Under the Customer Service Standard of the AODA, service providers’ policies must state that they welcome customers using assistive devices. In our last article, we described different types of assistive devices. In this article, we offer some best practices for serving customers with assistive devices.
Best Practices for Serving Customers with Assistive Devices
Providers should speak to a customer with an assistive device directly instead of addressing a companion or support person.
Furthermore, a provider should not assume that a customer needs help simply because the provider notices the customer’s disability. Instead, the provider should approach the customer and say that they are willing to offer assistance in the same way they would greet any customer. The customer can then request assistance or explain the best way for the provider to help.
Some people may use different devices at different times or for different activities. For instance, some people might use a power wheelchair for longer distances and a manual wheelchair for shorter ones. In another example, people might bring their wheelchairs to accessible places and their walkers to less accessible ones.
It is acceptable to use language or figures of speech related to walking, seeing, or grasping things, or to offer to shake hands.
Wheelchairs and other assistive devices help people move freely. Therefore, phrases like “wheelchair-bound” or “confined to a wheelchair” are inappropriate.
An assistive device is part of its owner’s personal space. Therefore, providers should only touch someone’s device when that person has given them permission.
If a customer gives permission for a provider to move their canes or crutches, the provider must keep them within the customer’s reach.
If a provider is talking to a customer in a wheelchair for more than a few minutes, the provider should ask the customer whether or not they should sit down to be at eye level.
Service providers who follow these best practices for welcoming customers who use assistive devices, will truly welcome all customers.