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Providing Accessible Retail Service

Under the Customer Service Standards of the AODA, service providers must make their goods, services, and facilities accessible to customers with disabilities. Our last article outlined how to include accessible policies in retail stores. In this article, we cover what staff can do to create an accessible retail service experience for customers. In particular, we look at how staff can find ways to make their premises welcoming to customers who need accessible features that a store or mall does not have yet.

Providing Accessible Retail Service

Structural Features

If stores have any accessible structural features, staff should know what and where they are. For example, staff should know if their store has automatic doors and which entrances they are at. Moreover, staff working at stores in malls should know if their mall has any of these features. For instance, staff should know where their mall’s accessible parking and washrooms are.

In addition, staff of chain organizations should know if other locations have the features a customer needs, in case the customer would prefer to travel to a location they could use more independently. For example, staff should know whether another local branch of their store has a ramped entrance or wider aisles. However, the customer may want or need to receive service at the less accessible location, so staff should be prepared to find ways to meet the customer’s needs. For instance, staff could:

  • Come outside to serve a customer at street level
  • Retrieve items in narrow aisles
  • Serve a customer away from high counters

Format Awareness

When providers offer accessible versions of hard-copy print, their staff need to be aware of:

  • What information is available in what format(s)
  • where hard copies are kept
  • Whether another branch or location has hard-copy Braille or large print
  • how customers can find web versions
  • whether alternate-format versions are up-to-date

If there are differences between the current printed version of a document and the version a customer can read, staff should know what the differences are. For example, managers can keep a printed list of the differences clipped to the Braille version of a document. Staff can then remind themselves of what the differences are while they carry the document to the customer. They should then go through these differences with the customer, in the same way that they alert all customers to deals.

Staff Assistance

Stores must ensure that their staff are trained to interact with patrons who have disabilities. Staff should understand how to communicate with patrons, both in person and remotely.

When customers cannot read signs or labels, they may ask a staff member about the information on them. For instance, a customer might ask a clerk which section of a store they will find something in. Likewise, a staff member might walk through a store with a customer to find what they are looking for. A customer might be looking for certain items on their shopping list. Alternatively, a customer might prefer to browse and compare items. In this case, a staff member might describe items in detail or bring them to the customer. Some customers might bring a support person to perform any or all of these tasks. However, providers should not require that a customer has a support person with them. Instead, staff should provide these services for customers upon request.

Accessible retail service ensures that all customers have a pleasant experience. For many customers with disabilities, excellent service is as memorable as great sales and products. Customers will want to do more business with stores that treat them with dignity.