The Customer Service Standards of the AODA give service providers guidelines on making their goods, services, and facilities accessible to customers with disabilities. Some of the standards’ regulations involve accessible building features or equipment. For instance, providers must train workers to use any devices or equipment the provider may have that help customers with disabilities access goods and services. Likewise, providers must notify the public when services that customers with disabilities rely on are temporarily unavailable. Therefore, this article will look at different types of funding for customer service accessibility.
Some providers may feel that installing accessible features or equipment would be too costly. However, this assumption is not true. Moreover, the standards do not mandate that providers must retrofit their buildings to be accessible unless parts of those buildings are being redeveloped. Similarly, the Standards do not require providers to have equipment or features on-site that would increase their accessibility. However, providers can serve more customers and receive more positive feedback if they install accessible building features or equipment.
Funding for Customer Service Accessibility
Features to Fund
Providers can offer many different features, equipment, or services to make their locations more welcoming to customers with disabilities. For instance, some features, equipment, or services that providers can offer are:
Accessible building features, such as:
- Automatic doors
- Widened doorways or pathways
- Accessible washrooms
- Visual fire alarms
- Accessible counters
Computer equipment, such as:
- Large monitors
- Different kinds of accessible keyboards
- Track balls or joysticks
- Braille displays or embossers
- Screen reading software or magnification software
- Speech recognition software
Communication services or equipment, such as:
- Sign language interpretation and captioning for events
- Video description
- Assistive listening systems
- Communication boards
- Augmentative or alternative communication devices
Providers can improve their accessibility by applying for funding from several agencies. Different agencies have specific criteria. For instance:
- What kinds of equipment or projects are funded
- Who is or is not eligible
- When or how often applications are accepted
- What percentage of cost is covered
- The process of applying and receiving the grant or equipment
For more information about a specific funding source, visit its website.
The Enabling Accessibility Fund (EAF) offers frequent opportunities for organizations to apply for grants. These grants fund capital projects that make a workplace or community more accessible for workers or citizens with disabilities. Furthermore, the small projects component of the program offers grants of up to $100,000 per project. Based on criteria of individual grants offered, organizations may apply for funding to construct, renovate or retrofit buildings, or to install technology.
Likewise, the Ontario Trillium Foundation also provides capital grants to help citizens be fully involved in their communities. Grants are between $5,000 and $150,000, for the term of one year. In addition to larger community projects like buying land and renovating community spaces, funding can support smaller, organization-specific projects, such as:
- Buying equipment
- Construction, renovation, or repair, including developing plans, legal fees, or survey costs
Organizations must apply for funding and later report on how they use it. The Foundation gives applicants the final ten percent of their grants when they submit their reports.
Finally, individual cities may also provide funding.
The above sources of funding for customer service accessibility allow providers to improve their premises or the equipment they offer. As the number of Ontarians with disabilities rises, providers with more accessible features will attract more and more customers.