Under the Customer Service Standards of the AODA, organizations must serve customers with print disabilities. In this article, we first describe what print disabilities are and then outline how providers can serve customers who have them.
Customers with Print Disabilities
What is a print disability?
A print disability impacts someone’s ability to read printed material. For instance, people with print disabilities may:
- Be blind, visually impaired, or deafblind
- Have a learning disability that affects reading
- Have a physical disability that affects their ability to hold or turn pages
The type of print disability someone has affects the kinds of print they can or cannot read. For instance, hard-copy print that the reader needs to hold is inaccessible to someone with a physical print disability. However, someone with this disability can read hard-copy print on signs, name tags, or pages that someone else holds. In addition, someone with a physical print disability can also read digital print on screens. Another example is that someone with a visual impairment may read print in certain sizes, fonts, colours, or lighting conditions. In contrast, someone who is blind cannot read any hard-copy print.
Print information in customer service
Print is everywhere in customer service. For example, non-print-disabled customers can read material such as:
- Flyers advertising sales
- Pamphlets outlining events, programs, and services
- Catalogues describing products
- Cash-register display screens
- Credit or debit card machines
- Bills and receipts
- Event programs
- Bank statements
- Library books
- Newsletters or bulletins
Service providers can make information accessible by providing versions in accessible formats. For example, some accessible formats are:
- Large print
- Online on accessible websites
- Accessible Word or html files
Providers can produce hard-copy Braille or large print for customers who are blind, visually impaired, or deafblind. For instance, providers with access to technology like photocopiers or Braille embossers can make their own large-print or Braille documents. On the other hand, providers without access to this technology may have a third party produce documents.
Customers may also read materials using accessible computers or phones. If websites follow Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, customers can use technology to access them. Therefore, providers can keep customers informed by producing versions of hard-copy content in accessible web formats.
Moreover, staff should tell every customer about all the formats they have information available in. Customers remember organizations with information that they or their loved ones can read.
Furthermore, customers use print to move through venues by reading signs and labels showing what or where things are. For example:
- Reception or customer service desks
- Waiting areas
- Names, numbers, or locations of rooms, sections, aisles, and seats
- Product labels
- Price tags
- Special offers
- Staff name tags
- Checkout areas
Customers sometimes have ways of gathering information about what is around them without print. For instance, some customers can use sight to identify elements such as:
- Reception, line, waiting, and checkout areas
- Products, through pictures on packaging
- Staff, by their uniforms
- Washrooms, through pictures on signs
Furthermore, customers can also find out where reception, line, waiting, and checkout areas are by hearing what other customers are doing. They can also hear where staff are if they are talking to other customers about services or products. However, customers using their hearing to navigate will gain less information in very quiet or very busy venues.
Additionally, providers can make signage for bathrooms, room numbers, and other permanent elements of their facilities more accessible by including large print and Braille on signs.
In conclusion, service providers can make their facilities and services welcoming to customers who do not read print. Our next article will offer some best practices for serving customers with print disabilities.