We know that providing high-quality customer service in your business or organization is the key to retaining customers and gaining their loyalty, getting referrals and acquiring new customers. When you're able to extend this experience to everyone who comes into your place of business, including customers with disabilities, you're going to broaden your customer base and access a market that has significant spending power (a total of $21 Billion in discretionary income, to be exact.)
In short, by learning how to serve people with disabilities, you can attract more customers and improve your service to everyone who comes through your doors.
One thing that you can do right away is to visibly and actively welcome people with disabilities the minute they enter your establishment. This lets them know that you care about them and breaks down barriers many people face throughout the day.
Here are some more general interaction tips to use when training yourself and your staff to become more inclusive:
- Assistive devices (canes, wheelchairs, crutches, communication boards, etc.) should be respected as private property.
- Always direct communication to the individual with the disability. If they are accompanied, do not direct your comments to the companion.
- Use the same level of formality with everyone present.
- Do not be embarrassed if you happen to use common expressions like “See you later” or “Got to be running along” that seem to relate to the person’s disability.
- It is appropriate to shake hands when introduced to a person with a disability. People who have limited use of their hand or who wear an artificial limb can usually shake hands. Shaking with the left hand is acceptable. For people who cannot shake hands, touch the person on the shoulder or arm to welcome and acknowledge their presence.
- Focus on the individual and the issue at hand, not the disability.
- People with disabilities are interested in the same topics of conversation in which people without disabilities are interested.
- If someone needs you to speak in a louder voice, they will ask.
- People with disabilities, like all people, are experts on themselves. They know what they like, what they do not like, and what they can and cannot do. If you are uncertain what to do, ask. Most people would rather answer a question about protocol than be in an uncomfortable situation.
- Help in a dignified manner with sensitivity and respect. Be prepared to have the offer declined. If the offer is accepted, listen to and accept instructions.
- When mistakes are made, apologize, correct the problem, learn from the mistake and move on.
- Let people provide information about their disability on their own initiative. They are not responsible for educating the public by sharing their story.
* This list was provided by the Kansas Works employer resources section
Millions of people with disabilities regularly travel, shop, and eat out with family and friends and it's our duty as a business community to ensure we're serving all populations and providing the best experience possible in the Topeka & Shawnee County community.