Accessible Customer Service Standard and AODA

Accessible Customer Service and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

Overview of Trails Youth Initiatives Policy and Information for Volunteers

This policy is intended to meet the requirements of the Customer Service Standards included in the Integrated Accessibility Standards under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (“AODA”). It applies to the provision of goods and services to the public or other third parties, not to the goods themselves.

The Charity strives at all times to achieve service excellence, provide its services and conduct its business for both participants and staff in a way that respects the dignity and independence of people with disabilities. We are committed to providing people with disabilities the same opportunity to access our goods and services and allowing them to benefit from the same services, in the same place and in a similar way as other peoples.

The Charity will make every reasonable effort to ensure that its policies, practices and procedures are consistent with the principles of dignity, independence, integration and equal opportunity by:

  • Ensuring that all participants receive the same value and quality of service;
  • Allowing participants with disabilities to do things in their own ways and at their own pace when accessing services, as long as this does not present a safety risk;
  • Using alternative methods when possible to ensure that participants with disabilities have access to the same services, in the same place and in a similar manner;
  • Taking into account individual needs when providing goods and services; and
  • Communicating in a manner that takes into account a participant’s disability.

Providing Customer Service to People with Disabilities

Approaches to communication are unique to each circumstance and individual. When communicating and interacting with people with disabilities, it is important to respect their dignity and independence and take their disabilities into account. If you are unsure of how to communicate or provide help or support to someone with a disability, be sure to ask him or her.

The appropriateness of language is important when referring to people with disabilities as is ensuring the use of respectful language. To remember how to do this, put the person first. 

Example: “People with disabilities” is more appropriate than “disabled people” or “the disabled.” It is also important to ensure that the terms you use are free from condensation or that they do not imply pity. 

Notice of Disruption of Services

Service disruptions may occur due to reasons that may or may not be within the control or knowledge of the Charity. In the event of any temporary disruptions to facilities or services that participants with disabilities rely on to access or use the Charity’s services, reasonable efforts will be made to provide advance notice.

Assistive Devices
Persons with disabilities may use their own assistive devices as required when accessing goods or services provided by the Charity. In cases where the assistive device presents a safety concern or where accessibility might be an issue, other reasonable measures will be used to ensure the access of goods and services. For example, open flames and oxygen tanks cannot be near one another. Therefore, the accommodation of a participant with an oxygen tank may involve ensuring that the participant is in a location that would be considered safe for both the participant and organization.

Service Animals
A participant with a disability who is accompanied by a guide dog, service animal or service dog will be allowed access to Charity premises. If it is not readily apparent that the animal is being used by the participant for reasons relating to his or her disability, the Charity may request verification from the participant.The participant who is accompanied by a guide dog, service dog and/or service animal is responsible for maintaining care and control of the animal at all times. If a health and safety concern presents itself, for example, of employees or other participants in the form of a severe allergy to the animal, the Charity will make all reasonable efforts to meet the needs of all individuals.

Support Persons
If a participant with a disability is accompanied by a support person, the Charity will ensure that both persons are allowed to enter the premises together and that the participant is not prevented from having access to the support person.

There may be times when seating and availability prevent the participant and support person from sitting beside each other. In these situations, the Charity will make every reasonable attempt to resolve the issue. 

In situations where confidential information might be discussed, consent will be obtained from the participant prior to any conversation where confidential information might be discussed.

How to Create Positive Interactions for People with Disabilities

People with learning, intellectual, developmental and/or cognitive disabilities
There is a range of learning disabilities, each with their own outcomes. For example, dyslexia affects how a person takes in or retains information. Alternatively, developmental or intellectual disabilities, such as Down Syndrome, can limit a person’s ability to learn, communicate, do physical activities and/or live independently. 
  • It may take a little longer for the person to process information, to understand and to respond, so be sure to listen and be patient.
  • Do not make assumptions about what a person can do. 
  • Provide one piece of information at a time. Be sure to use plain language and short sentences when giving information or providing explanations. 
  • Try to provide information in different ways. When appropriate, this might include the use of pictures or photographs to identify places, tasks, and directions. 
People with a mental health issue or mental illness 

Mental illness or mental health issues are different for every person. 

  • Be sure not to make assumptions about mental illness or a particular diagnosis, and remember to interact based on your experience with the individual. Learn as much as you need to about the person’s skills and challenges, and develop an action plan together in case difficulties should arise. 
  • Be aware that you might need to explain things multiple times, as memory and concentration may be affected (sometimes due to medication).
People with physical disabilities 

People with physical disabilities may use various mobility devices, which may include wheelchairs, crutches or a cane.

  • If you need to have a lengthy conversation with someone who uses a wheelchair or scooter, consider sitting so you can make eye contact at the same level, and always be sure to position yourself directly in front of them. 
  • Items or equipment, such as canes or wheelchairs, should be treated as personal space or property. Do not touch these devices without permission.
People with vision loss

Vision disabilities reduce a person’s ability to see clearly, and there is variation in each person’s experience. Many have limited vision, which might include tunnel vision, where a person has a loss of peripheral or side vision, or a lack of central vision, meaning they cannot see directly ahead. Some people see the outline of objects while other people can see the direction of light. It may be difficult to tell if a person has a vision disability. Some people with vision disabilities use a service animal or a white cane; others may not.

  • Don’t make assumptions that someone with vision loss can’t see you.
  • Identify yourself when you approach and speak directly to the individual. Or you can use a gentle touch on the person’s arm.  
  • Inquire if they would like you to read any printed material out loud.  
  • In some cases, a person who is blind may need or request you to act as a “sight guide”. Offer your elbow to guide them if needed. Be precise and descriptive when giving directions by providing specific details such as “to the right”, or “to the left” or measurements such as “three meters ahead”. It is also helpful to identify landmarks or other details to orient the person to the environment they are in.
People who have hearing loss

There are varying degrees of hearing loss, with different terms to describe different levels of hearing and/or the way a person’s hearing was lost or diminished. People who have hearing loss may be deaf, deafened or hard of hearing. They may also be oral deaf which means they are unable to hear but prefer to talk instead of using sign language. 

  • Once a person has indicated s/he has hearing loss, find out what is the preferred method of communication. 
  • If a person uses a hearing aid, be aware that noisy rooms can be challenging, and try to move away to a quieter area. 
  • Some people are able to lip-read. Make sure you are in a well-lit area where the person can see your face, your mouth and lips.
  • When appropriate, use a gentle touch on the shoulder or wave of a hand to attract the person’s attention before speaking.
People with speech or language Impairments

Certain conditions, including Cerebral Palsy, amongst others, may make it difficult for a person to pronounce words, and their speech may be impacted.

  • Do not make assumptions that a person with a speech impairment also has another disability. 
  • Be patient. Do not interrupt or finish the person’s sentences, and make sure to let the person speak in his or her own way. 
  • Whenever possible, ask questions that can be answered “yes” or “no.”