Friday, March 18, 2011

Disabilities training sessions offered

Approximately one in five Americans have a disability, and that prevalence will likely increase as the population ages. To help MGH staff address the important needs of individuals with disabilities, monthly training sessions are being sponsored by the MGH Council on Disabilities, Office of Patient Advocacy and the Norman Knight Nursing Center.

Staff from departments across the hospital are encouraged to attend one of the training sessions to increase their skills and sensitivity around providing the best care for patients with disabilities. Cecilia Gandolfo, of the Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts, conducts the hour-long sessions in the O'Keeffe Auditorium. This month's latest training took place March 11.

During each session, Gandolfo provides a range of information about disabilities, including the definition of an individual with a disability, statistics about the prevalence and related health care disparities, as well as information about the Americans with Disabilities Act. She also offers insight into responding to the needs of patients with disabilities. Through videotaped interviews of a variety of individuals with disabilities, she illustrates ways caregivers can work with these individuals to provide the best quality of care.

The overarching principle, Gandolfo said, is what she refers to as the platinum rule: "You should treat others not necessarily how you want to be treated, but how they want to be treated." She emphasized the importance of open, clear and respectful communication, such as asking for permission before offering help or touching or removing an individual's assistance device. "Be sure to use person-first language when talking with or about individuals with disabilities," she said.

"While accessibility is required by law through the Americans with Disabilities Act, the goal of the MGH is to go above and beyond compliance and to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for everyone," says Zary Amirhosseini, disability program manager.

To date, the training sessions have received positive feedback from staff.  "If we all increase our awareness about disabilities, we will do a better job of both retaining our current patients and attracting new ones," says Rebecca Coburn of Security Operations, who attended the March 11 session. "It's critical that we support the needs of individuals with disabilities at all levels."

Additional training sessions will take place in the O'Keeffe Auditorium:

• April 16 at 2 pm

• May 18 at 6 pm

• June 26 at 1 pm

• July 22 at 2 pm

• Aug. 17 at 2 pm

• Sept. 21 at 6 am

• Oct. 26 at 1 pm

• Nov. 16 at 1 pm

• Dec. 14 at 1 pm

For more information on how to better serve patients with disabilities, visit; consult a member of the MGH Council on Disabilities Awareness; or contact Amirhosseini at 617-726-3370 or

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