Hospital launches new Accessibility Plan

Kathryn Shewfelt
Kathryn Shewfelt, Director of Environmental Services and Chair of Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre’s Accessibility Implementation Team

Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre has a new Accessibility Plan. “The new plan will guide improvements to accessibility for people with disabilities for the next five years,” said Kathryn Shewfelt, Director, Environmental Services and Chair of the Hospital’s Accessibility Implementation Team.

The plan’s areas of focus include Customer Service (service animals and support persons, training for staff, access to services), Information & Communications (feedback processes, accessible forms, website content), Employment (recruitment practices, supports for employees, accommodation plans, career advancement), and Design of Public Spaces (service counters, waiting areas, exterior paths, accessible parking).

Many areas of the Accessibility Plan also support the Hospital’s focus on Seniors’ Health and will enhance the care provided to an aging population.

The plan reflects feedback provided by many people who contributed on-line and in person. In June, 2016, community members attended an open house to contribute to the plan. People were also invited to submit comments through an on-line survey.

“We are committed to improving our Accessible environment for patients and families, visitors, volunteers and staff requiring accommodation,” said Jean Bartkowiak, President & CEO. “Input from the community was essential. We needed help to identify the most meaningful and impactful activities and changes we can implement while respecting many priorities.”

Helping to shape the engagement strategy was a Working Group, comprised of Health Sciences Centre staff, a Patient Family Advisor, volunteer members of the community, and the City of Thunder Bay Accessibility Coordinator. Feedback provided at the open house and on-line survey shaped the draft Goals of the Accessibility Plan. Community stakeholders were invited to review them and provide comments.

From there, the Hospital’s Accessibility Implementation Team developed a draft plan, including priorities within each Goal. After a review by the Working Group, the draft plan was again circulated to community members for input. “At each stage, we made changes based on feedback. It was a very valuable process,” said Shewfelt.

“We got input from ordinary people and gave them a loud voice in our hospital’s accessibility plan,” said Maurice Rubenick, volunteer member of the working group. “Now we have a plan built by and for the community.”

“We are committed to implementing the plan, and reporting on our progress,” said Shewfelt.

To view the Hospital’s Accessibility Plan, please visit