Under the Customer Service Standards of the AODA, organizations must serve customers with print disabilities. In our last article, we described what print disabilities are. We also discussed how different print disabilities impact what customers can read. In this article, we outline some best practices for serving customers with print disabilities.
Serving Customers with Print Disabilities
Customers who are blind or visually impaired may have white canes or guide dogs. Likewise, customers with physical print disabilities may use wheelchairs or service animals. Providers must allow customers to enter with their service animals or assistive devices. However, providers should also recognize that other customers with print disabilities may not use assistive devices or service animals. Instead, they have invisible disabilities.
Since customers with print disabilities and staff may not be able to identify each other, staff should approach all customers to ask if they need assistance. If a customer does need help, they will explain what their needs are and how staff can assist.
Some customers may explain what their disabilities are and describe how these disabilities impact the ways they perform tasks. However, other customers may choose not to identify their disabilities. Instead, they may simply state what tasks they perform differently or need assistance with.
Therefore, in order to better understand serving customers with print disabilities, providers should simply ask how they can help with specific tasks, instead of asking exactly what the customer’s disability is.
When customers cannot read signs or labels, they may ask a staff member about the information on them. For instance, a customer might ask a clerk which section of a store they will find something in. Likewise, a staff member might walk through a store with a customer to find all the items on their shopping list. Moreover, a customer might ask a staff member to read a form aloud and then fill it in following their directions. Alternatively, a customer might have a support person perform any or all of these tasks. However, providers should not require that a customer has a support person with them. Instead, staff should provide these services for customers upon request.
Making Signage Accessible
Providers can make signage for bathrooms, room numbers, and other permanent elements of their facilities more accessible by including large print and Braille on signs. Nonetheless, staff may still need to direct some customers to locations with large-print or Braille signs. For instance, some customers may be able to read large-print signs in certain lighting conditions but not others. In another example, a Braille reader may not be aware from a distance that there is Braille signage on room numbers. However, this customer can use the Braille signage to navigate a building once someone tells them it is there.
Accessible Format Awareness
When providers offer accessible versions of hard-copy print, their staff need to be aware of:
- What information is available in what format(s)
- Where hard copies are kept
- Whether another branch or location has hard-copy Braille or large print
- How customers can find web versions
- Whether alternate-format versions are up-to-date
If there are differences between the current printed version of a document and the version a customer can read, staff should know what the differences are. For example, managers can keep a printed list of the differences clipped to the Braille version of a document. Staff can then remind themselves of what the differences are while they carry the document to the customer. They should then go through these differences with the customer, in the same way that they alert all customers to deals.
More Ways to Serve
Staff can also make print information available by reading it aloud, or by holding and turning pages. Whenever possible, a customer should choose the format in which they receive information. For example, a survey could be available both online and in hard-copy print that staff can read aloud. One customer might choose to do the survey on their phone, while another might want or need to go through it verbally with a staff member. When staff alert all customers to all the formats they have, customers can make the choices that are best for them.
If service providers follow these best practices for serving customers with print disabilities, they can truly welcome all customers.