Under the Customer Service Standard of the AODA, service providers must create, implement, and maintain accessible customer service policies. These policies must outline how providers will serve customers with disabilities in accessible ways. Moreover, private businesses with fifty or more workers and all public sector organizations must put their policies in writing. Furthermore, they must give copies of their accessible customer service policies to any people who ask for them, and make the public aware that these copies are available upon request.
Accessible Customer Service Policies
Each service provider can choose what its policy should cover based on the goods and services it provides. However, providers must base the contents of their policies on four accessibility principles:
• Equal opportunity
These four principles ensure that providers offer customers with disabilities the same quality of service as other customers receive. Dignity means that providers treat customers with equal levels of respect. For instance, service providers treat customers with dignity when they look at and speak to them directly, instead of asking the people near them questions about them.
Independence means that customers are responsible for themselves. For instance, customers act independently when they explain the kinds of help they need and providers follow these instructions instead of trying to help in a different or inappropriate way.
Integration means that customers with disabilities can receive service in the same way as customers without disabilities. For example, providers integrate customers with disabilities when they do not ask them to wait for service until the building is less busy.
Equal opportunity means that customers with disabilities receive the same benefits as non-disabled customers, sometimes through small policy changes. For instance, providers ensure equal opportunity when they allow customers who find their websites inaccessible to benefit from in-person discounts instead of the online discounts available to all customers who can access the websites.
Providers who want to make sure their policies are most helpful should consult people with disabilities to talk about useful elements they could include.
In addition, providers should outline in their policies how they will welcome customers who use assistive devices. Some of the assistive devices that customers may bring with them include:
- Mobility aids, such as wheelchairs, scooters, walkers, crutches, or support canes.
- Hearing devices, such as hearing aids or assistive listening systems
- Vision devices, such as white canes, magnifiers, or monoculars
- Communication aids, such as communication boards or alternative communication devices
In best practice, providers should recognize many of these devices. Moreover, providers may offer additional assistive devices or services on-site that customers might find helpful, such as:
- Wheelchairs or assistive listening devices on loan for events
- Real-time captioning
- Braille or large-print menus or programs
- Staff available to reach products or guide patrons
Providers that possess such aids should make the public aware of their availability, so that anyone who wishes to borrow one will know about the possibility in advance. Moreover, providers should post this information in multiple formats, such as online, on signs, in print, and over the phone, so that customers can access it in ways that work best for them.
Accessible Customer Service Policies Help Everyone
Accessible customer service policies ensure that all customers receive high-quality service. In addition, they help service providers gain understanding of disability and learn how to behave appropriately toward patrons with disabilities.