Accessibility Standard for Customer Service
The new accessibility standard under provincial legislation for Accessibility means greater customer service for everybody.
Accessible customer service is not necessarily about ramps or automatic door openers. It’s about understanding that our customers and clients have a variety of needs.
The following topics in this handbook will help you welcome and better serve everybody.
- Understand what barriers prevent accessible customer service.
- Identify the areas that require accessibility policies and practices
- Requirements for providing accessible customer service.
1. Understand what barriers prevent accessible customer service.
What are accessibility barriers?
Many people think disabilities are the barriers, but that is not the case.
Barriers prevent people with disabilities from participating in everyday life. Once you understand what accessibility barriers are, it is easier to identify them. There are many types of barriers, both visible and invisible.
Accessibility barriers limit or prevent a person from being able to get information, service and goods or to enter a space or be part of an activity.
- Attitude, including stereotypes and assumptions, can be the big barrier. An example is thinking people who cannot communicate verbally have nothing to say.
- Physical barriers prevent people from accessing your service. Examples include store aisles too narrow for a person with a walker or wheelchair, or parking lots without spaces designated for people with disabilities.
- Communication barriers prevent people from understanding information. An example is a sign that is too small or confusing.
- Technology barriers often relate to information and communication. An example is a website that cannot be used by people who are blind and use a screen reader.
- Systemic barriers are those practices or policies that prevent many customers from accessing your service.
2. Identify the areas that require accessibility practices
Develop and put into place measures and practices that will help ensure barrier-free customer service for people with disabilities, seniors, and others with challenges to mobility, communication, understanding or health concerns.
Let customers know your accessibility procedures are available for their review.
Preparing for Accessible Customer Service
Put the customer first; let the principles of independence, dignity, access and equality guide you.
- identify barriers to accessible customer service
- remove barriers to accessible customer service
- prevent the creation of barriers to accessible customer service
- provide equivalent customer service
General Tips on providing accessible customer service
- If you’re not sure what to do, ask your customers, “How can I help?” Your customers with disabilities know if they need help and how you can provide it.
- Avoid stereotypes and make no assumptions about what type of disability the person has. Many disabilities are not visible, and asking personal questions is not appropriate.
- Don’t assume what a person can or cannot do. Take the time to get to know your customer’s needs and focus on meeting those needs.
- An “active offer” is a proactive way to ensure that your information and services are available and accessible to everyone. For example, include on documents: “Alternative formats available on request.” If required, the customer may request larger print, an electronic version, or having the document read out loud. Braille is another less likely request.
3. Requirements for providing accessible customer service
To provide accessible customer service, the Accessibility Standard for Customer Service requires that we introduce measures and practices to:
- meet the communication needs of clients
- allow assistive devices
- welcome support persons
- allow people with service animals
- review physical barriers to access
- let customers know when accessible services aren’t available
- invite customers to provide feedback
- train staff on accessible customer service
1. Meet the communication needs of the customer
There are many different types of disabilities, some visible, others invisible. Disabilities may affect mobility, balance, dexterity, vision, hearing, speech, language, learning, understanding, or mental health.
- Ask your customers how you can best communicate with them. Every situation is different and depends on an individual’s needs.
- Keep items to be used for alternate forms of communication such as a pen and paper in a convenient location.
- Offer a chair if a longer conversation is required.
- Seat yourself to engage with someone using a wheelchair.
- Offer documents in accessible formats, if requested. You can work with your customer to find the right format. For example, you may direct them to your accessible website or read something aloud.
- Be patient. People with certain disabilities may take a little longer to understand and respond. A good start is to listen carefully.
2. Allow assistive devices
An assistive device is any piece of equipment persons with a disabilities use to help them with daily living. Some examples include: a wheelchair, screen reader, listening device, magnifying glass or cane.
- Review aisleways and doors at your location to ensure you are prepared to serve customers who use assistive devices such as walkers and wheelchairs.
- Offer the space and time that may be required to meet the needs of customers using assistive devices.
- Offer, if possible, helpful measures, such as carry-out service or delivery to vehicle?
3. Welcome support persons
Support persons help individuals with disabilities perform daily tasks. Often people who have support persons are not able to do things by themselves, such as eat meals, use the washroom or change their clothes. Without support, they may be unable to access your organization. A support person does not have to be a paid support worker. He or she can be a family member or a friend.
- When engaging in conversation with the customer, speak to the customer, not just the support person. The support person will provide assistance if necessary.
- When demonstrating or promoting a product, address the customer, the support person will engage as needed.
- Have an extra chair available for the support person to use.
4. Allow service animals
Service animals assist people with disabilities. A person with a service animal has the right to enter any place where the public is allowed. It may be obvious that the animal is trained to assist with a disability that is visible (the person is blind or deaf). It may be less obvious that the animal is trained to assist with other disabilities because the disability is invisible (post-traumatic stress disorder or diabetes). On rare occasions, access to a person with a service animal may be restricted, for instance to a sterile laboratory or operating room. However, generally these are not considered public areas.
- Welcome service animals into public areas of your workplace or business.
- Consider what might cause issues at your location to serve people with service animals.
- Do not apply standard pet policies to service animals.
5. Review your physical space
Customers with disabilities need easy access to your premises. Sometimes this requires long term planning, but there are many simple and inexpensive ways to make your organization more accessible.
- Organize the space so there is room for wheelchairs, scooters and walkers.
- If clients must wait to be served, consider seating options.
- Use auditory as well as visual queuing systems to tell customers when they will be served.
- Keep signage simple with large lettering.
- During renovations, consider replacing door knobs with door levers.
- Use removable or permanent ramps in place of steps when required.
- Provide accessible parking and sloped curbs near doors.
- Keep pathways clear of snow and ice.
- Identify and address any dangers on your premises. For example, is there a stand-alone display that may be knocked over?
6. Invite customer feedback
To learn about barriers that exist in your workplace, invite customers to give feedback on how well you provide accessible customer service.
- Determine how a customer may want to deliver feedback (example in person, by telephone, in writing or by email).
- Provide phone numbers, website and email information when asked.
- Demonstrate or assist in locating PMC website and our “Contact Us” https://www.prairiemobile.com/pmc-contact-us-manitoba.htm
7. Customer service training
Training is at the heart of all successful practices on Accessibility Standard for Customer Service. Employees are required to participate in training and are tested for competence.
Who needs to be trained? All Team Members must participate in training to:
- Learn how to interact with the public on the topic of accessibility
- Become aware of policies for your organization
- Develop an awareness of the Accessibility initiatives currently in place at your location.
- New staff will be trained soon after they are hired and will be provided ongoing training as new accessibility standards are introduced.
- Training will be tracked and documentation recorded in personnel files..
- All staff have access to The Employee Accessibility Handbook
- For more information and tools, visit www.AccessibilityMB.ca