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Tag Archive for: AODA

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What is The AODA?

If you are not familiar, with the AODA this is Ontario’s way of making the province accessible by addressing the following key areas so that people with disabilities can more fully participate in their communities:  customer service, employment, information and communication, transportation, and design of public spaces.  This a catch-all legislation aimed to create a culture of acceptance for people of all abilities.

Learn more about how Occupational Therapists can help to make your organization more accessible in the following infographic:

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A Practical Guide to Barrier Free Design

There is a greater awareness in society that our buildings and spaces must be more accessible to all.  In Ontario, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) is ensuring that all businesses are accessible by 2025 in many ways, including design of public spaces.

Today we focus on the physical environment.  This is where barrier free design comes into focus.  What is barrier free design? It involves designing spaces, both public and private, to allow access for the greatest majority of people.

Some common barriers include:

  •  Curbs
  •  Uneven sidewalks
  •  Stairs
  •  Heavy doors
  •  Absence of handrails

In the following video from our OT-V series we discuss these obstacles and how occupational therapists promote accessibility, and assist individuals and businesses with creating a barrier free environment.

 

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Accessible Transportation

As the Uber debate rages on, it’s time to stop and think about a sometimes unaddressed transportation issue:  accessibility.  Ensuring that there’s equitable and accessible on-demand public transportation, via taxi and driver services, in every Ontario city is a vital need.  Learn more in the following from Spinal Cord Injury Ontario.

Spinal Cord Injury Ontario:  Fair and Equitable Transportation Vehicle-for Hire Services in Every City of Ontario

 

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The Business of AODA

Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)

As an occupational therapist, business owner, and MBA, I can’t help but to reflect on the colossal legislation that is the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, or AODA.  If you are not familiar, the AODA is Ontario’s way of making the province accessible by 2025 by addressing the following key areas so that people with disabilities can more fully participate in their communities:  customer service, employment, information and communication, transportation, and design of public spaces.

Here are some real examples of poor service that demonstrate why such a legislation is needed:

  • A few months back I was taking an ailing relative to an appointment at a lawyer’s office.  We arrived and the building was poorly marked.  We tried a couple of entrances and walked around the building a few times.  We finally found the entrance and were met with three flights of long and windy stairs.  We climbed these slowly and when greeted by the lawyer he said “you should have told me stairs were a problem and I could have met you at home”.  My response was “how could we have known that your office was on the third floor of a commercial building that lacked and elevator, and if a home visit was an option, this was never explained to us”.  NOT AODA compliant.
  • The other day I was at the bank waiting for an appointment.  A patron with a cane ventured in and promptly tripped on the scatter rug that was not lying flat on the floor.  Two staff quickly ran to her side and started reefing on her shoulders to get her back into standing.  The teller told me that people trip on those mats “all the time”.  NOT AODA compliant.
  • Or, the story of a client of mine who uses a wheelchair and ventures into a large department store where a “greeter” puts a sticker on him that says “I am special”.  NOT AODA compliant.

Would you, or the people of your organization, make these mistakes?  Do you even know what the mistakes are?  Does your organization know how to manage these situations better, with tact, and preventatively?

My business hat tells me that business owners will respond to the AODA in one of three ways: “it won’t happen to me”, “tick the box” or “this is important”.

It Won’t Happen to Me

These are the group of owners that will ignore the legislation and not fear the result.  They won’t care about the impression they leave on people that may try to access their services but can’t.  Or the people that may try to get into their building and can’t.  Or the people that will try to use their website and can’t.  They won’t concern themselves with the comments lost consumers may spread about how they felt or how unfortunate it was to encounter such correctable barriers.   These owners feel confident in the fact that not being able to meet the needs of a disabled customer will not impact their reputation or bottom line.  They sleep well and don’t concern themselves morally or ethically with the possible ill experience of one lost consumer who really just wanted to have equal access.

Tick the Box

These owners will review the legislation and will make sure they do the bare minimum.  They will send someone from HR, or one employee, to a one hour seminar on how to provide service to people with disabilities and that person will return and teach the rest of the team.  They will “tick the box” that they did some AODA customer service training and will hope that this is enough.  These owners do care about potential customers with disabilities and recognize that while 15% of people in Ontario have a disability, even more are caregivers, parents of a disabled child, or that the demographic shift with the aging population will make AODA even more important.  While they care, they don’t care enough to actually ensure they get it right.  They feel the bare minimum will be better than nothing, and will hope that their staff at the least don’t upset or hurt someone that may try to access their building, or their services.

This is Important

This is the group of concerned owners that want to hit the nail on the head.  They don’t believe in doing the bare minimum because they are interested in providing amazing service to all customers.  These owners are forward thinkers that recognize the growing number of disabled consumers, and see how the ripple effect from one person’s great experience can transfer to a story told to many.  These owners want to have caring and compassionate staff that are comfortable helping a visually impaired client sign forms, or a client with a hearing impairment to get information over the phone.  They embrace everyone that enters their building and know how to offer great service without saying the wrong thing or without the fear of coming across as condescending or ignorant.

I guess what box you fit into will ultimately depend on your:

1. Risk tolerance – can you tolerate a bad reputation, poor social media reviews or comments, or the threat of being sued over failure to comply?

2.  Values – do you care about people with disabilities and the experience they get from your organization?  Do you value being seen as caring, compassionate, and accommodating?

3.  Resources – do you have the time, interest or resources to invest in thorough and proactive solutions?  Will you take the time to explore the options and to provide your team with the most practical and useful training?

4.  Goals – is one of your goals to provide exceptional service to all?  Do you see a customer as a customer, all having equal value and an equal opportunity to not only benefit from your service, but to also benefit your bottom line?  If your goal is business success then the AODA is nothing to ignore.

Let me demystify how my examples earlier could have been handled better:

  • When we called the lawyer to book our appointment, his receptionist could have simply indicated “please be aware that we have three flights of stairs to our office and the building is not equipped with an elevator.  If that may pose a challenge for you or your relative, please be aware that we can also meet you at home”.
  • When the lady fell at the bank, the staff could have asked “do you need us to call 911 for help, are you okay to try and stand, or how can we help you”?  Then, before lifting her by the arms they should have asked “how can we best help you back into standing, will holding your arms to help you rise be okay for you”?
  • The “greeter” at the department store could have simply greeted my client in the wheelchair to say “I hope our store is easy for you to manage and that you can access all the things you are looking for.  If you need any assistance, or would like to consider using one of our scooters, I am here to help”.

What kind of owner are you?

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AODA: Making Ontario Accessible. How Can an OT Help?

Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)

As an occupational therapist, business owner, and MBA, I can’t help but to reflect on the colossal legislation that is the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, or AODA.  If you are not familiar, this is Ontario’s way of making the province accessible by addressing the following key areas so that people with disabilities can more fully participate in their communities:  customer service, employment, information and communication, transportation, and design of public spaces.  This a catch-all legislation aimed to create a culture of acceptance for people of all abilities.

So where does occupational therapy fit into this and why is this legislation important?

Occupational therapists help people with disabilities to function more safely and independently in any environment in which they need to manage.  That includes at home, work or school, for leisure pursuits, and in the community, and often involves helping people to obtain devices, products or services.  Based on my own experiences, I thought I would share my thoughts on the importance of this legislation by sharing real examples of situations where a company or employee got it wrong when trying to provide service to a consumer with a disability:

Example 1:  A few months back I was taking an ailing relative to an appointment at a lawyer’s office.  We arrived and the building was poorly marked.  We tried a couple of entrances and walked around the building a few times.  We finally found the entrance and were met with three flights of long and windy stairs.  We climbed these slowly and when greeted by the lawyer he said “you should have told me stairs were a problem and I could have met you at home”.

Example 2: The other day I was at the bank waiting for an appointment.  A patron with a cane ventured in and tripped on the scatter rug that was not lying flat on the floor.  Two staff quickly ran to her side and started pulling her up by her shoulders to get her back into standing.  The teller told me that people trip on those mats “all the time”.

Example 3: Also recently, I ventured into the community to help a client purchase an appropriate bed.  The salesperson at the store told my client (who uses a wheelchair) that he “knows about people like him”.  When my client transferred onto one of the beds in the showroom, the salesperson tried to physically assist him, and continued to try and assist even after my client told the salesperson he did not need help.  Then, after the transfer the salesperson (standing behind my client) pulled the transfer board out from under him suddenly causing my client to lose his balance.

Example 4: Or, the story of a client of mine who uses a wheelchair and ventures into a large department store where an employee at the front of the store puts a sticker on him that says “I am special”.

These scenario’s highlight why the AODA legislation is necessary.  Everyday people with disabilities are poorly serviced, spoken down to, underestimated, or encounter barriers when trying to access a product or service.  With an estimated 15% of Canadians having a disability, and the number growing rapidly with the aging population, this equates to millions of consumers that are not able to access products and services, or who are being poorly treated or physically or emotional jeopardized when they do.  Or, expanding this further, these poorly serviced consumers often shop with an attendant, family or friends, doubling the number of people witnessing this problem.

Can you see the problems in these examples?  Would you handle these situations differently?  Has your employer provided you with the education and training to know how to provide proper service to people with physical, mental or emotional impairments, visual or hearing disorders, or how to optimally service someone who may be unable to speak or write, or who shops with a support person or service dog?  Can people with physical disabilities access your building, use the washroom?  If not, your employer is already missing the mark on the AODA legislation.

While many business owners may feel that the AODA legislation is unimportant or does not need sufficient attention, I would argue that this is not something to ignore.  Not properly training staff on the ways to service all people well runs the risk of impacting a business’s reputation, sales, and overall profitability.  Imagine, for example, that I disclosed the names of the businesses above?  What would you think of those establishments?  Or, perhaps worse, if my clients went online following and shared their experiences with others on social media?  Complained to a manager?  Or got hurt and decided to sue?  Or, looking more positively, we can turn this on its head and talk about how companies would be perceived, talked about, and celebrated for getting it right.  People share great stories too and many people with disabilities have a network and community of others that they liaise with for support.

Occupational therapists have the skills, training and experience to show others how to properly service people with disabilities, from barrier-free environments to effective communication and respectful and caring interactions.  Much like you hire a plumber to fix a tap, a mechanic to fix your car, or a lawyer to draft your will, hire an occupational therapist to help you and your business become AODA compliant.

Visit our AODA Training and Education page to learn more on the services we offer.