Accessible Customer Service is basically going back to “Good Old Customer Service”. It’s about treating the customer with dignity and respect and making sure that everyone has the same access to goods and services. With 80% of disabilities not being visible, it’s hard to know if a customer has a disability or not. So the easiest way to provide Accessible Customer Service is to simply ask “How may I help you?” Then the individual can let you know how you can assist them. And it could be as simple as:
- Providing an easy grip pen for someone who has arthritis.
- Having a chair outside the change room for someone to sit and wait that can’t stand for an extended length of time.
- Making sure signage and price tags are readable. For instance black writing on a red tag does not show up well as there is not enough colour contrast. White writing on a red background works. Black and white is the best.
- When a person with a disability comes in with a support worker, you speak directly to the individual, not the support worker.
- Looking directly at an individual when speaking, so that those that are hard of hearing can hear what you are saying and those that are Deaf or deafened could possibly read your lips.
- Giving verbal direction and explanation of goods and services to someone with low vision.
- Allowing people with service animals into your facilities and ensuring that staff know not to interact with the service animal. For guide dogs there should be “no touch, no look and no talking” as the service animal is doing its job and should not be distracted.
- Make sure your aisles and pathways are clear and free of obstacles.
- If your store has stairs and is not accessible then offer your products on line so that individuals can shop from home.
- Have a basket with spare reading glasses.
- Make sure staff are trained on the Accessible Customer Service Standard so that they know how to treat your customers.
Remember that this first standard is all about the way we interact with people with disabilities and ensuring we provide our goods and services in an accessible manner.
The private sector has been reluctant to implement the Accessible Customer Service Standard says Edie Forsyth, Owner of Accessibility Experts Ltd. “They are afraid that they have to put in ramps and accessible washrooms right away, and that’s not true. Eventually when the new building code is released, there will be many accessibility requirements we will need to follow, but it will be on a new build forward basis. Only if you are building new or doing a major renovation to your facility will you have to follow the accessibility requirements under the Ontario Building Code.”
Is building accessibility features into our buildings the right thing to do? Does it make good business sense? Absolutely! Why not tap into an additional market of individuals? We have an aging population. Once we hit the age of 65, one in two of us will have a disability. Are your doors open?