What Are the New Accessibility Standards for Customer Service in Ontario?
The Accessibility Standards for Customer Service (Ontario Regulation 429/07) came into effect on January 1, 2008.
If you are a private business, non-profit organization, or any other service provider with at least one employee, you must comply by January 1, 2012.
The mission and commitment of every business and organization should be to provide people with disabilities the same opportunity to access services and allow them to benefit from the same services, in the same place and in a similar way as other clients.
Each business must set policies in five key areas:
Accessible Customer Service
Creating accessible business practices, and staff training in those practices, is needed to provide better customer service to people with disabilities. Attitude is perhaps the most difficult barrier to overcome. Some people don’t know how to communicate with those who have visible or non-visible disabilities and staff training is required to provide employees with the tools to offer accessible customer service.
Allowing people with disabilities to bring their support person(s) with them when accessing goods or services provided by your firm can be a key to providing accessible service. Set a policy on allowing people to use their own personal support person and/or assistive devices to access your goods and services. Set a policy that outlines any other measures your organization offers (assistive devices, services, or methods) to enable them to access your goods and services, and make this information readily available to clients and potential clients.
Accessible Information and Communications
Removing barriers in accessing information about your goods and services is important in providing accessible customer service. Things like small print size, low colour contrast between text and background, confusing design of printed materials and use of overly complex language can all cause difficulty. A policy on access to information could include a direction to provide information in a variety of formats, such as in person, through print, on the web or other means that take into account the person’s disability.
Access into and within buildings and outdoor spaces is crucial. The standards would include things like counter height, aisle and door width, parking and signs. Let people with disabilities bring their service animals onto the parts of your premises open to the public or open to other third parties, except where the animal is otherwise excluded by law. Let the public know when facilities or services that people with disabilities usually use to access your firm’s goods and services are temporarily unavailable.
The policy should address paid employment practices relating to employee-employer relationships, which could include recruitment, hiring, and retention policies and practices.
Set up a process for receiving and responding to feedback about the manner in which you provide goods or services, including what action will be taken on any complaints. Make the information about the feedback process readily available to the public.
At Ferguson Barristers LLP, we take these standards very seriously and are committed to providing accessible service to our clients and potential clients, many of whom live with disabilities.