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Your Health and Safety Program Must Include Compliance Training for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)

puzzle lady imageThe 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
1. Information and communication
2. Employment
3. Transportation
4. 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 905-336-7624 or visit our website at
Ref: Access Ontario, Accessibility Standard for Customer Service Training Resource.

About author
Sandie Baillargeon is a leading authority on how to increase the effectiveness of medical and dental business systems. Ms. Baillargeon is author of two text books, Dental Office Administration and The Canadian Dental Office Administrator, published by ITP Nelson Canada. Sandie is the owner and operator of Dental Office Consulting Services, which specializes in dental business planning, staff development, consulting and continuing education seminars. Visit her website at or contact her directly at (905) 336-7624.
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