Organizations in Ontario with one or more employees must train staff, volunteers and third parties who deal with the public on your behalf on how to provide customer service to people with disabilities. Your organization must also train staff or participants that develop your policies, practices and procedures about the provision of goods and services to the public or other third parties. As a service provider you are obligated to have staff, volunteers and third parties trained by January 1, 2012.
The following specific requirements are outlined in Ontario’s Accessibility Standards for Customer Service.
- Training must include:
- A review of the purposes of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and the requirements of the customer service standard
- How to interact and communicate with people with various types of disabilities
- How to interact with people with disabilities who use assistive devices, service animals or support persons; this includes how to use equipment or assistive devices you offer on your premises
- What to do if a person with a disability is having a problem accessing your goods or services
- Your customer service policies, practices and procedures about providing goods or services to people with disabilities
- Training must be provided as soon as “practicable” after a person is assigned responsibilities.
- Training must be ongoing, teaching changes to your policies, practices and procedures about providing goods and services to people with disabilities. Staff should know what your organization is specifically doing to meet the requirements of the standard.
- If you are obliged to maintain documentation (i.e., if you have 20 or more employees), your organization will describe its training policy, summarize the contents of the training and provide details on when training is provided.
- Documentation includes dates of when training occurred and the number of people in attendance. A best practice is to list the names of the attendees rather than stating just a number.
Does everyone need the same training experience?
The simple answer is no. You will determine the contents of the training based on your own organization’s policies, practices and procedures, and include the general requirements of the standard. You may decide to provide more intensive training depending on how much a person interacts with people with disabilities or their policy-making impact on people with disabilities. There are numerous methods for you to decide how to deliver training. An important factor of training is that you monitor it to ensure a person has really received the necessary training.
A best practice approach is to provide management with an intensive training program that includes a great level of detail about their obligations under the Act. Other staff, volunteers and third parties may receive minimal information about the Act itself, but undergo a thorough training program meeting all the requirements of the customer service standard. Your training content may vary depending on the specific training needs of a group.
Your options are live training sessions with a consultant; live training sessions with staff who are trained as instructors; workbooks; videos; handouts; and webinars. You may decide you want a combination of webinars, videos and handouts, plus some experiential training. You will decide the most expedient and cost-effective method to deliver training. You need a training protocol for new hires, volunteers or third parties. Decide dates for ongoing training when there are changes to your policies, practices and procedures on providing goods or services to people with disabilities.
Accessibility consultants are often used to run general training classes or to teach staff chosen lead future accessibility training sessions. Some organizations hire a consultant recognizing that a formal orientation that meets compliance only has to be completed in the first year and periodically thereafter. Having staff in-house that are trained in accessible customer service can make sense in a large organization; otherwise a consultant can save your organization time and energy.
Yes, there are lots of decisions to make, but after this year, your organization will have (hopefully!) met its compliance obligations and learned what you might do differently in the future.
On a last note, it is a myth that there is an accredited certificate for training. If you choose to have a certificate, it can come in the name of your compliance consultant’s organization or your own. When choosing a consultant, except for the cost of printing, do not pay more for a program that advertises certification. The keyword is to meet compliance. Certificates are nice as an incentive, but the law does not require one and there is no specific certificate to acquire. In the end, the most important effect of training is that attendees become excellent customer service representatives to people with disabilities (and others, too).
Suzanne Cohen Share, M.A., CEO
Access (SCS) Consulting Services
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