Invest in Training to Improve How Your Organization Serves Customers with Disabilities

Published July 2, 2022

Many customer-facing employees of public, city, or state-run organizations have, at one time or another, experienced customer interactions that were difficult to resolve. Whether they be due to understaffing, lack of appropriate tools, or the inability to communicate, they are worsened by other customers in the area that impatiently demand action. Frequently, this results in situations that spiral out of control and cannot be redirected in a timely manner. 

Training is needed.

Training

This seems obvious, but many employers are unaware that there are many effective trainings that staff can participate in to help coach them in their responses. Sometimes, it’s a simple matter of inexperience and unfamiliarity with disability laws and confusion over how best to manage a delicate situation.

For example, instead of expelling a customer who may be experiencing some emotional disturbances, customer service staff could offer an alternative location to discuss their concerns or offer to take down their complaint and follow up after a bit of cool off time.

Providing your staff with resources to educate themselves can help when they encounter a similar situation. In this regard it's important to remember that laws and regulations change often − training should be more than a one-and-done job. 

Compassion

It’s important that staff understand how to communicate with persons with disabilities and are compassionate when interacting with them. Some customers require accommodations, and when staff is not properly trained, this can appear to be a disruption to services, but it’s critical that staff ensure all customers have equal access − this can only be accomplished through training and practice.

It should also be the staff’s responsibility to firmly and politely correct any able-bodied customer who complains about the process. This may be difficult for staff with issues around confrontation or those who are shy, but, as stated in the tip above, effective training can help overcome those challenges.

Capability

Ultimately, of course, the responsibility for ensuring accessible customer service and equitable access to public spaces lies with the employer. Employers that are not well-versed in disability laws, especially the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) won’t have the capability to properly train staff. 

Ensuring access to all customers should be a priority in any workplace. From physical modifications like wheelchair-accessible customer service desks to accommodations for those with mental health conditions, flexibility should be both second nature, or more, baked into the company's customer service policies.

The ADA couldn't be more clear about an entities' responsibility to provide accommodation in places of public accommodation:

A public accommodation shall make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures, when the modifications are necessary to afford goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations to individuals with disabilities, unless the public accommodation can demonstrate that making the modifications would fundamentally alter the nature of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations.

Conclusion

Assisting and training your employees is an important first step to ensuring accessible customer service and equal access to public spaces. That starts with the employer. Laws and terminology are always changing, so don’t assume one training will suffice. Consider training an investment in your organization. 

AccessibilityPlus 2022

Accessibility.com is proud of our role in promoting accessibility and equal access while recognizing there is much work to be done. As we welcome a new year in 2022, we have opened registration for AccessibilityPlus 2022, which will feature monthly events dedicated to promoting actionable solutions in implementing accessibility initiatives. Registration is limited. For more information about the conference, speakers, and topics, please visit our AccessibilityPlus registration page.

AccessibilityPlus 2022

Accessibility.com is proud of our role in promoting digital accessibility and equal access for all while recognizing there is much work to be done. As we welcome a new year in 2022, we have opened registration for AccessibilityPlus 2022, which will feature events dedicated to promoting actionable solutions in implementing digital accessibility initiatives. Registration is limited. For more information about the conference, speakers, and topics, please visit our AccessibilityPlus Event Calendar.

Registrations for our August event Add to Cart: Creating an Accessible e-Commerce Experience are now available at no cost for Accessibility.com viewers for a limited time.

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