'Just do it now:' doctors encouraged to make offices accessible
Pending changes in Ontario may force accessibility standards for health care, but why wait?
Doctors' offices and clinics ought to make their facilities more accessible for Canadians with disabilities, a medical journal editor argues.
In 2012, about one in seven adults in Canada reported having a disability, which is expected to rise with an aging population. More than a quarter of those aged 65 to 74 are limited in their activities, which increases to 43 per cent among those 75 and older, Statistics Canada estimates.
In an editorial published in Monday's issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, titled, "Doing the right thing for our patients with disabilities," Dr. Diane Kelsall said it seems logical that doctors' offices would be barrier-free. Yet many patients face obstacles visiting their physician, which can exacerbate their health conditions.
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- How can P.E.I. be more accessible for people with disabilities?
Pending changes in Ontario may force accessibility standards for health care. But there are changes physicians can make now to help people with disabilities.
For instance, a recent study in eastern Ontario found only 15 per cent of practices had an adjustable bed.
Improving the physical environment with some simple changes could go a long way. For instance:
- Include a height-adjustable exam table.
- Provide a firm chair with armrests to help those who have trouble moving from a sitting to a standing position.
- Add a ramp with railings so patients who develop a disability don't search for a new doctor when they can't navigate entrance stairs.
- Make doors wide enough to accommodate scooters or wheelchairs.
- Add grab bars and emergency call bells in washrooms to make it less treacherous, such as for those providing a sample.
"We can wait for the ministries of health to tell us to do the right thing for our patients with disabilities — or we can just do it now," Kelsall, the journal's editor-in-chief, suggested.