Assistive Devices are a Human Right
Mobility devices allow people to live, play and work independently. The Ontario Government currently provides funding for certain mobility aids, such as wheelchairs, to people with disabilities who live at home. However, many of these Ontarians need other basic devices for daily living, such as therapeutic support surfaces, floor and ceiling lifts, seat-elevating devices and standing wheelchairs.
The pandemic has exacerbated the inequality for those with a disability, making them more isolated and impacting mental health.
Why does the Ontario government fund some mobility devices for Ontarians with disabilities, and yet it chooses not to fund the devices people need to get out of bed and go to the washroom? How does that make sense?.
– SCIO Community Member
Recommendations for the Government of Ontario
Ontario’s Ministry of Health should fund pressure-management beds or therapeutic support surfaces for community-dwelling individuals when it is deemed medically essential to prevent skin breakdown, maintain skin integrity, or manage pressure injuries when they occur. Therapeutic support surfaces are currently covered in B.C., Alberta and Quebec.
Ontario’s Ministry of Health should fund a floor or ceiling lift for community-dwelling individuals when it is medically necessary to facilitate the transfer of a person in a bedroom or bathroom. Floor and ceiling lifts are currently covered in B.C., Alberta and Quebec.
Ontario’s Ministry of Health should fund seat-elevating devices for people using power wheelchairs who have the potential to use the device when transferring from the wheelchair to another surface to perform mobility-related activities of daily living, or who have the potential for paid or voluntary employment.
Ontario’s Ministry of Health should fund standing wheelchairs for people who have the potential for paid or voluntary employment.
The lack of funding for these devices is short-sighted. Without the proper assistive devices, Ontarians are at greater risk of secondary complications and injuries that will require health care support.
Read our April 2021 report below.
Through the Ontario Ministry of Health’s Assistive Devices Program (ADP), the Ontario Government provides funding for mobility devices, including power wheelchairs and positioning devices, for community-dwelling individuals. These devices are fundamentally important for Ontarians with spinal cord injuries and other disabilities who live at home across the province. They help people with disabilities live the life they choose despite overwhelming challenges. And, because they are at home and not in a hospital or long-term care home, they reduce the financial burden on our health care system. People with disabilities, however, need other basic devices to perform mobility-related activities of daily living that the Ontario Government chooses not to fund. These include therapeutic support surfaces, which are designed to prevent or manage pressure wounds, as well as transfer devices (floor and ceiling lifts), which allow caregivers to transfer individuals without manual lifting. Both therapeutic support surfaces and floor and ceiling lifts are covered by the B.C., Alberta, and Quebec Governments but not in Ontario.
Moreover, mobility aids such as seat-elevate devices and standing wheelchairs can either facilitate safer and more independent transfers, or they can help users meet a variety of medical and functional needs. They should be covered, too. If the Ontario Government helps ensure that people with disabilities have the right mobility device, the right support surface, the right transfer device, and the right bathroom equipment, it would not only go a long way to providing these Ontarians with the equipment they need to live the life they choose, but also decrease Long-term Care (LTC) home waitlists and reduce the number of Alternate Level of Care (ALC) patients who are unnecessarily occupying hospital beds today. In many cases, it would save costs that are currently incurred by the province’s health care system needlessly. This policy paper examines therapeutic support surfaces, transfer devices, seat-elevating devices and standing wheelchairs, including their rationale, the research associated with their use, and what other jurisdictions are doing. In each section, it provides specific recommendations as it relates to government funding.
5 key Facts
The B.C., Alberta and Quebec Governments all cover therapeutic support surfaces and floor and ceiling lifts for people who live at home. The Ontario Government has chosen not to do so.
Hospitals and LTC homes in Ontario are currently required to provide transfer devices for occupational health and safety reasons. There is no similar device requirement for home care, and both caregivers –including Personal Support Workers (PSWs) – and the people in their care are becoming injured.
Most pressure injuries are treatable if they are detected early, but when they are left untreated, they are associated with adverse outcomes for the people who have them and high treatment costs for the health care system. Therapeutic support surfaces reduce the incidence of pressure injuries.
Seat-elevating devices can facilitate safer and more independent transfers by elevating or lowering the seated height of the wheelchair. They also improve a person’s ability to participate in social activities and employment.
Standing systems improve joint mobility and muscle tone, increase strength and bone density, assist bladder and bowel management, enhance cardiovascular and respiratory functions, and reduce pressure injuries of the skin.
When it comes to providing people with disabilities in Ontario with the equipment they need to live at home, the Ontario Government lags behind Alberta, B.C. and Quebec. If you require a wheelchair, you’re probably going to require other basic devices, such as therapeutic support surfaces and transfer devices. People with disabilities have been let down for too long. It’s time for the Ontario Government to fund these devices, too.