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Disability Barriers in Customer Service

In the third review of the AODA, the Honourable David Onley recommends needed improvements to the Act. During the public meetings Onley held while preparing his review, attendees outlined many barriers that people with disabilities face. More improvements to the AODA would help to remove existing barriers and prevent future ones. Therefore, in addition to direct recommendations, Onley’s review also includes suggestions from attendees about how to remove these barriers. This article will explore disability barriers in customer service and ways to remove them.

Disability Barriers in Customer Service

Review attendees state that some elements of the AODA’s Customer Service Standards should be strengthened. For instance, the standards currently allow service providers to require that a customer has a support person with them. However, providers can only do so if the support person’s absence would create health or safety risks for the customer or for others. Nonetheless, review attendees state that providers should not require support persons at all.

Similarly, the current standards require all public sector organizations, and large private sector organizations, to document their accessible customer service policies. However, the standards do not require private sector organizations with between twenty (20) and fifty (50) workers to document their policies. Review attendees state that more organizations should make their policies available to the public.

Likewise, the current standards require service providers to create and implement processes for receiving and responding to feedback in accessible ways. Review attendees suggest that the standards could also require providers to place one worker in charge of overseeing this process. In this way, one worker would ensure service accessibility and resolve complaints.

Moreover, attendees suggest other improvements to the standards, including mandates to:

In addition, some attendees report that stores and restaurants sometimes deny people’s requests for accessible service. For instance, attendees report many communication barriers for customers with hearing disabilities. However, attendees state that technology and other solutions can easily prevent or remove these barriers.

These and other barriers could also be removed or prevented through stronger AODA customer service training. Our next article will explore the review’s suggestions about removing barriers in customer service training.