As Ontarians continue physical distancing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses are serving more customers remotely. Stores and other essential services are now meeting more customer needs by phone, over email, or through delivery options. Remote customer service allows customers to make needed purchases while staying healthy and safe. To ensure that all customers have the benefit of remote service, businesses and other organizations must make their service accessible to customers with disabilities in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Customers with Disabilities in the COVID-19 Pandemic
- Train all workers to interact appropriately with customers who have disabilities
- Communicate in ways that take customers’ disabilities into account
- Deal with temporary disruptions to accessible services
- Receive and respond to feedback in accessible ways
To provide all these services remotely, stores and other businesses should offer service in multiple ways, such as:
- By phone, text, teletypewriter (TTY), or Video Relay Service (VRS)
- Through email or contact forms on their websites
Multiple modes of service will ensure that businesses can serve more customers.
Accessible Customer Service Online
One of the most popular kinds of remote service takes place online. Moreover, under the Information and Communications Standards of the AODA, the websites of all Ontario public sector organizations, and large private sector organizations, must be accessible to people with disabilities by 2021. However, many organizations’ websites are not accessible for customers with disabilities. Therefore, businesses should be working to make their websites accessible. To do so, organizations must comply with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Level AA. This international standard gives web developers guidelines on how to make their webpages accessible to computer users with disabilities. The WCAG webpage provides the full list of requirements, as well as technical guidance for website owners and developers on how to implement them.
In the meantime, businesses can find other ways to support the needs of clients who cannot access their websites. For instance, staff can send information by email in accessible formats. Likewise, staff members can assist customers to make purchases by phone. Businesses can find many ways to remotely meet the needs of customers with disabilities in the COVID-19 pandemic.