It’s Easy to Provide Customer Service When There Are No Disabilities – But Are Your Staff Comfortable When There Are?

wheelchair counter 300x199 Its Easy to Provide Customer Service When There Are No Disabilities – But Are Your Staff Comfortable When There Are?It is easy for staff to provide customer service to those who are fully “abled”, but are your staff comfortable and do they understand how to help (or sometimes not) when someone with a disability does show up?

I’ve worked on airplanes and restaurants and had to deal with various disabilities from complete mobility loss to hearing loss and everything in between. As a flight crew, we needed to learn how to assist someone in a wheelchair getting to the plane as well as use “Skychairs” to bring guests down the narrow aisle to their seat. I’ve worked extensively with airports and the public train system in preparing staff to assist customers with a variety of different situations they could face. This training includes preparing 5,000 staff to “Welcome the World” for the 2010 Winter Paralympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

As we deal with an aging population (and it is coming fast), a lot of the typical disabilities begin to appear and your staff and establishment better get prepared. The primary disabilities with which staff should be familiar are:

• Hearing loss
• Vision loss
• Mobility loss
• Cognitive challenges

Employees should be able to define the different types of disabilities and how best to assist:
• Understand the differences between a disability caused by a physical impairment and a disability caused by aging.
• Discover methods of communication that work best for those with disabilities of hearing loss, visibility loss, or cognitive challenges.
• Uncover more appropriate language to use when discussing disabilities.
• Assist with transitions from one department or supplier to the other (think transfers).

Facing the reality of an aging population and the fact that one-third of the population in North America are now baby boomers, businesses are going to have to look at barrier-free initiatives; how will their counters, stores, front entrances, signage and so forth be newly arranged to accommodate? Are your counters — or parts of them — low enough for those in mobility devices, and are your aisles wide enough? What about the curb leading up to your entrance? I’ve seen staff get frustrated because they did not anticipate the effects of aging and how to respond to customers who are experiencing them. Would you like your parent treated like that because they are becoming a little more forgetful or frustrated or because they can’t stand and wait that long or walk too far? How does your after-sales service look for those with disabilities?

If you feel your company needs assistance, we can assess how you serve customers with disabilities and develop customized training programs for your staff. Email us today: info@elaineallison.com


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