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UHN’s Accessibility Advisory Council is taking us one step closer to a more equitable, inclusive environment. (Image: IStock)

Accessibility for all is everyone's business. At UHN, we've formalized our commitment by establishing the Accessibility Advisory Council.

"We are dedicated to opening doors – for awareness, for inclusion and for change," says Charmaine Valbuena-Ayson, co-lead of the Council and Manager, Planning and Integration, for the Facility, Management – Planning, Redevelopment and Operations (FM-PRO) team at UHN.

To mark UHN Accessibility Awareness Week, which runs from May 13 to May 17, we asked the UHN Patient Partners who sit as official members of the Council to tell us why they've chosen to lend their voice to the conversation.

As individuals living with disabilities, they're the real experts, and we're grateful for the insights they offer.

Katie Harris  

Katie Harris

I joined the UHN Accessibility Advisory Council because...I have become acutely aware of the barriers people with disabilities face. It is important to remove these barriers, for the purpose of safety, to promote independence, and to remove feelings of vulnerability and loss of dignity they create.

I have experienced, firsthand, the frustration of inaccessible spaces. I want to lend a personal perspective, and provide insight on the importance of meeting Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)standards.

I wish people knew…that a simple trip to the washroom can be stressful and potentially dangerous, if proper accommodations are not in place. Heavy doors, low toilets, and lack of automatic door openers and grab bars are a safety risk, and make it challenging for a person to maintain their dignity and independence while using the washroom.

One change I'd like to see in the healthcare environment is…continued dialogue and awareness about the importance of barrier-free access, which leads to AODA standards being met.


Millie Dolanjski

I joined the Accessibility Advisory Council because…I want to share my experiences, and give others living with disabilities a voice at the table. I want to help remove barriers for patients, visitors and staff with accessibility needs. 

I wish people knew…the impact that things most people take for granted can have on the physical and mental health of people with disabilities. Even simply getting in or out of the hospital entrances, when not fully accessible, adds a lot of extra stress and burden, in an environment focused on improving health.

One change I'd like to see in the healthcare environment is…a change in attitude around accessibility. I'd like to see organizations make accessibility a priority, especially accessible entrances and washrooms, to help people access care equally and live independently.

Millie Dolanjski  

Chris Stigas  

Chris Stigas

I joined the Accessibility Advisory Council because…my background in construction, combined with my accessibility challenges, allows me to bring the perspective of someone who both understands behind-the-scenes building constraints, as well as the needs of people in the accessibility community.

I wish people knew…that AODA legislation is not only for people with disabilities. The Act's requirements make it easier for everyone to access space and services equally and independently.

One change I'd like to see in the healthcare environment is…a more proactive approach to accessibility. Instead of tackling it as an add-on or extra, it should be considered as part of the standard way environments are built. ​

Celebrate UHN Accessibility Awareness week with us!

All week, the UHN Accessibility Advisory Council will be hosting awareness booths for staff, patients and visitors each day from noon to 1 p.m. at different UHN sites.  

Monday – Michener Lobby

Tuesday – Toronto Western Atrium

Wednesday – Toronto Rehab, Lyndhurst Centre Lobby

Thursday – Toronto General, Eaton Lobby

Friday – Toronto Rehab, University Centre Lobby​

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