AccessAbility Playbook - Play 6 Develop the skills to provide accessible service

Play 6 Develop the skills to provide accessible service

Approach clients the right way


Have patience and be accommodating. For example, recognize there may be a need to repeat information.

Make clients feel welcome and confident to have an open expression of opinions without fear of being judged or dismissed. Encourage persons with disabilities to speak for themselves. Listen actively and engage in dialogue.

  • Ask before you help. Don’t assume the person needs help.
  • Don’t make assumptions about the type of disability a person has or about what accommodation needs they may have. 
  • Some disabilities are not visible and clients are not required to tell you about their disabilities.
  • Speak directly to your client, not to their support person or companion.
  • Take the time to get to know your client’s needs and focus on meeting those needs just as you would with any other client.
  • Listen carefully. If you’re not sure what your client is saying, confirm by summarizing or repeating what was said to you, or politely ask them to repeat it.
  • Be patient. People with some type of disabilities may take a little longer to respond or do things.
  • Use appropriate language and terminology when referring to persons with disabilities. 
Instead of… Use…
blind (the), visually impaired (the) Person who is blind, person with a visual impairment
Hard of hearing (the), deaf-mute, hearing impaired Person who is hard of hearing, person who is deaf
Handicapped (the) Person with a disability
Handicapped parking, bathrooms Accessible parking, accessible bathrooms

If you're not sure what to do, ask your client, “How may I help you?” Your client knows if they need help and how you can provide it.

Respond to the unique needs of persons with disabilities

How to interact with someone who is accompanied by a support person

  • Permit support persons on premises;
  • Allow support person, if requested by the client, to attend in-person visits or calls;
  • Request permission from client to discuss confidential account information in front of support person;
  • Know that support persons help persons with disabilities maintain their independence;
  • Look and speak directly to the client even though the client is communicating through the support person.

How to interact with Teletypewriter and VRS users

  • Speak directly to the client or TTY user, not to the Relay operator or video interpreter;
  • Talk a bit more slowly than usual as the relay operator is typing in or the video interpreter is signing what you are saying;
  • Spell names.
  • For TTY interactions, always say “Go Ahead” when you are finished;
  • For TTY interactions, always wait for the relay operator to say “Go Ahead” before speaking.

All employees should have general awareness and sensitivity training.

For example, ESDC requires employees to take "The Richness of our Differences" course to provide role-specific training to front-line service agents.

Mandatory training ideas

  • What is the Accessible Canada Act;
  • About the most common types of disabilities;
  • Tips on how to interact with persons with disabilities;
  • Tips on how to interact with people who use an assistive device;
  • Tips on how to interact with people who require the assistance of a support person;
  • Information on how to use any equipment or devices available to support the client (e.g. screen readers, Video remote interpretation, TTY phone lines);
  • Reading and sharing this playbook!

Interact respectfully with someone who uses a service animal

A service animal is any guide dog, signal dog or other animal individually trained to assist a person with a disability. Each animal is trained to perform various tasks and provide a range of services.

A service animal is not a pet. It should be treated like an extension of their owner’s arm. The rules and licensing for service animals are different for each province, many do not issue permits or regulate the training of animals.

Best practices with someone who uses a service animal

  • Do not request that the owner leaves the animal in different location, such as outside of your office or classroom.
  • Avoid petting or talking to a service animal: this distracts the animal from its tasks.
  • Do not feed or offer treats to the animal.
  • Avoid deliberately startling the animal. 
  • Remember not all service animals wear special collars or harnesses. If you are not sure and it is necessary that you verify, it is okay to ask the owner if it is a service animal. 
  • Remember that the owner is responsible for maintaining control over the animal at all time. You are not responsible for cleaning up after it or feeding it. You may provide water if the owner requests it.

Dogs are by far the most common type of animal used to assist people with visual impairments. However, many different types of animals can be used and assist other types of disabilities:

  • A guide dog serves as a travel aid for a person with vision loss.
  • A hearing or signal animal alerts a person with hearing loss when a sound occurs, such as knock on the door or alarm.
  • Mobility assistance animals may carry, fetch, open doors, ring doorbells, activate elevator buttons, pull a wheelchair, steady a person while walking or help someone get up after a fall.
  • A seizure response animal warns a person of an impending seizure or provides aid during a seizure such as going for help or standing guard over the person.
  • Therapeutic assistance animals aid people with cognitive or psychological disabilities by bringing a phone to the person in emergency, turning on the lights, fetching medication, barking for help in emergency or assisting a person with panic disorder coping in crowds.