Hello community, I am offering the story in case it can be used as evidence in anyone’s healthcare advocacy and accessibility work.
Yesterday I went to the Covid Assessment Centre at Toronto Western Hospital, in the Bank of Nova Scotia Building on the corner of Dundas St., West in Bathurst Street and Toronto.
I wanted to get tested so I can demonstrate negative results to visit a family member with disabilities in the community living Groupon.
As a blind person myself, I had phone to head and learned from the automated voicemail that I should speak to the security person at the door if I wanted to request any accommodation for disability.
When I arrived I did as instructed, and was told by the security guard that there is no accommodation available. I explained that standing in the line, which was about two blocks long, is difficult for me as I cannot manage physical distancing due to my loss of vision. He explained there was no accommodation for this, End of story.
I also asked if there was no accommodation for the lineup, what is their accommodation once I enter the clinic? It worries me and I explained that it worries me, that I cannot avoid touching surfaces or bumping into people, and in such a Covid Dash risk environment I consider that unacceptable to impose on others and myself.
Same response: the guard explained that the head nurse on duty had told them there was no accommodation available. There was also no discussion, no explanation, simply a closed door.f
I found the front desk of the hospital, and got in touch with a senior security manager who came around to the front door of the assessment centre to speak to me. I want to say right here that this person was extremely diplomatic, supportive, and helpful. They clearly understood my dilemma, and shared my sense of shock at the metaphorical and physical closed-door to my needs.
This security manager managed to get the supervising healthcare professional at the clinic to come outside, but only to explain to them again that there was no accommodation. This healthcare professional did not address me directly even though I was standing right there.
After approximately 45 minutes of this The security guard took me to the emergency room and did a lot of explaining on my behalf that I needed a test, that I needed accommodation, etc.
Emergency room staff registered me and I was able to get my test there. So in the end I got what I needed, thanks to the security manager. It took a lot longer, and frankly it was very undignified to have to stand at the entrance to the assessment centre being refused any help with a lineup of other healthcare professionals move slowly passed me.
I do not know if the emergency room environment is less of a risk for contracting the virus then the assessment center, but I do know that there was no consideration of risk factors to me or to those around me in the whole discussion with staff at the assessment center.
I understand this is a very lightweight version of the kind of discrimination and lack of access that many people with disabilities experience in the healthcare system. I am a white middle-aged man living in a middle-class neighborhood, dressed in summer gear that clearly marked me out as a person with income and means. I absolutely do not consider my story to be terribly serious, only that it is indicative.
We need change, we need attitude change and we need regulatory reform.
I have made a complaint to Toronto Western Hospital, and will follow up through that route, especially as I need to get the regular test and I don’t want to go through that again.
Please feel free to use this information if it is useful in your advocacy or policy development work. You can reach out to me if there’s anyway you want me to explain it further.
All the best everyone! Stay safe!
John D. Willis
Design & innovation in Public Services