saw them as amazing athletes, he said.

When meeting a person with a disability, there’s nothing wrong with seeing the disability first as long as that observation doesn’t create a value judgment about the worth of the person, said the lieutenant-governor said.

“Over time, as our societies become more physically accessible with curb cuts, with wheelchair parking spots, with the declining prices of electric scooters — and walkers seem to be everywhere these days — more and more people with disabilities have been out and about in our society,” he said. “When you see more and more disabled people in shopping plazas and at the mall and things like that, and then at the same time we’re seeing high-profile people with disabilities, attitudes start to change and they are changing for the better.”

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