Accessibility Standards for Customer Service: reminder of requirements

By January 1st, 2012 Family Health Teams must comply with the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service.

The information below is provided for your reference, from MOHLTC’s FHT to Print newsletter, Winter 2011 edition. In addition, click here for  a brief, practical, self-assessment tool intended to assist primary health care settings to increase their awareness of the needs of disabled patients, and to enhance accessibility in the practice.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA) is legislation that sets out specific standards of accessibility in a number of key areas. The Accessibility Standards for Customer Service, Ontario Regulation 429/07, is the first standard to be developed under the AODA.

Effective Dates

The customer service standard designates that Family Health Teams must comply with the standard by January 1st, 2012. Additionally, FHTs with 20 or more employees will have to file online accessibility reports. FHTs with fewer than 20 employees are currently exempt from filling out the report, but must still comply with the standard.

Types of Accessibility

When thinking about accessibility in primary care clinics, physical space is what usually comes to mind first. However, there are four broad areas of accessibility to consider:
1. Physical: The space should allow for disabled patients to freely enter and move around in the practice;
2. Attitudinal: The level of service provided at the clinic should be proportionate with the needs and abilities of the patients;
3. Expertise: FHT staff a should have an understanding and awareness of disability and its effect on the clinic and practice; and
4. Systemic: FHT policies, practices and procedures (both formal and informal) should be designed with the following four principles in mind: independence, dignity, integration and equal opportunity.

Step by Step: Meeting the requirements of the customer service standard

There are 11 compliance requirements associated with the Standards, with an additional three for providers with 20+ employees. Please refer to the Guide to Accessibility Standards for Customer Service for a complete listing. Here is a quick overview with additional detail in the links below.

Establish policies, practices and procedures related to providing services to persons with disabilities. They should be consistent with the principles of dignity, independence, integration and equality of opportunity.

Develop a policy for dealing with various assistive devices/methods used by persons with disabilities.

Develop a strategy for communicating with people with various disabilities (i.e. in person, over the phone or online).

Allow persons with disabilities to be accompanied by service animals as well as support persons.

Provide advance notice of any situation where admission fees would be charged for a support person.

Provide notice when facilities or services that persons with disabilities rely on are temporarily disrupted.

Establish a training program and train staff on accessibility and customer service.

Establish a feedback process on how you provide services to persons with disabilities.

FHTs with 20 or more employees must prepare documentation on accessibility standards.