Under the AODA, private or non-profit businesses with twenty to forty-nine (20-49) workers, or fifty (50) or more workers, must complete accessibility reports every three years. The next accessibility reports for private or non-profit businesses were due on December 31st, 2020. However, the Ontario government has extended this deadline. This extended deadline for accessibility reports for private or non-profit businesses is June 30th, 2021. Nonetheless, businesses should use this extra time to assess how compliant they are with AODA standards. Moreover, businesses should also improve their compliance by changing the services they offer so that their businesses are more accessible. In this article, we will outline ways to assess AODA compliance in customer service.
Assessing AODA Compliance in Customer Service
Businesses that have twenty (20) or more workers and provide customer service need to comply with AODA customer service requirements, including:
In addition, businesses with fifty (50) or more workers need to:
- Document their customer service policies
- Have accessibility plans
- Update policies and plans every five years
- Keep records of workers’ AODA training
The extended deadline for AODA compliance reports gives staff of businesses more time to assess how well their companies are fulfilling all these requirements.
How to Assess AODA Customer Service Compliance
Companies can start to assess their AODA compliance by requesting anonymous feedback from customers who have needed accessible service. For instance, they can ask customers whether staff interacted with them courteously, in ways that:
- Respected their dignity and independence
- Integrated service for customers with and without disabilities, whenever possible
- Offered equal opportunities to customers with and without disabilities
- Took their accessibility needs into account
Companies could also ask whether staff:
- Interacted comfortably and appropriately with their service animal or support person
- Knew how to find and operate any assistive devices available at the premises
- Publicized service disruptions and other communications in ways they could access, such as:
- Responded well to any feedback they offered
If customers have the option to describe their positive or negative encounters with staff, these stories can help staff recognize what they should or should not do when providing accessible service. For example, a customer could describe an incident when staff spoke to their support person instead of directly to them. However, this customer could also explain how staff learned to speak directly to them, instead of about them. Alternatively, another customer could state that staff were not willing to allow their service animal on the premises, and so discriminated against them.
If much of the feedback is negative, it is likely that the business is not compliant with the AODA. As a result, the business will need to make changes, which could include:
- Improving AODA customer service training
- Updating policies, plans, or processes
In addition, businesses could enter short-term or on-going contracts to consult with people who have disabilities. Alternatively, companies could request the services of professional organizations that specialize in assessing accessibility. In either case, an accessibility assessor with lived experience of disability could:
- Observe and give feedback on the quality of AODA training
- Comment on the content and accessibility of documents, such as:
- Customer service policies and plans
- Feedback processes
- Notifications of service disruptions
If any of these processes do not comply with AODA requirements, consultants could offer suggestions or assistance. Moreover, consultants could also help companies find resources to support them in strengthening their policies and services.