By Anjum Nayyar, posted Tuesday, December 8, 2009
As part of the university’s obligations under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), the Division of Human Resources and Equity has launched the information-sharing portion of the newly legislated customer service standard to all faculty and staff.
The information focuses on developing an inclusive and welcoming environment for persons with disabilities in order to ensure all members of the university community as well as visitors to our campus are treated with dignity and respect.
“The information is a fantastic way for the university to initiate the conversation about accessibility and how we can effectively build an accessible environment,” said Andrea Carter, employment equity officer.
The customer service standard is the first of five standards outlined by the provincial act that aim to develop a fully accessible Ontario by the year 2025. The standards — customer service, employment, information and communication, built environment and transportation — will ensure that both the private and the public sectors provincewide achieve this accessibility goal.
Melinda Scott in the office of student life organized the training for her staff and said it was particularly beneficial for her and her colleagues since the staff deals with students with visible and invisible disabilities on a regular basis.
“I think that it’s really important for staff to know what their responsibilities are when it comes to the new legislation. It really provides an introduction to the customer service standard and helps staff to learn more about how they can create an accessible university environment,” she said.
Professor Angela Hildyard, vice-president (human resources and equity), said Scott’s experience is what the customer service training is designed to achieve.
“We want to raise awareness about disability, so the training provides a unique opportunity to speak with all members of the U of T community about issues of accessibility.”
Staff and faculty are provided with information regarding interacting and communicating with persons with various typesof disabilities, about university policies and government legislation concerning people with disabilities, types of assistive devices, information on support people or animals, resources on campus to assist with accommodation needs and what to do if someone is having difficulty accessing service. Information about the new customer service standard is available to staff and faculty in various formats. To start the conversations about accessibility, U of T created a brochure and a website dedicated to the AODA (www.aoda.utoronto.ca). Workshops and conferences focusing on accessibility and accommodation will be available for staff and faculty to attend. An online information tool, developed by Queen’s University and the Council of Ontario Universities (COU), will be launched near the end of this year, providing a more concentrated training option.
All staff and faculty are expected to participate in learning about the new customer service standard.
“The customer service training raises our awareness of how we interact with each other, which in turn directly impacts our experiences in learning, teaching, researching and working,” Hildyard said. “It is important that every interaction is one that takes into consideration the needs of the person with whom we are interacting.”
Departmental and divisional liaison officers are being asked to contact Carter, who is also the AODA officer, to best determine which information sharing option would be most suitable for their staff and faculty groups. Hildyard said the university has been working closely with the Council of Ontario Universities on the four forthcoming standards to gauge the university’s progress on those criteria. The AODA is enforceable through reporting obligations and fines.
“The University of Toronto’s goal is to create a community that is inclusive of all persons and treats all members in an equitable manner,” said Hildyard. “I am very pleased to see so many members engage actively and positively in the AODA customer service training.”
More information on the AODA and customer service training can be found at www.aoda.utoronto.ca.