The Customer service Standards under the AODA and the Accessible Customer service Standard under the Accessibility for Manitobans Act both require organizations to make service accessible to customers with disabilities. Moreover, both standards require many of the same processes and practices to ensure accessibility. However, there are many important differences between the standards. The third review of the AODA recommends that the Ontario government should coordinate with other provinces and the federal government to ensure that accessibility laws are consistent across Canada. Therefore, requirements in the AODA may one day change to align with mandates under the Accessibility for Manitobans Act. In this article, we will explore accessible customer service policies in Ontario and Manitoba.
Accessible Customer service Policies in Ontario and Manitoba
The AODA’s Customer service Standards and the Accessible Customer service Standard of the Accessibility for Manitobans Act (AMA) both require accessible customer service policies. Service providers must create and implement policies for ensuring that customers with disabilities have access to the providers’ goods and services. For instance, policies should explain how providers will:
- Communicate in ways that take customers’ disabilities into account
- Welcome customers using assistive devices
In addition, policies should be based on the principals of integration and equal opportunity to access goods and services. Integration means that customers with disabilities can receive service in the same way as customers without disabilities. Equal opportunity means that customers with disabilities receive the same benefits as non-disabled customers, sometimes through small policy changes.
Moreover, public-sector organizations, and large private-sector organizations, must document their accessible customer service policies in writing. Furthermore, these organizations must make their written policies available to the public, including in accessible formats upon request.
Policies in both provinces describe how providers will make goods and services accessible. However, under the AODA, Ontario service providers’ policies must also outline measures for making facilities accessible. In other words, if a service provider’s location includes physical accessibility barriers, the provider’s policy must describe how it will mitigate these barriers.
On the other hand, under the AMA, providers creating and implementing policies must:
- Identify any accessibility barriers customers may experience when accessing goods or services
- Remove these barriers
- Prevent new accessibility barriers
In other words, Manitoba service providers must consider all types of accessibility barriers, not only physical barriers. Furthermore, if an organization cannot remove a barrier, staff must find other ways to serve customers experiencing that barrier.
Moreover, Manitoba organizations must not charge customers with disabilities a fee for accommodating their needs. While Ontario’s Customer Service Standards do not include this mandate, other standards prohibit fees for information or transportation accommodations.
In addition, Manitoba’s standard requires providers to comply with the rules in their customer service policies. In contrast, Ontario’s standard requires providers to create policies, but does not directly state that providers must perform the tasks their policies describe.