Preventing and Removing Organizational Barriers


In our last article, we explored how organizational barriers limit access for people with various disabilities. In this article, we will consider how businesses can prevent or remove organizational barriers barriers. Preventing and removing organizational barriers makes businesses welcoming to people of all abilities.

Preventing and Removing Organizational Barriers

The removal of other types of barriers may be costly or time-consuming. In contrast, businesses should not need much money or time to remove organizational barriers. Instead, they can start removing these barriers through small changes to their policies, practices, and procedures. They could change policies by explaining, in their accessibility policies, that they will meet customers’ needs when other policies prevent access. Alternatively, they could broaden their existing policies to benefit more customers.

Solutions

For instance, a clothing store with a no-refund policy could remove this barrier in two ways. On one hand, the store could waive the no-refund policy for customers limited by physical barriers. Furthermore, the store could state in its accessibility policy that customers using assistive devices have this option. In this way, customers who need to try clothing on at home can receive refunds if it does not fit. On the other hand, the store could broaden its policy for all customers. A broader refund policy could be helpful for customers with or without disabilities.

Similarly, an employer with an online-only application process on an inaccessible website could remove this barrier in different ways. For example, the employer could state in their accessibility policy that they will arrange other application formats upon request. In this way, applicants who cannot apply online can learn how to apply in other ways. Alternatively, the employer could broaden their policy and give all applicants more than one method of applying. This policy change could appeal to many applicants. For instance, an applicant might want to drop off a printed application, and briefly visit the company in-person.

Likewise, agencies with limited physical accessibility that require in-person intake appointments could either change or broaden this policy. On one hand, agencies could state in their accessibility policies that they will waive the in-person requirement upon request for people with disabilities. In this way, the requirement does not prevent anyone from accessing services. On the other hand, agencies could broaden their policies to allow multiple types of intake appointments. For example, people might arrange appointments by phone or video-chat. A broader policy could allow agencies to expand their clientele to people living in other regions.

Barrier Awareness

When businesses make changes to accessibility policies, all staff need to know what those changes are. Staff should know how to respond when a customer states that a policy is a barrier for them. Staff should also be aware of the solutions their business has created to remove barriers.

Part 2 of this article will consider how businesses can prevent organizational barriers in the first place.




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Disability and Organizational Barriers


Organizational barriers occur when policies, practices, or procedures give people with disabilities fewer opportunities than non-disabled people. Businesses do not create these barriers purposely. Instead, barriers happen because businesses have not thought about how a customer or client with a disability would access their services.

Disability and Organizational Barriers

One example of this type of barrier is a no-refund policy in a clothing store. The policy assumes that every customer can try on clothing in the store’s fitting rooms before buying it. However, the store’s fitting rooms may not be accessible for customers using assistive devices.As a result, these customers cannot try clothing on before they buy it. Therefore, the store’s policy discriminates against people using assistive devices. These customers must buy clothing without knowing whether or not it fits them. If it does not fit, they cannot return it.

In another example, businesses often hire using an online job application process. This practice assumes that every applicant has access to all websites. However, some applicants cannot use certain websites because of information or technology barriers. If the employer’s website is not accessible, many strong candidates may not apply for jobs with that employer.

Moreover, some agencies have policies requiring intake appointments in person. This practice assumes that all customers or clients can travel to and enter the agencies’ buildings. However, some customers can never enter certain buildings or areas because of physical barriers. These customers may need to access service remotely. Therefore, the in-person policy denies them equal opportunities for service.

Barrier Removal Helps Everyone

When businesses change their policies to remove barriers, they can welcome people with and without disabilities. For instance, stores with refund policies welcome all people who cannot use traditional fitting rooms, such as parents with strollers.

Similarly, employers with flexible job application processes can interview more applicants. Likewise, agencies that allow remote appointments can gain clientele based in other places. Therefore, businesses should prevent or remove barriers whenever they can.
Our next article will explain how businesses can find solutions for organizational barriers.




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Accessible Self-Service Kiosks


Under the general requirements of the AODA, all public sector organizations must make new self-service kiosks accessible. Moreover, private sector organizations should also take accessibility into account when they design, procure, or acquire new kiosks. Accessible self-service kiosks allow organizations to serve more customers.

What are accessible self-service kiosks?

Self-service kiosks are electronic terminals that users can interact with. Customers or clients can use them to access products or services without staff assistance. For instance, people now use self-service kiosks to:

Technical Features of Accessible Self-Service Kiosks

Self-service kiosks should have technical features so that everyone can use them on their own. For instance, good colour contrast on display screens makes kiosks accessible for people with visual impairments. Similarly, audio output allows people with print disabilities to hear the instructions on the screen. Likewise, speech input gives people the chance to operate kiosks by voice. Furthermore, accessible kiosks should allow extra time for people to complete tasks. This feature benefits people with various disabilities who may need more time to process and respond to the kiosk’s instructions.

Structural Features of Accessible Self-Service Kiosks

Self-service kiosks should also have accessible structural features. For example, kiosks should be at a height customers can reach using assistive devices, such as wheelchairs or scooters. In addition, kiosks should be stable. Finally, kiosks should have tactile keyboards, as well as headphone jacks and volume controls. These features allow people using a kiosk’s speech output to do business quietly and confidentially.

More and more businesses now offer self-service kiosks as an extra service option for customers or clients. However, this service option is not always open to everyone. Many customers or clients cannot use these new devices. Instead, they must continue to rely on staff to serve them, even when less staff members are working. Businesses designing or purchasing new kiosks should make sure that all customers or clients can use them.




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Preventing and Removing Technology Barriers


In our last article, we explored how technology barriers limit access for people with various disabilities. In this article, we will consider how businesses can prevent or remove barriers. Preventing and removing technology barriers makes businesses welcoming to people of all abilities.

Preventing and Removing Technology  Barriers

Businesses can find many solutions to help people access technology. 

For example, businesses can have:

  • Websites that comply with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Level AA
  • Kiosks and credit-card machines with accessibility features
  • Computers or tablets with voice input and output available for customers
  • Large monitors
  • Different types of keyboards and pointing devices, when possible
  • Tactile keyboards, or speech input and output for touch screens
  • Processes for providing service when technology is out-of-order

Different kinds of businesses can find ways of removing technology barriers, including:

Some of these solutions are low-cost. For instance, Apple products are all equipped with built-in accessibility features, including:

  • Screen reading software
  • Screen magnification
  • Speech recognition

Similarly, businesses can download a free demo of the Windows screen reader JAWS. In contrast, other solutions may be more costly. For example, businesses can hire experts to make their websites accessible. Likewise, they can purchase accessible hardware, such as different types of monitors, keyboards, or pointing devices. However, federal, provincial, or local funding may help businesses create or acquire technology with fewer barriers.

Staff Support

In some cases, businesses may not receive funding. Alternatively, ensuring that their websites are accessible may be an on-going or complex process. However, there are still ways for staff to make their premises welcoming to all customers, workers, or visitors. Staff should assist customers or clients when they need to use inaccessible technology. For instance, students may need to use inaccessible websites to apply for scholarships or licences. Staff from the agencies should work with students to find a solution so that they have equal access to these application processes. Staff can meet with students and navigate the website on their behalf and fill in their responses.

In contrast, staff support can sometimes create new types of barriers. For example, when credit card machines are inaccessible, staff may be able to input customers’ information on their behalf. However, this set-up violates customers’ rights to keep their financial information confidential. In addition, there is danger that some staff may steal from vulnerable customers. As a result, businesses should make every effort to offer accessible technology. Our next article will explore the AODA requirement for businesses to obtain accessible self-service kiosks.




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Disability and Technology Barriers


Technology often helps people with disabilities perform every-day tasks. Computers, the Internet, and self-service kiosks make it easier for people to interact and do business. However, technology can sometimes be a barrier that limits people’s access to the world around them. Technology barriers happen when technology is not accessible to people with disabilities. For instance, some technology barriers are:

  • Lack of computer accessibility, including:
    • Hardware, such as key guards, trackballs, large monitors, or head-pointing systems
    • Software, such as screen reader, screen magnification, or speech recognition programs
  • Website functions that only work when users click with a mouse
  • Self-service kiosks without accessibility features
  • Touch screens without screen reader software or tactile keyboards
  • Out-of-order equipment, including:
    • Lifts
    • Captioning mirrors
    • Description headsets

Technology Barriers

These and other technology barriers limit life for people with different disabilities. For example, websites that require mouse-clicking are barriers for people who always use keyboard commands instead of a mouse. Likewise, these websites are also barriers for people controlling their computers through speech. Moreover, touch screens can be barriers for people with limited upper body movement. Similarly, touch screens without speech output are also barriers to people who are blind.

Barrier Removal Helps Everyone

Therefore, businesses that can remove or prevent technology barriers become more welcoming to people with and without disabilities. For instance, speech recognition software makes computers accessible for people with mobility disabilities. In addition, people who are multi-tasking also find it useful. Furthermore, when websites are designed for use with keyboard commands, they also become easier for search engines to find. As a result, people who create websites accessibly also make it more likely that visitors will notice and browse them. In other words, many people find barrier-free spaces helpful. However, for people with disabilities, removing barriers is not only a help, but a need. Therefore, businesses should prevent or remove barriers whenever they can.

Our next article will consider how businesses can implement these and other solutions for technology barriers.




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Preventing and Removing Information and Communication Barriers, Part 2


In Part 1 of this article, we explored how organizations can prevent or remove information or communication disability barriers. For the most part, removing or preventing information or communication barriers involves accessible formats or Communication supports. In Part 2, we outline other things staff should know about preventing or removing information or communication barriers.

Preventing and Removing Information and Communication Barriers, Part 2

Some businesses may be in the process of removing barriers, such as by making their websites accessible. Similarly, businesses might need funding for services like Sign language interpretation or captioning. In the meantime, staff can help people access their information in other ways. For instance, staff can prevent barriers in organizations such as:

In any of these venues, staff can read print documents aloud, such as pamphlets, menus, or forms. Some clients may wish to record the reading aloud in order to refer to it again. Moreover, staff can fill in forms according to a customer or client’s instructions. Alternatively, staff can email the Word or HTML version of a document to a customer. Similarly, staff can create text transcripts of live events. They can then provide copies of the transcripts to customers. Staff should work with each customer to find out the best way of giving information.

Staff Awareness

Furthermore, staff should be aware that most customers will benefit from some formats or supports but not others. For instance, large print will benefit customers who are visually impaired, but customers who are blind cannot use it. Similarly, staff should be aware of basic differences between supports. For example, staff should know that closed captioning and audio description provide contrasting services. Closed captioning benefits customers who are deaf, while audio description benefits customers who are blind.

Therefore, staff should notify every customer about all formats or supports they have. This courtesy allows customers to choose the support that works best for them, instead of being offered the wrong support. Moreover, customers also avoid the barrier of needing to find and ask a staff member for support. In addition, customers without disabilities may also be interested in a business’s accessibility. If they have loved ones, neighbours, or colleagues with disabilities, they may spread awareness about businesses with accessible information.

Preventing Barriers

Moreover, designers of new information and communications can prevent barriers from happening in the first place. For instance, they can create captions for all audio content, or provide text transcripts in advance, when possible. Likewise, they can design new PDF documents using text, rather than images. Furthermore, they can consult with people who have disabilities to find out if they have designed barriers without meaning to. For instance, they can hire people with disabilities to test the accessibility of all new web content. In this way, businesses can also learn how to avoid barriers in future. Finally, businesses should state in their accessibility policies that their staff are willing to resolve barriers. As a result, people will create fewer information or communication barriers and move more freely.




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Preventing and Removing Information or Communication Barriers, Part 1


In our last article, we explored how information and communication barriers limit access for people with various disabilities. In this article, we will consider how businesses can prevent or remove barriers. Preventing and removing information or communication barriers makes businesses welcoming to people of all abilities.

Preventing and Removing Information or Communication Barriers, Part 1

Businesses can find many solutions to help people access information and communication.

For example, businesses can have:

Different kinds of businesses can find ways of removing information or communication barriers, including:

Accessible Format Awareness

When businesses are removing information and communication barriers using accessible formats, Staff should know how to help people access those formats. For instance, staff should know:

  • What information is available in what format(s)
  • Where hard copies are kept 
  • Whether hard-copy Braille or large print versions can be created upon request
  • How customers can find web versions
  • Whether alternate-format versions are up-to-date

Staff should know the differences between a current printed version of a document and the version a customer can read. For example, staff can keep a printed list of the differences clipped to the Braille version of a document. They can then let the customer know what the differences are.

Communication Support Awareness

Similarly, when businesses offer communication supports, staff should know:

  • What supports are available for what kinds of interaction
  • Where on-site communication devices are stored, and best practices for serving customers using them
  • Whether plain-language versions of documents are available and how to access them
  • How to arrange Real-Time Captioning (RTC) or Sign language interpretation
  • Whether text transcripts of events are available
  • How far in advance arrangements should be made

When a presentation differs from its transcript, staff can make note of the differences and let customers know what they are.

Solutions

Some of these solutions are low-cost. For instance, businesses can photo-copy documents in large print. Similarly, they can create new documents in accessible formats, such as Word files. In contrast, other solutions may be more costly. For example, businesses can hire a Sign language interpreter or real-time captioner for live events. Moreover, they can produce documents in Braille with a Braille printer, or have a third party produce them. However, federal, provincial, or local funding may help businesses create information with fewer barriers.

In some cases, businesses may not receive funding to create formats or supports. Alternatively, ensuring that their websites are accessible may be an on-going or complex process. However, businesses should have as many different formats or supports as they can. Not all formats or supports will work for every customer.

When the formats or supports that customers need are not available, staff still need to make their premises accessible. Part 2 of this article will outline strategies that staff can use when preventing or removing information or communication barriers.




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Disability and Information or Communication Barriers


Information or communication barriers exist because not all people read or understand in the same way. For instance, some information or communication barriers are:

  • Audio-only fire alarms
  • Lack of large print and Braille on elevators, signs, or room numbers
  • Live events or public meetings without captions or Sign language interpretation
  • Forms, pamphlets, or menus offered only in standard-sized print
  • Telephone-only contact information
  • PDF documents made from images instead of text
  • No audio-visual announcements on public transit
  • Websites that do not comply with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Level AA

Disability and Information or Communication Barriers

Information or communication barriers happen when businesses offer information in only one way. This type of barrier most often affects people with sensory or print disabilities. For instance, these barriers impact people who are:

  • Blind
  • Visually impaired
  • Deaf
  • Hard of hearing
  • Deafblind

In addition, these barriers also impact people who have:

  • Learning disabilities that affect how they process writing
  • Physical disabilities that prevent them from holding or turning pages

Different types of barriers limit life for people with various disabilities. For instance, audio-only alarms lessen the safety of people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Similarly, safety briefings only in print reduce the safety of people who do not read print. Furthermore, buses without visual announcements limit how people with hearing disabilities can travel. Alternatively, buses without audio announcements limit the movement of people with print disabilities.

Barrier Removal Helps Everyone

Therefore, when businesses present information in many ways, they can welcome people with and without disabilities. For instance, captions or signage help people:

  • With hearing disabilities
  • Learning English
  • In noisy locations

Likewise, online forms can help people:

In other words, many people find barrier-free documents and events helpful. However, for people with disabilities, removing barriers is not only a help, but a need. Therefore, businesses should prevent or remove barriers whenever they can.

Our next article will explain how businesses can find solutions for information or communication barriers.




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Preventing and Removing Physical Disability Barriers


In our last article, we explored how physical barriers limit access for people with various disabilities. In this article, we will consider how organizations can prevent or remove barriers. Preventing and removing physical disability barriers makes organizations welcoming to people of all abilities.

Preventing and Removing Physical Disability Barriers

Organizations can find many solutions to help people access buildings and services. Some solutions are low-cost. For instance, the Stop Gap Foundation provides ramps for businesses with one step leading to their front doors. In contrast, other solutions, such as installing elevators, may be more costly or disruptive. However, federal, provincial, or local funding may help organizations create spaces with fewer barriers.

Removing Barriers

In some cases, organizations may not receive funding. Alternatively, installing lifts or building accessible washrooms may not be possible. However, there are still ways for staff to make their premises welcoming to all customers, workers, or visitors. For instance, staff can remove barriers in organizations such as:

Staff can help people access their organizations by:

  • Meeting with customers, clients, or workers on the first floor
  • Opening doors
  • Retrieving items from narrow aisles or high shelves
  • Serving customers away from high counters or weak lighting
  • Reading aloud
  • Serving customers remotely
  • Knowing where near-by accessible services are, such as barrier-free washrooms

In addition, staff should try to make every customer aware that they will provide all these services.

Preventing Barriers

Moreover, designers of new buildings and services can prevent physical barriers from happening in the first place. For instance, they can design buildings with level entrances, wide doorways and aisles, good lighting and colour contrast, and elevators. Furthermore, they can consult with people who have disabilities during the design process. In this way, they can find out if they have designed barriers without meaning to. They can also learn how to avoid those barriers in future. As a result, people will create fewer physical disability barriers and move more freely.




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Disability and Physical Barriers


Many barriers that people with disabilities face are physical or architectural barriers. Physical barriers happen when features of buildings or spaces limit people’s access. For instance, some physical disability barriers are:

Physical Barriers

These and other physical barriers limit life for people with different disabilities. For example, stairs without ramps or elevators deny access to people using wheelchairs. Likewise, stairs may also limit the access of people with invisible physical disabilities. For instance:

  • Arthritis
  • Difficulties with balance, energy level, or pain level
  • Heart or lung conditions

Furthermore, low lighting makes it hard for people who are deaf to communicate visually. Similarly, low lighting also limits access for people who are visually impaired.

Barrier Removal Helps Everyone

Therefore, organizations that can remove or prevent physical barriers become more welcoming to people with and without disabilities. For instance, stair-free access, wide paths, and automatic doors, are often useful to:

  • Families with small children
  • Parents with strollers
  • Shoppers with bags or carts
  • Travellers with luggage

In other words, many people find barrier-free spaces helpful. However, for people with disabilities, removing barriers is not only a help, but a need. Therefore, organizations should prevent or remove barriers whenever they can. For example, organizations can have:

  • Accessible sidewalks and parking
  • Ramped or level building entrances
  • Automatic doors and wide doorways
  • Good lighting and colour contrast
  • Elevators or lifts
  • Accessible washrooms
  • Wide aisles and hallways
  • Accessible line areas, waiting areas, and service counters

Our next article will consider how organizations can implement these and other solutions for physical barriers.




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