Ontario Improves Service For Customers With Disabilities



    McGuinty Government Helps Remove Barriers

    TORONTO, Oct. 8 /CNW/ -

    NEWS

    Ontario is partnering with the Retail Council of Canada to help remove
barriers that customers with disabilities frequently face.
    A new interactive tool, 'How May I Help You'
(http://www.accesson.ca/ado/english/) is now available to help businesses
attract more customers of all abilities. It uses real-life scenarios to teach
people how to interact with customers who have a variety of disabilities,
including those who:
    
    -   Use assistive devices, such as canes or wheelchairs
    -   Have an invisible disability, such as a learning or mental health
        disability
    -   Are accompanied by a sign language interpreter
    -   Have a support person.
    

    Under Ontario's landmark accessibility legislation
(http://webx.newswire.ca/click/?id=7b56f0d5a98acbe), Ontario's first standard
- for customer service  (http://webx.newswire.ca/click/?id=ec448005365ed81) -
is now law. The Accessibility Standards for Customer Service sets out rules
that businesses and organizations must follow to serve customers with
disabilities. 'How May I Help You?' supports the training requirements
(http://webx.newswire.ca/click/?id=cb6e4afc24e0e41) in the standard.

    QUOTES

    "Every business should strive to open their doors to every potential
customer. With this tool, more businesses can increase their customer base and
therefore their bottom line," said Community and Social Services Minister
Madeleine Meilleur
(http://www.mcss.gov.on.ca/mcss/english/ministry/minister/).

    "Businesses across Ontario will learn how to better meet the needs of
customers with disabilities. And people with disabilities will have access to
more goods and services. It's a win/win situation," said Derek Nighbor, Senior
Vice President, National Affairs, Retail Council of Canada.

    
    QUICK FACTS

    -   Today, 15.5 per cent of Ontarians have a disability. This number will
        grow as the population ages.
    -   People with disabilities have an estimated spending power of about
        $25 billion annually across Canada.
    -   The Retail Council of Canada (http://www.retailcouncil.org/) has
        14,000 members in Ontario, including independent, chain and online
        merchants.
    

    LEARN MORE

    See businesses (http://www.mcss.gov.on.ca/mcss/english/mediaroom) that
are breaking down barriers for customers with disabilities.
    Find out more about serving customers with disabilities
(http://webx.newswire.ca/click/?id=78adafd56b3b343).
    Visit AccessON.ca and tell us your accessible customer service story
(http://www.accesson.ca/ado/english/tell_story).

    
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    BACKGROUNDER
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                     SERVING CUSTOMERS WITH DISABILITIES
    

    Every day, people with disabilities face barriers that prevent them from
shopping, traveling and doing other day-to-day activities. Barriers can be
visible, such as a building that has steps, but no ramp. Other barriers are
invisible, such as believing that someone who is deaf cannot communicate.
    Under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, Ontario is
working to break down these barriers and make the province accessible to
people with disabilities by 2025. Accessibility is being achieved through
standards that every business and organization in Ontario will have to follow.
    The first standard under the act - for customer service - is now law.
More standards will be released in other important areas, including:
    
    -   Transportation
    -   Information and communications
    -   Employment
    -   The built environment, such as buildings and other structures.
    

    ACCESSIBLE CUSTOMER SERVICE

    The Accessibility Standards for Customer Service came into force on
January 1, 2008. This standard applies to all organizations in Ontario that
provide goods or services to the public or to other businesses and who have
one or more employees.
    The Accessibility Standards for Customer Service sets out rules that
businesses and organizations must follow to serve customers with disabilities.
These include:

    
    -   Establishing policies, practices and procedures on providing goods
        and services to people with disabilities
    -   Training staff on how to serve people with disabilities
    -   Allowing people with disabilities to bring their support person or
        service animal with them
    -   Communicating with a person in a way that respects their disability.
    

    COMPLYING WITH THE STANDARD

    There is a variety of information, videos and tools to help you comply
with the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service and make your business
accessible, visit www.AccessON.ca.
    Public sector organizations will need to comply with the Accessibility
Standards for Customer Service by 2010. These include:
    
    -   Provincial ministries and municipal offices
    -   Schools, colleges and universities
    -   Hospitals.

    Private sector organizations, including retail stores and non-profit
organizations, will need to comply with the standard by 2012.

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For further information:

For further information: Thomas Chanzy, Minister's Office, (416)
325-5211; Paul Doig, Communications Branch, (416) 314-8966

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Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services

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