How to Train Your Staff to be Compliant with Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)
Sandie Baillargeon Posted on May 1st, 2015

During the next several weeks, DOCS will be providing you with tips on how to interact and communicate with patients who have specific disabilities.  We recommend that you print each email and add this training to your regular staff meetings.  Each week we will be discussing a different disability with tips on how to interact and communicate with your patients to help you develop accessibility standards that will fit with your office.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) is a law in Ontario that allows the government to develop specific standards of accessibility and to enforce them.  Recognizing the history of discrimination against persons with disabilities in Ontario, the purpose of this act is to benefit all Ontarians by developing, implementing and enforcing accessibility standards in order to achieve accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities with respect to goods, services, facilities, accommodation, employment, buildings, structures and premises on or before January 1, 2025.

The patient service standard requires you to identify, remove and prevent barriers for people with disabilities in key areas of daily living. Barriers keep people with disabilities from fully participating in activities that most of us take for granted.  The patient service standard is the first to come into effect under the AODA.

The next four standards have been combined under one regulation, the integrated accessibility standards regulation

  • Information and communication
  • Employment
  • Transportation
  • Design of public spaces

This regulation is now law and the requirements currently in regulation are being phased in between now and 2021.

Who are people with disabilities?

When we think of people with disabilities, we tend to think of people who use wheelchairs and who have physical disabilities that are visible and obvious. Disabilities can also be invisible.  AODA defines disability as:

a.  Any degree of physical disability, infirmity, malformation or disfigurement that is caused by bodily injury, birth defect or illness, and without limiting the generality of the foregoing, diabetes mellitus, epilepsy, a brain injury, any degree of paralysis, amputation, lack of physical coordination, blindness or visual impediment, deafness or hearing impediment, muteness or speech impediment or physical reliance on a guide dog or other animal or in a wheelchair or other medical appliance or device

b.  A condition of mental impairment or developmental disability

c.  A learning disability or a dysfunction in one or more of the processes involved in understanding or using symbols or spoken language

d.  A mental disorder

e.  An injury or disability for which benefits were claimed or received under the insurance plan established under the workplace safety and insurance act, 1997

What are barriers?

A barrier is anything that keeps someone with a disability from fully participating in all aspects of society because of their disability.  We are going to discuss 5 barriers that you may or may not have considered


This is the most difficult barrier to overcome because it’s hard to change the way people think or behave.  Some people don’t know how to communicate with those who have visible or invisible disabilities.  For example – assuming someone with a speech problem has intellectual limitations and speaking to them in a manner that would be used with a child.  Forming ideas about the person because of stereotypes or a lack of understanding.  Some people feel that they could offend the individual with a disability by offering help, or they ignore or avoid people with disabilities altogether.  Attitude is a major barrier that is within our power to change.

Architectural or Structural Barriers

These barriers may result form design elements of a building such as stairs, doorways, the width of hallways and even room layout.

Information and Communication

These barriers can make it difficult for people to receive or convey information.  For example, a person who is deaf cannot communicate via standard telephone. Things like small print size, low colour contrast between text and background, confusing design of printed materials and the use of language that isn’t clear or easy to understand can all cause difficulty

Technology (or lack of it)

This may prevent people from accessing information.  Everyday tools like computers, telephones and other aids can also present barriers if they are not set up or designed with accessibility in mind.

Systemic Barriers

These can result from an organization’s policies, practices and procedures if they restrict people with disabilities, often unintentionally, for example a clothing store with a “no refund” policy and no way for someone in a scooter to enter the change room

Take some time to identify some of the barriers that may exist in your office.  Discuss as a group how to help your patients overcome the barriers.  If you would like to receive a sample copy of a policy regarding communicating with patients with disabilities, send an email to with the subject line, “disability policy.”  If you would like more information about Health and Safety Policies and Awareness Training, feel free to contact us at 905-332-2326 or visit our website at  Next week we will provide general tips on how to provide services to patients with disabilities as well as procedures to follow when dealing with patients who have vision loss.

Ref:  Access Ontario, Accessibility Standard for Customer Service Training Resource.

Author: Sandie Baillargeon


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