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On November 1st regulation will come into effect called the Accessibility for Customer Service Standards (ACSS). The regulation is part of the Accessibility for Manitobans Act which passed in 2013. Under ACSS the private sector, non-profit organizations, and small municipalities with at least one employee are required to offer services in a way which is accessible to everyone.

Morden and District Chamber of Commerce invited Disabilities Issues Office Executive Director Yutta Fricke, to share how this regulation will affect local businesses.

In Canada, 3.8 million people disabled by barriers have an estimated buying power of around $40 billion. In Manitoba, 200,000 face accessibility barriers daily.

Not only is accessibility a human right, but there is a large market for businesses explains Fricke.

To open up there barriers massive infrastructure changes are not needed, says Fricke, and under the human rights code there is a term called reasonable accessibility.

"It means that a business or service provider should take the time and steps to meet someone's needs in a reasonable way. Reasonable means it doesn't affect the health and safety of anyone else foremost, and that it's doable, that it won't put a business in financial jeopardy."

Possible barriers to customer service include; attitude, beliefs that limit opportunities available for those with disabilities, stereotypes and making assumptions; architectural and physical, buildings or spaces that can be difficult for people with disabilities to maneuver around; technology, barriers revolving around access to information and communication; systemic, policies, practices, or procedures that discriminate against people with disabilities.

By introducing policies and practices, Fricke says, organizations can come into compliance with this regulation.

Communicate with a person disabled by a barrier in a way that removes the barrier, welcome the use of assistive devices, welcome people with service animals, create barrier-free access to goods and services, and inform people of temporary barriers that have arisen.

If customer service is not inclusive of those who are disabled by barriers, customers will simply find another place to go, says Ken Reimer.

Reimer is from Community Futures Heartland (CFH), and was in attendance at the presentation. "It's up to the entire population to be aware of the disabilities out there, and treat them all equally."

CFH provides community development work and small business lending, through the development work training is offered to entrepreneurs and business people in any new legislation that comes up, says Reimer.

With the new ACSS, Reimer says they have staff which can provide training in customer service to be in compliance with the new regulation soon coming into force.

For more information on the Accessibility for Customer Service Standards and Accessibility for Manitobans Act click here.





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