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Working at home imageUHN has begun an initiative to identify, remove and prevent barriers to access for people with disabilities, as the hospital works progressively to comply with the first phase of a new Ontario law.

The law is called the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). The first of its kind in Canada, the AODA aims to remove barriers for people with disabilities—beyond installing wheelchair ramps and automatic doors in buildings.

For UHN, accessibility has been an ongoing initiative since 2003. But this new legislation will broaden the scope introducing accessibility standards in five areas of daily living: customer service, employment, built environment, information and communications, and transportation.

The hospital has until 2025 to become fully compliant with all five standards.

"UHN is committed to providing a respectful, accessible and inclusive environment for all patients, employees and visitors," says Dr. Bob Bell, President and CEO, UHN. "We are committed to meeting the standards outlined in the AODA."

Dog imageTo be implemented in five phases, the first phase of this legislation is the accessibility standards for customer service. Cited as the biggest barrier to people with disabilities, customer service involves attitudes, which can often be wrong. For example, it is a commonly held misconception that people with the same disability experience the same challenges. The customer service standards are designed to overcome such attitudinal barriers.

A planning committee of 30 representatives from various departments is now reviewing, revising and making recommendations on hospital policies, practices and procedures related to customer service. Co-chaired by Jacqueline Silvera, Senior Manager of Workplace Diversity, and Jane Sloggett, Director of Occupational Health and Safety, the committee's work will focus on several initiatives, including:

- Setting a policy on allowing people to use their own personal-assistive devices to access and use hospital goods and services;

- Using reasonable efforts to ensure that hospital policies, practices and procedures are consistent with the AODA's principles of independence, dignity, integration and equality of opportunity;

- Training staff, volunteers, contractors and other people who interact with the public or third-parties on UHN's behalf on the topics outlined in the customer service standard; and  

- Allowing people with disabilities to be accompanied by their guide dog or service animal in public areas owned or operated by UHN, unless the animal is excluded by law.

More information about the AODA will be available online in March.


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