The Customer Service Standard of the AODA gives service providers venue accessibility guidelines to help them make their goods, services, and facilities accessible to customers with disabilities. The Standard mandates that providers must:
- Communicate in accessible ways
- Troubleshoot when disability-related services are not working
- Receive and respond to feedback about accessibility
In addition to the Standard, other laws impact venue accessibility. Two of the most important laws connected to customer service are the AODA’s Design of Public Spaces Standard and the Ontario Building Code. Together, these laws govern how service providers create or redesign the physical spaces that customers enter. Customers must be able to come in a provider’s door before staff on-site can welcome them and use their training.
Customer Service Venue Accessibility
The Design of Public Spaces Standard gives guidelines on elements of space such as:
Similarly, the Ontario Building Code includes standards for elements such as:
- Ramps, lifts or elevators whenever there are stairs
- Automatic doors and wide doorways
- Accessible public washrooms
- Barrier-free paths of travel into and through buildings
- Accessible seating and auditoriums
- Visual fire alarms in auditoriums and hallways
However, these laws do not mandate that older providers renovate their premises to make themselves more accessible. Nonetheless, the more physically accessible a provider makes its space, the more customers it will attract. Therefore, providers should consider installing accessible features.
Other features can also help providers become more accessible. For instance, good lighting will help clients who are Deaf communicate visually. Lighting is also important for customers who are visually impaired. Moreover, additional seating may benefit customers with invisible physical disabilities who cannot stand in long lines. Furthermore, signage is also important. Signs should:
- Include detailed information for customers with hearing disabilities
- Use clear language or pictures for customers with intellectual disabilities
- Be at eye level for customers at wheelchair and standing heights
- Have large print and good colour contrast for customers with visual impairments
- Include Braille for customers who are blind
Advertising Accessible Features
Providers can notify the public of their equipment or features on signage, through their websites, using messages on automated phone-answering systems, and in person. For instance, if a customer enters a bank in a wheelchair, signage should indicate where accessible service counters are. Likewise, a teller may invite this customer to approach an accessible counter. When providers do not have some of these services or features, staff and policies can provide alternative ways to make their services accessible to more customers. For instance, if the bank in the example above did not have accessible counters, tellers could serve clients using mobility aids away from high counters. Providers should also recognize that people with invisible disabilities may need the same services. For example, a customer who cannot stand for long periods may need to be served sitting down.
Customer service venue accessibility ensures that providers do not exclude the growing market of customers with disabilities. Moreover, providers can continue to serve customers who become disabled if they make their premises accessible. In addition, there are many ways for staff to provide a welcoming and inclusive customer experience even when parts of their buildings or amenities become barriers.