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Welcoming Customers with Assistive Devices

Under the Customer Service Standard of the AODA, service providers’ policies must state that they welcome customers using assistive devices. In this article, we describe what a few assistive devices are.

Assistive Devices

Wheelchairs

A wheelchair is one of the most well-known symbols of accessibility worldwide. Some people use manual wheelchairs which they wheel with their arms. Other people steer power wheelchairs that have batteries and motors. In addition to the wheelchairs people use every day, there are also wheelchairs for specific activities, such as:

  • The beach
  • Sports, including wheelchair:
    • Basketball
    • Tennis
    • Hockey

Moreover, wheelchairs come in a variety of colours and styles. Some wheelchairs fold up while others do not. Furthermore, some people may use a wheelchair all the time. Others may sometimes use other mobility devices or walk short distances without devices. People may also transfer from their wheelchairs to other seats.

Walkers

Other people use walkers for stability. Some people use smaller walkers that they push in front of them. In contrast, others use larger ones which they stand in and pull behind them.

Support Canes

Other people may use canes for support and balance. Some people use one cane if one side of their body is stronger than the other. They hold the cane on the stronger side and move it when they take a step with their other foot. For instance, someone with a stronger left side holds their cane in their left hand. As they step with their right foot, they move their cane forward, then step with their left foot. Other people use two canes by holding one in each hand.

Support canes come in a variety of colours and styles. Some canes fold up while others do not. Moreover, support canes are short and often curved. Some canes have one tip that touches the ground, while others can have three or four tips.

White Canes

Many blind and visually impaired people use white canes to travel. People do not use their canes at home or in other familiar environments because they know exactly where everything is. However, when they travel outside their homes, people will almost always use their canes. Someone walking with a white cane moves it from side to side in front of them. The feel and sound of the cane on the ground or floor gives them information about what is ahead, including:

  • Steps or curbs
  • Obstacles, such as furniture
  • The texture of the ground (pavement, grass, snow, puddles, etc.) or floor (tile, carpet, etc.)

Canes are white so that they are visible to other travellers. Some canes fold up while others do not. Moreover, they are long and straight, rather than curved. This difference makes it easy to tell whether someone is using a cane for support or for mobility. In other words, someone using a mobility cane can usually balance easily. Likewise, someone using a support cane usually has average vision.

Service providers may still have questions about what to do when a customer comes in with an assistive device. Our next article will offer some best practices for serving customers with assistive devices.