​​​Image of Dr. Gail Kunkel
“I love my work,” says Dr. Gail Kunkel, who is inspired by her patients and her collegues at Toronto Rehab’s Cardiac Rehab and Secondary Prevention Program located at Rumsey Centre.​ (Photo: UHN)

From her electric wheelchair, Dr. Gail Kunkel  has seen first-hand how a good attitude can overcome physical space barriers.

Dr. Kunkel is a clinical psychologist in supervised practice and a postdoctoral fellow under Dr. Jaan Reitav at Toronto Rehab's Cardiac Rehab and Secondary Prevention Program located at Rumsey Centre.

She is inspired by her patients who are recovering from heart conditions, stroke, diabetes, cancer and experiencing trauma symptoms.  She is also amazed and inspired by the staff who dedicate their career to getting their patients on a path to a new normal.

"I get up in the morning and feel energy drawing me to the Rumsey Centre," says  Dr. Kunkel. "I love my work."

Dr. Kunkel is one of several UHN staff who needs an accessibility workspace assessment to determine the necessary accommodations to best integrate into their work environment and team.

When Dr. Kunkel began her postdoctoral training, she was unable to access her office with her electric wheelchair.  Dr. Reitav, her supervisor, immediately offered to share his space as a temporary solution. He also put in a request for an accessibility assessment to ensure the temporary and long-term accommodations were appropriate for her work.

Jacqueline Silvera, UHN's Senior Manager of Diversity and Mediation Services, visited the office and recommended modifications, such as software upgrades, removing stacks of books and re-arranging office furniture to ensure that Dr. Kunkel could safely access her work space.

"Dr. Kunkel has had incredible support from Dr. Reitav," says Silvera. "He's attentive to ensuring she has what she needs to do her job."

UHN has been working on improving accessibility for staff, patients and visitors for 13 years, since before the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) was introduced.

"Our training is one way we work to shift attitudes about disability and promote the understanding that we all have a shared responsibility to promote accessibility," says Silvera.  

Accessibility and inclusion works to address and eliminate any barriers to care, services, work and learning for staff, students, patients and families who are living with a visible or non-evident disability.

"At UHN, we want all of our staff to thrive in their work environment and on their teams," says Emma Pavlov, Senior Vice President, Human Resources. "This is why our accessibility work is so important.

"We need to ensure we eliminate barriers to any staff member doing their job."

In the past 13 years, accessibility at UHN has continued to improve. A major step forward for inclusion was the addition of a full-time American Sign Language interpreter to the Interpretation and Translation Services department.

Silvera, along with the Council and Committee members engaged in AODA planning, are currently focused on making improvements to the physical barriers in the four UHN hospitals to ensure there are accessible washrooms, entrances and meeting rooms available.

Silvera says UHN's commitment to accessibility has made it possible to continue the journey and make necessary changes to achieve the target compliance date of 2025 set by the government.

"There are 1.8 million Ontarians – 15.5% of our population – with some form of a disability and as our population ages that number will increase," says Silvera. "Disability will touch all of our lives at some point, so we have work to do to improve accessibility for everyone."

If you have a comment or are interested in supporting accessibility at UHN, contact accessibility@uhn.ca

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