As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, we cheer ourselves by thinking of future socializing in-person. We also think about returning to work or activities we love. These hopes help us through the challenges of physical distancing. Moreover, these challenges show us that we can be more flexible or more creative than we thought we could. For instance, transportation providers have adapted to new ways of serving the public during the pandemic. In the post-COVID-19 future, more transportation providers may recognize the value of adapting their vehicles and services to meet citizens’ diverse needs. For example, more transit providers may offer high-quality AODA training for transportation workers after the COVID-19 pandemic.
AODA Training for Transportation Workers After the COVID-19 Pandemic
As physical distancing continues, transportation companies are creating new rules to keep customers safe. For instance, many companies now require most passengers to board busses from the back doors. However, some accessibility features, such as floors drivers can lower, are installed only at front doors. As a result, companies allow passengers with disabilities, who need these features, to board at the front of vehicles. Therefore, drivers need to understand more about passengers who may need to use front doors.
For example, if an approaching passenger has a wheelchair or service animal, drivers will know that this passenger has a disability. However, not all people with disabilities use assistive devices or service animals. Instead, their disabilities are invisible. These disabilities may affect passengers’:
- Coordination skills
- Motor skills
- Energy level
- Pain level
- Ability to walk or stand for long periods of time
Therefore, although these passengers may not look disabled, they need to use accessibility features and board at the front of vehicles. However, when drivers have limited knowledge about disability, they may tell these passengers to board at the back. This situation shows us that transportation workers should receive thorough AODA training.
Current AODA Training Requirements for Transportation Workers
Under the Transportation Standards of the AODA, conventional transportation providers and specialized transportation providers must train all their workers and volunteers. AODA training for transportation workers must include how to:
- Use accessibility equipment and features safely
- Change procedures if this equipment is not working or if they encounter barriers
- Keep passengers with disabilities safe during emergencies
Training on these topics is necessary and valuable. However, providing workers with more knowledge about interacting with passengers who have disabilities is also needed. This understanding helps workers change their procedures in ways that meet passengers’ needs. For instance, when drivers know more about invisible disabilities, they will recognize that they cannot tell every passenger who looks non-disabled to use the back door of vehicles. Instead, they need to interact with passengers who request to use front doors because of their disabilities.
Workers in other industries often receive much more extensive training on interacting with people with disabilities. For instance, customer service staff learn that they should speak directly to a customer with a disability, instead of expecting a nearby non-disabled person to be a go-between. Transportation workers who are more aware of these and other best practices will be better able to communicate with passengers and adapt their services to new regulations.
More Training Needed
In addition, workers and volunteers should know about some communication methods passengers might use, such as:
- Alternative or augmentative communication devices
- Writing or gesturing instead of speaking
- Clear language instead of figures of speech
Likewise, workers and volunteers may also benefit from basic knowledge about smaller mobility aids, such as crutches, support canes, and white canes. They should also know how to welcome and interact with service animals. More detailed training would help transportation providers do their jobs more easily and effectively.
In response to COVID-19, transportation providers have quickly begun to learn and practice new ways of serving and communicating with customers. Moreover, the leaders or supervisors of these organizations have trained their staff to follow new procedures. In the same way, service providers can adapt just as proactively to provide their staff with high-quality training on best practices for serving passengers with disabilities.