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 improving AODA customer service training.
Improving AODA Customer Service Training
Under the Customer Service Standards of the AODA, service providers must teach workers and volunteers how to provide goods and services to customers with disabilities. Training must cover the following topics:
- The purpose of the AODA
- Requirements of the Customer Service Standards
- How to communicate with customers in ways that take their disabilities into account
- How to interact with customers who have:
- How to use any devices or equipment the provider may have to help customers access goods or services
- How to assist a customer having difficulty accessing goods or services
However, meeting attendees report that training modules do not teach trainees enough about disability. For instance, modules provide basic instructions, such as not to position someone’s wheelchair behind a closed door. However, instructions like these should be common sense, and staff should not need training for such basic concepts.
What Training Should Include
Instead, attendees suggest that workers need more training on interacting with people who have disabilities. Likewise, training could also cover specific accommodations that customers might need, such as how to help customers with different disabilities fill out forms. Moreover, training should teach workers about the barriers that people with disabilities face. This information will help workers avoid creating attitudinal barriers, and help them prevent other barriers. Furthermore, attendees suggest that people with disabilities should be involved in improving the quality of AODA training. For example, people with disabilities could evaluate how effective training modules are.
Current training requirements allow providers to train workers using various formats, including:
- Interactive workshops
- Classroom settings
- Online courses
The variety of training options allows providers to create their own training that relates AODA principles to the day-to-day activities in their organizations. For instance, restaurants may offer training on communicating that may include reading menus aloud or taking orders in writing. However, review attendees state that many training modules do not take advantage of the chance to model serving customers with disabilities within specific industries. Instead, modules take a “one-size-fits-all” approach that does not help trainees understand how to respond to situations in their workplaces involving customers with disabilities.
Therefore, review attendees suggest that service providers should develop training modules that relate more closely to their industries. In this way, trainees can learn how they should respond when they meet and serve customers with disabilities in well-known situations.
Ensuring High-Quality Training
In addition, the variety of possible training formats may create differences in the quality of the training workers receive. For example, a worker who attends a classroom session on accessibility will talk about course content with other trainees. In contrast, attendees at Onley’s review meetings describe online training modules that workers complete during lunch breaks. This training format sends the message that AODA training is less important than other training topics. Moreover, this format does not include a test requirement. As a result, there is no way to evaluate that a trainee has fully understood what accessibility means in their sector.
In short, review attendees state that workplaces need to take AODA training more seriously. For instance, Onley’s review contrasts AODA training with other types of workplace training, which employers and workers do take seriously, such as health and safety training. Attendees suggest that AODA training should contain more of the elements that other types of training contain, such as:
- Certified trainers
- More details in its required content
- Training every two years
This more detailed training would give workers more of the skills they need to serve customers with disabilities. In addition, better training would show trainees that meeting these customers’ needs and removing barriers are important. Customers with disabilities are part of the public. Therefore, in order to serve the public well, customer service providers must ensure that they offer high-quality AODA customer service training.