Open your mind and establish new dialogue about accessibility

November 7, 2018


Written by CPHR Manitoba


It all begins with a having a new thought about your per-usual environment – the lay of the land, the interconnected spaces and the marked exits for people to come and go. But first, let’s re-visit an old thought – think of the first time you were introduced to your workplace. Did you make a mental note of how easy it was to get there and find parking? Once you arrived, did you memorize the floor plan to the bathroom, kitchen and where your employer hangs her/his hat? And once you sat at your desk for the first time, did you internally celebrate how spacious your space was and how you had a spot for every book, paper and file and even a framed photo or two?

Once you’ve mentally and physically settled into your job, your workplace and everything connected to it becomes status-quo; in fact, chances are this is the first time you’ve ventured into these old memories for quite some time!

But the reality is that there are people that need to be cognizant of getting ready, going to and being a part of a work environment every day because of the barriers they face. Barriers are everywhere and everyone experiences and deals with them differently – and unfortunately, there are over 200,000 Manitobans who are living with some form of a disability that face barriers every single day.

The fact is that we need to reduce the barriers and create accessibility for all Manitobans. The first step: think about your work environment in a new way. Get ready and go to work with fresh eyes and an open mind, without any pre-determined thoughts about how your day is going to go.

Opening your eyes and mind to thoughts outside the normalities of your life can be all it takes to create room for new perceptions about other realities. The reality that some other individuals need grab bars and grips to transfer out of bed to their wheelchair; others need a mobility device – such as canes, walkers or wheelchairs – or a service animal in tow to travel around through their day: and that’s just two examples around physical disability.

Barriers in the workplace need to be recognized and disarmed – but you won’t be able to find them if you can’t see or don’t consider them. Revisit your workplace like it’s your first day again – look over the floor plan to the bathroom, kitchen and where you and your colleagues and employers hang their hats – and write down any question or uncertainty you might have or any barrier you might see. Ask your colleagues to conduct an audit and consider consulting with customers and community members to get a broader range of perspectives and, in turn, save time and expenses.

Individuals with lived experience with disabilities can and will help you recognize barriers that prevent access to goods and services and provide advice on how to remove them. And the more information you have, the more prepared you’ll be to review and revise your workplace policies for workplace accommodation under the Customer Service Standard Act.

As of November 1, 2018, businesses and organizations must meet the communication needs for all customers, clients or members; allow assistive devices, such as wheelchairs, walkers and oxygen tanks; welcome support people, who are able to assist; welcome people with service animals; ensure accessibility is maintained and intended (ramps, wide aisles, removal of clutter); let customers know when accessible features and services are not available; invite customers to provide feedback; and train staff on accessible customer service under the Human Rights Code.

Jennifer Sande, Accessibility Program Manager with the Manitoba League of Persons With Disabilities (MLPD), explains that there are many resources available to prepare your workplace to accommodate Manitobans – it’s just a matter of getting started.

“Broadening your perspective about and learning from others is the first step, then you can begin to think about types of barriers. You’ll see that some barriers serve no purpose and are easy to remove; others you may learn about when you see or hear someone overcome it. It’s all about establishing a new dialogue about adapting – and we’re here to help.”

The MLPD offers ready-to-implement and custom solutions in policy writing, training and educating staff and workplace audits to ensure that your business or organization is meeting all the requirements under the Customer Service Standard.

MLPD and CPHR Manitoba have also partnered to present the Accessibility for Manitobans Act – First of Five Standards: The Customer Service Standard workshop to assist you in the review and development of your workplace policies that will welcome and serve everyone.

The workshop will cover an overview of the AMA legislation with a focus on the Customer Service Standard, review and compare the AMA with the Manitoba Human Rights Code, identify your organizational responsibilities and learn the key principles to offering accessible customer service in your workplace.

The Accessibility for Manitobans Act – First of Five Standards: The Customer Service Standard workshop takes place on Tuesday, November 13, from 8:30 a.m. – noon at the Viscount Gort Hotel in Winnipeg. Registration fees are $150/CPHR Manitoba members and $200/non-members. Click here to register. Registration deadline is November 8.

Miss the registration deadline? Contact us at [email protected] to learn more about the Accessibility for Manitobans Act – First of Five Standards: The Customer Service Standard workshop and other resources available to you and your workplace.

For more information about the Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities, contact Jennifer Sande at [email protected].