Providing Accessible Customer Service in Person
By Greg Thomson | Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, April 12, 2019
Under the Customer Service Standards of the AODA, service providers must make their goods, services, and facilities accessible to customers with disabilities. Many of these guidelines focus on accessible customer service in person. For instance, providers must:
- Train staff to interact with customers who have disabilities
- Welcome customers with:
- Provide accessible information
- Notify the public about service disruptions
- Address accessibility feedback
Providing Accessible Customer Service in Person
Staff providing accessible customer service in person should be comfortable communicating with customers in a variety of ways. Providers can serve customers in American Sign Language (ASL) if they hire some staff who sign. Customers may also communicate by:
- Using communication devices
- Using and understanding plain language, rather than figures of speech
- Understanding descriptions, with directions like “left” and “right”, rather than gestures or phrases like “over there”
Moreover, staff should also:
- Speak clearly, at a natural pace and volume
- Give customers time to express themselves instead of trying to finish sentences for them
If a staff member has not understood what a customer has said, they should state what they think the customer has said and ask if they have understood correctly. If a customer has not understood what a staff member has said, the staff member should try to rephrase instead of repeating exactly what they said before.
Structural Features and Equipment
Staff offering accessible customer service in person should be aware of any accessible structural features their locations have. Staff need to know where these features of their buildings are so that they can direct customers to them. Similarly, staff should know about any accessibility equipment or services their locations have. Additionally, staff need to be aware of where physical items are stored and if there are any guidelines customers should follow to borrow them, such as where to return them. Likewise, staff should know whether services are available on certain days or times, or whether a customer can arrange service at a convenient time. Staff who are aware of their locations’ accessibility features can answer customers’ requests promptly and knowledgeably.
Furthermore, when locations do not have the features or equipment that a customer needs, staff should find other ways to make their premises accessible. For instance, a theatre may provide captioning or ASL interpretation but only at certain performances. If a customer cannot attend a play at a pre-scheduled captioned or ASL showing, the theatre could waive the fee for the customer’s companion, who can act as their support person and interpret at the event. In another example, a store may have large-print signs but not Braille ones indicating where washrooms are. If a customer does not read print, staff could guide them to the washroom or provide a detailed description of exactly where it is.
In addition, staff of chain organizations should know if other locations have the features a customer needs, in case the customer would prefer to travel to a location they could use more independently. However, the customer may want or need to receive service at the less accessible location, so staff should be prepared to find ways to meet the customer’s needs.
Accessible Payment Options
Moreover, staff providing accessible customer service in person should know whether credit and debit machines are accessible. If machines have buttons, staff may need to explain which buttons are which. If machines are touch-screen based and have no speech output, some customers will need to pay in a different way, such as by cash or cheque.
Advertising Accessible Services
Finally, staff should tell all customers what their accessible services are. Customers may not be aware that a provider has accessible elements until a staff member points them out. If staff tell every customer about accessible service at their location, they create a more inclusive service model. They ensure that every customer with a disability has the information they need, not just every customer with a visible disability. Moreover, staff will provide valuable information to non-disabled customers, who may recommend organizations providing accessible customer service in person to friends or family members with disabilities.
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Link to Original Article: https://aoda.ca/providing-accessible-customer-service-in-person/