The customer service standard under the AODA outlines requirements for service providers to make their goods, services, and facilities accessible for customers or patrons with disabilities.
What is the Customer Service Standard?
The Customer Service Standard mandates that service providers must find ways to break down barriers that prevent customers with disabilities from accessing the services they need. Barriers may be due to:
- Physical obstacles
- Information and communication
- An organization’s practices or procedures
- Attitudes of staff
Physical or architectural barriers
Physical or architectural barriers are features of buildings or spaces that limit people’s access to services. For example, buildings without ramps, automatic doors, or accessible washrooms are physical or architectural barriers.
Technological barriers happen when service providers use technology that is not accessible to customers with disabilities. An example of a technological barrier is a website where customers can only submit information by clicking a mouse. This kind of website creates a barrier for customers who use computers in different ways, such as with keyboard commands or head-pointing devices, instead of mice.
Information or communication barriers
Information or communication barriers exist when information is not provided in formats all customers can access. An example of an information barrier is an audio announcement without visual display of the same information. This situation creates a barrier for customers who can process information visually but not audibly.
Organizational barriers are policies, practices or procedures that discriminate against people with disabilities. An example of an organizational barrier is a strict no refund policy in clothing stores. This policy discriminates against customers using mobility devices because they may be unable to use fitting rooms and try on clothing before purchasing.
Attitudinal barriers happen when service providers do not understand how certain disabilities affect customers’ lives. For example, a service provider may feel uncomfortable serving someone with a speech impairment and assume that the customer cannot understand speech or hold a conversation. In reality, this customer will likely have a way of communicating easily, such as speaking slowly, writing, or using an alternative communication device that the customer can show the service provider how to operate.
Service providers can begin to remove such barriers by following the guidelines of the Standard. These guidelines mandate that providers must:
- Create, implement, and maintain customer service policies
- Welcome service animals and support persons
- Maintain accessibility when accessible services are disrupted
- Train their staff to interact appropriately with customers who have disabilities and use accessible equipment
- Implement processes for receiving and responding to feedback about their accessibility
- Provide information using accessible formats and communication supports upon request and in a timely manner
Why do we Need the Customer Service Standard?
All people deserve to access goods, services, and facilities in ways that respect their independence and their dignity. Just as people with disabilities deserve equal opportunities to serve their communities through equal employment, they should also have equal opportunities to be served in ways that respect their needs and wishes.