In our last article, we explored how information and communication barriers limit access for people with various disabilities. In this article, we will consider how businesses can prevent or remove barriers. Preventing and removing information or communication barriers makes businesses welcoming to people of all abilities.
Preventing and Removing Information or Communication Barriers, Part 1
Businesses can find many solutions to help people access information and communication.
For example, businesses can have:
- Audio, visual, and vibratory alarms
- Large print and Braille on signs and elevators
- Events with Communication supports, such as:
- Sign language interpretation
- Assistive listening devices on loan
- Forms, pamphlets, and menus in accessible formats, such as:
- Large print
- Online on accessible websites
- Contact information in different forms, such as:
- Teletypewriter (TTY)
- Video relay service (VRS)
- Plain-language versions of documents
- Documents made from text instead of images
- Videos with audio description and closed captioning available
- Audio and visual announcements on public transit
- Websites that comply with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Level AA
Different kinds of businesses can find ways of removing information or communication barriers, including:
- Offices, including government offices
- Movie theatres or live theatres
- Sports venues
- Amusement parks
Accessible Format Awareness
When businesses are removing information and communication barriers using accessible formats, Staff should know how to help people access those formats. For instance, staff should know:
- What information is available in what format(s)
- Where hard copies are kept
- Whether hard-copy Braille or large print versions can be created upon request
- How customers can find web versions
- Whether alternate-format versions are up-to-date
Staff should know the differences between a current printed version of a document and the version a customer can read. For example, staff can keep a printed list of the differences clipped to the Braille version of a document. They can then let the customer know what the differences are.
Communication Support Awareness
Similarly, when businesses offer communication supports, staff should know:
- What supports are available for what kinds of interaction
- Where on-site communication devices are stored, and best practices for serving customers using them
- Whether plain-language versions of documents are available and how to access them
- How to arrange Real-Time Captioning (RTC) or Sign language interpretation
- Whether text transcripts of events are available
- How far in advance arrangements should be made
When a presentation differs from its transcript, staff can make note of the differences and let customers know what they are.
Some of these solutions are low-cost. For instance, businesses can photo-copy documents in large print. Similarly, they can create new documents in accessible formats, such as Word files. In contrast, other solutions may be more costly. For example, businesses can hire a Sign language interpreter or real-time captioner for live events. Moreover, they can produce documents in Braille with a Braille printer, or have a third party produce them. However, federal, provincial, or local funding may help businesses create information with fewer barriers.
In some cases, businesses may not receive funding to create formats or supports. Alternatively, ensuring that their websites are accessible may be an on-going or complex process. However, businesses should have as many different formats or supports as they can. Not all formats or supports will work for every customer.
When the formats or supports that customers need are not available, staff still need to make their premises accessible. Part 2 of this article will outline strategies that staff can use when preventing or removing information or communication barriers.