Some places like Ontario, where I live, have disability access laws that state service providers, including those in healthcare, must accommodate people who are disabled.
On a government website, it states:
Barriers to accessibility are obstacles that make it difficult — sometimes impossible — for people with disabilities to do the things most of us take for granted — things like going shopping, working, or taking public transit…
(or receiving health care services)
When we think of barriers to accessibility, most of us think of physical barriers — like a person who uses a wheelchair not being able to enter a public building because there is no ramp.
The fact is there are many kinds of barriers. Some are visible. Many are invisible:
• Attitudinal barriers are those that discriminate against people with disabilities.
• Organizational barriers are an organization’s policies, practices or procedures that discriminate against people with disabilities.
• Architectural and physical barriers are features of buildings or spaces that cause problems for people with disabilities.
Chemical or “environmental” barriers prevent people like myself who have disabling medical conditions from breathing and functioning properly when exposed to these invisible, toxic and disabling barriers, resulting in both short and long term impacts.
In the ” Guide to the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service, Ontario Regulation 429/07″, it says that Hospitals and health services provide goods or services and as designated public sector organizations should have been in Compliance by January 1, 2010…
It also states:
• The goods or services must be provided in a manner that respects the dignity and independence of persons with disabilities.
• The provision of goods or services to persons with disabilities and others must be integrated unless an alternate measure is necessary, whether temporarily or on a permanent basis, to enable a person with a disability to obtain, use or benefit from the goods or services.
• Persons with disabilities must be given an opportunity equal to that given to others to obtain, use and benefit from the goods or services.
• Sometimes integration does not serve the needs of all people with disabilities. In these cases it is necessary to use alternate measures to provide goods or services. Alternate measures are ways of serving people with disabilities that are not completely integrated into the regular business activities of the organization. It might be that goods or services are provided to people with disabilities in a different place or in a different way than other customers…
Many people with MCS/ES and/or respiratory diseases suffer disabling symptoms when exposed to polluted air. We require safe (low or no VOC) indoor air, and that means the people inside also need to be fragrance-chemical free.
My local Community Health Center refused to provide safe for me accommodations when asked. Recently I discovered that the Association of Ontario Health Centres promotes a Scent-Free Workplace but perhaps they don’t require that their members comply.
Med Visit, a service that has doctors on call to do home visits, has repeatedly refused to ask if any of these doctors are already fragrance free or are willing to become fragrance-free. I was told they treat everyone equal, that I could call in every morning like everyone else does, and that the doctor on call would phone me back and I could ask them if they were fragrance-free. I said that I could be calling every day forever if none of them actually were fragrance free, and suggested that it would be far easier if they find out before I go to all that trouble for nothing. They did not tell me I lived out of their service area then, when I 1st called, but later claimed they only went as far as the highway exit north of me when I sent in the official request.
• “Equal opportunity means having the same chances, options, benefits and results as others. In the case of services it means that people with disabilities have the same opportunity to benefit from the way you provide goods or services as others. They should not have to make significantly more effort to access or obtain service. They should also not have to accept lesser quality or more inconvenience.
• Sometimes this may mean that you have to treat individuals slightly differently so that they can benefit fully from your services. Equal opportunity can best be reached by taking steps to ensure that individual needs are taken into account when providing goods or services. Individuals do not have equal opportunity if they cannot have full benefit from your goods or services because of barriers to their access or participation.”
This lack of access to health care is impacting my life in many ways. For one, I am not able to receive disability related benefits I’m entitled to because I can’t find someone qualified to sign the new forms ODSP created, despite having it on record from previous doctors what my needs are. This is yet another place systemic discrimination is in effect.
Whatever happened to “do no harm”? How is this equal access to public health care?
I need access to medical professionals who preferably have at least some understanding of environmental health issues, and are also fragrance-chemical free.
Doesn’t the law say:
“Equal opportunity means having the same chances, options, benefits and results as others. In the case of services it means that people with disabilities have the same opportunity to benefit from the way you provide goods or services as others. They should not have to make significantly more effort to access or obtain service. They should also not have to accept lesser quality or more inconvenience.”
Until health care environments are free of chemical barriers that make it impossible or harmful for people with MCS/ES to access health care there, perhaps we need to have the enforceable right to safe health care brought to our homes when it’s not safe for us to go there?
Seems I have the right… But if no-one is willing to provide the service, what good are “rights”?
Perhaps I need a lawyer? Is Eli Stone around?
How can I get safe access to healthcare?
Please see my post “Air Quality and Accessibility in Health Care; Why Aren’t All Health Care Providers Fragrance-Free?” for resources in addition to the ones below on fragrance free health care environments and how to create safe environments for those of us with MCS/ES.
Note: the government has removed the above link but the info can be found here: http://www.mcss.gov.on.ca/en/mcss/programs/accessibility/customerService/guideToAccessibilityStandards/policiesPracticesProcedures.aspx
From the Ontario Human Rights Commission:
The Code protects people from discrimination and harassment because of past, present and perceived disabilities. “Disability” covers a broad range and degree of conditions, some visible and some not visible. A disability may have been present from birth, caused by an accident, or developed over time.
There are physical, mental and learning disabilities, mental disorders, hearing or vision disabilities, epilepsy, mental health disabilities and addictions, environmental sensitivities, and other conditions.
“Where barriers exist, whether physical, attitudinal or systemic, organizations should actively identify and remove them. Where immediate barrier removal would cause undue hardship, interim or next-best measures should be put in place until more ideal solutions can be attained or phased-in, where possible.”