The ABC's of Accommodation: Access, Business and Contribution
Accommodation of our customers and employees is often perceived as either a common sense process or a financial burden. Business leaders see the topic as complex and not particularly financially beneficial.
Accommodation of clients:
Throughout Canada the awareness of access to public spaces and services for those requiring accommodation is increasing. As this awareness improves, multiple jurisdictions have created legislation to protect the rights of access to goods and services. Although there are subtle differences in jurisdictional legislation, the principles remain the same - ensure that your facility and services are easily accessed by those that have mobility restrictions and other accommodation needs.
The primary things to consider are:
Is your staff prepared to provide quality service to someone who needs accommodating?
Is your facility set up in away that is accessible to those with mobility issues or visual limitations?
Are you and your team aware of situations where a standard policy may not apply to an accommodation situation?
Is the information that you provide to the public accessible in a variety of formats?
Most of these situations are easier to resolve than you may think.
For example, did you know that a service animal, such as a seeing eye dog or companion animal are required to be allowed during a test drive?
Or that cell phone notes and text messages are primary forms of communication that can convey information easily to a hearing impaired customer?
Even though you may not control the format that documents such as brochures and spec sheets come in, you can still make the information accessible by offering to read the information or sending it out for braille translation if requested.
The majority of clients that require accommodation are patient and understating of the situation. The most important thing is to always handle the situation with respect and a sincere interest in providing customers with the care they need. Most customers will tell you what they require if you listen carefully and treat them with dignity.
Empowering staff to make client focused decisions will provide them with the confidence they need to deal with each unique situation in a way that establishes your facility as a strong supporter of customers who require a unique shopping and service experience.
Accommodation of employees:
The responsibilities of an employer to provide accommodation to an employee is very situational. As every accommodation situation is unique there really is no standard answer on what an employer needs to do,. Employers need to do whatever is necessary to create the accommodation requirements in conjunction with the employee, as long as it does not cause undue hardship - a significant negative effect on business due to difficulty or expense.
There are, however, some basic guidelines for employers to follow to ensure that they are both complying with legislation and providing a work environment that inspires employees to make valued contributions to the organization.
The key to successfully accommodating an employee is to work together on finding viable solutions to the obstacles that the employee is facing. This is done through frank dialogue, input from healthcare professionals and possibly even industry specialists.
Remember that employers are not expected to treat everyone the same, they are expected to treat everyone fair and equitably. This may mean that the accommodation includes things such as specific shifts, reduced hours, change in duties, special equipment or a modified work space. Whatever the solution, having a solid plan and clear documentation is important.
If, as an employer, you are unsure how to proceed there are many resources available to you. If the employee is returning from a workplace incident the WCB or WSIB case worker may be a useful resource, input from the employee’s health care team and of course, the employee themselves will give you situation specific insight.
As well, contacting a designated Health and Safety or HR professional for guidance is a great way to ensure that you are meeting expectations and their experience in similar situations may also give you solutions or issues that were not previously considered.
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