This resource is part of our Disability Essentials range. You can find here the other free resources that are included in this range.
In this section you will find our quick tips for delivering inclusive and accessible customer service, communicating effectively, and understanding the needs of customers with different disabilities and conditions.
These short tips are intended to start you off on your journey.
Once you are ready to learn more, and for more detailed information and advice, read the resources in the Disability Essentials suite. You can also find additional resources relating to each of the headings below.
Delivering inclusive and accessible customer service
Receiving good customer service is important to everyone, but it can be particularly important to disabled customers and clients who may have very specific needs and may be concerned about how these will be met by your organisation.
- Never assume the existence or absence of a disability.
- Always ask the customer how you can best assist them.
- Remember, to meet the customer’s needs you may need to do things differently, but the standard of service you provide should be the same.
- Be aware of accessible facilities and equipment available, such as ramps and hearing loops.
- Be prepared to offer and spend extra time with someone who might need it.
For some people, having a disability may affect the way that they communicate and may mean they have particular communication needs. You can adapt your own communication style to meet the needs of a particular customer.
- Ask the customer how you can best meet their communication needs.
- Speak in a positive and friendly tone.
- Be patient and listen attentively.
- Look at the customer when you are speaking to them.
Customers who are blind or have sight loss
Understanding the needs of customers living with sight loss is important. There are varying degrees of sight loss. Most customers will still have some sight, but it may be blurred or limited.
- Speak to a customer who is blind or has sight loss when you approach them. Introduce yourself and ask if they would like assistance.
- Never just take a person’s arm. Offer the person your elbow or hand but note that some people may prefer verbal guidance instead.
- Offer to bring items to the customer.
- Make sure customer spaces are free of trip hazards and well-lit.
Customers who are deaf or have hearing loss
Depending on the severity of their hearing loss a customer may use a hearing aid to help them communicate. People who have profound deafness are more likely to use lip reading or a form of sign language interpretation. How to help customers who are deaf or have hearing loss:
- Look directly at the customer when you are speaking to them.
- Do not cover your mouth.
- Speak clearly and avoid jargon.
- Check that the customer understands you and rephrase information if necessary.
- If possible, check in advance if there is anything you can arrange to suit the customer’s communication preferences.
Customers with conditions affecting speech
Many different conditions can affect a person’s speech or language. Being patient and giving the person your full attention will help to put the customer at ease. How to help customers with conditions affecting speech:
- Be patient.
- Do not rush, correct, or finish the customer’s sentences for them.
- Never pretend to understand when you do not.
- Repeat back information to check that you have understood the customer correctly.
Customers with conditions affecting mobility
A customer’s disability may affect their mobility. Some customers may use wheelchairs, sticks or walking aids, some, or all of the time. Others may walk unaided but may experience difficulties. How to help customers with conditions affecting mobility:
- Keep the customer space free from obstacles and trip hazards.
- Know where accessible toilets, lifts, and ramps are located.
- Place yourself at the customer’s eye level and speak directly to them.
- Some people use a wheelchair only some of the time. Don’t be surprised if a customer gets out of a wheelchair or asks for a wheelchair after arriving on foot.
Customers with a disfigurement or visible difference
Social attitudes mean that living with a disfigurement or visible difference can be a major challenge. Your response to the customer or client with a disfigurement or visible difference can really make a difference.
- Treat someone with a disfigurement or visible difference as you would any other customer.
- Be careful not to stare.
- Concentrate on what the customer is saying and not what they look like.
- Try to put the customer at ease.
Customers with conditions affecting learning or communication
Disabilities of this kind are often non-visible and this can make it difficult to identify a customer who may need extra help. Look out for signs, such as the customer appearing confused or finding information difficult to understand. How to help customers with conditions affecting learning or communication:
- Use simple, short sentences and avoid jargon.
- Double check the customer understands the choices they are being given.
- Write down key information for the customer to refer back to.
- If the customer seems unsure, ask if they would like more time to decide.
Customers with autism and Asperger’s syndrome
Autism and Asperger’s syndrome affect people in different ways. Experiences such as going shopping, using public transport, and visiting busy public places can be very daunting. How to help customers with autism and Asperger’s syndrome:
- Offer the customer a quiet and calm space to wait. Note that some people will prefer a busy environment, so respect the customer’s wishes.
- Give clear and straightforward instructions.
- Give the customer extra time to carry out an action.
- The customer may find unpredictable situations difficult. Explain clearly what is happening and why and offer possible solutions.
Customers with dyslexia
People with dyslexia process information differently. The areas primarily affected are reading, writing, spelling, numeracy, time-keeping and personal organisation. Customers with dyslexia may not identify themselves as having a disability.
- Offer to explain forms and help customers work through them.
- Offer information in other formats such as audio, using large font, or on a coloured background.
- Give simple instructions and check the customer has understood.
- Help customers with payment and accept signatures for payment as an alternative to a PIN.
Customers with conditions affecting co-ordination
Customers with conditions affecting their co-ordination, for example, Multiple Sclerosis often find it difficult to carry out everyday tasks such as writing, picking up or handling small objects, standing up for long periods of time and sometimes speaking.
- Take the customer to the item or place they are looking for or write down simple instructions or draw a map.
- Offer a seat to the customer while they are waiting.
- Help with packing and carrying bags.
- Explain forms and offer help to complete them.
Customers with mental health conditions
In many instances you will not know the customer or client has a mental health condition, and so it is important to understand how a condition can affect a customer’s behaviour, and how you can best assist a customer with mental health conditions.
- Be patient and non-judgemental.
- Offer customers a quiet place to wait and consider bringing items to them.
- Do not assume the customer can’t make decisions.
- Give the customer extra time.
- Offer help to work through forms and choices.
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