New act enforces customer service standards for people with disabilities
New provincial policies in effect since Jan. 1, 2008 legislating compliance to standards of customer service for persons with disabilities will soon affect everyone at Queen's who deals directly with the public.
Queen's first report to the government on compliance to this legislation is due Jan. 1, 2010. Working towards compliance reinforces the university's strategic direction in support of the right of persons with disabilities to enjoy equal opportunity and to participate fully in the life of the university.
The most pressing issue is training, says Accessibility and Equity Coordinator Jeanette Parsons. Faculty and staff interacting with the public – and this includes students – on behalf of Queen's, must be equipped to deal appropriately and respectfully with all persons having disabilities.
For example, staff and faculty will need to know how to provide visual information to people experiencing vision loss, or auditory information to people with hearing loss. The goal is to find meaningful ways to get information to staff and faculty that will raise their awareness of this need, while at the same time provide the necessary tools and skills.
Cost may present a barrier to widespread training, says Ms. Parsons. However, using existing resources to seek creative and innovative training approaches is the strategy put forward by the provincial working group tasked with achieving compliance.
“Through willfulness and cooperation between university administration, faculty and staff, we can be effective at providing service to persons having disabilities,” says Ms. Parsons.
Training opportunities will include small and large group sessions and online programs targeted to specific audiences that involve training on specific topics and assistive devices. Training sessions will start in the Spring of 2009.
“Employers have an obligation to this initiative,” says Vice-Principal (Human Resources) Rod Morrison. “Theses regulatory obligations are both legal and in keeping with our value system.”
Queen's is committed to advancing diversity on campus, and this initiative provides ongoing opportunities to help us achieve this goal, he says.
“If we need further incentive, the new act allows inspectors to attend a site where reports on compliance are not acceptable,” he says. “If inspection proves that Queen's is not complying, we could be subject to fines up to $100,000 a day.”