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Unit 3: How to interact and communicate with customers who have disabilities

In this unit, you will learn:

General tips on providing service to customers with disabilities

Tips on how to interact and communicate with customers who have vision loss

Vision loss reduces a person’s ability to see clearly. Few people with vision loss are totally blind. Many have limited vision such as tunnel vision, where a person has a loss of peripheral or side vision, or a lack of central vision, which means they cannot see straight ahead. Some people can see the outline of objects while others can see the direction of light.

Vision loss can restrict your customers’ abilities to read signs, locate landmarks or see hazards. Some of these customers may use a guide dog or white cane, but others may not. Sometimes it may be difficult to tell if a person has vision loss.

Types of assistance your customer might use:

There is more information on assistive devices, service animals and support persons in Units 4, 5, 6 and 7.

General Tips

Tips on how to interact and communicate with customers who are Deaf, oral deaf, deafened or hard of hearing,

People who have hearing loss may be Deaf, oral deaf, deafened or hard of hearing.

Types of assistance your customer might use:

There is more information on assistive devices, service animals and support persons in Units 4, 5, 6 and 7.

General Tips

Tips on how to interact and communicate with customers who are deafblind

A person who is deafblind can neither see nor hear to some degree. This results in difficulties in accessing information and managing daily activities. Many people who are deafblind will be accompanied by an intervenor, a professional who helps with communicating.

Types of assistance your customer might use:

There is more information on assistive devices, service animals and support persons in Units 4, 5, 6 and 7.

General Tips

Tips on how to interact and communicate with customers who have physical disabilities

There are many types and degrees of physical disabilities, and not all require a wheelchair. People who have arthritis, heart or lung conditions or amputations may also have difficulty with moving, standing or sitting. It may be difficult to identify a person with a physical disability.

Types of assistance your customer might use:

There is more information on assistive devices and support persons in Units 4, 5 and 7.

General Tips

Tips on how to interact and communicate with customers who have mental health disabilities

Mental health disabilities are not as visible as many other types of disabilities. You may not know that your customer has a mental health disability unless you’re informed of it.

Examples of mental health disabilities include schizophrenia, depression, phobias, as well as bipolar, anxiety and mood disorders.

A person with a mental health disability may have difficulty with one, several or none of these:

If someone is experiencing difficulty controlling his or her symptoms, or is in a crisis, you may want to help out. Be calm and professional and ask your customer how you can best help.

Types of assistance your customer might use:

There is more information on service animals and support persons in Units 6 and 7.

General Tips

Tips on how to interact and communicate with customers who have intellectual or developmental disabilities

People with intellectual or developmental disabilities may have difficulty doing many things most of us take for granted. These disabilities can mildly or profoundly limit the person’s ability to learn, communicate, socialize and take care of their everyday needs. You may not know that someone has this type of disability unless you are told.

As much as possible, treat your customers with an intellectual or developmental disability like anyone else. They may understand more than you think, and they will appreciate that you treat them with respect.

Types of assistance your customer might use:

There is more information on assistive devices, service animals and support persons in Units 4, 5, 6 and 7.

General Tips

Tips on how to interact and communicate with customers who have learning disabilities

The term “learning disability” describes a range of information processing disorders that can affect how a person acquires, organizes, expresses, retains, understands or uses verbal or non-verbal information.

Examples include dyslexia (problems in reading and related language-based learning); dyscalculia (problems in mathematics); and dysgraphia (problems in writing and fine motor skills).

It is important to know that having a learning disability does not mean a person is incapable of learning. Rather, it means they learn in a different way.

Learning disabilities can result in different communication difficulties for people. They can be subtle, such as difficulty reading, or more pronounced. They can interfere with your customer’s ability to receive, express or process information. You may not know that a person has a learning disability unless you are told.

Types of assistance your customer might use:

There is more information on assistive devices and support persons in Units 4, 5 and 7.

General Tips

Tips on how to interact and communicate with customers who have speech or language impairments

Some people have problems communicating because of their disability. Cerebral palsy, hearing loss or other conditions may make it difficult to pronounce words or may cause slurring or stuttering. They also may prevent the person from expressing themselves or prevent them from understanding written or spoken language. Some people who have severe difficulties may use communication boards or other assistive devices.

Types of assistance your customer might use:

There is more information on assistive devices and support persons in Units 4, 5 and 7.

General Tips

Tips on at-home service and personal delivery to customers with disabilities

Tips on talking to customers with disabilities over the phone

Self-test: Unit 3

Which of the following should you not do when serving a customer with a disability?

  1. Speak directly to your customer, not to their support person or companion.
  2. Grab the arm of your customer with vision loss and pull them to the check-out counter.
  3. If your customer uses a hearing aid, reduce background noise or move to a quieter area.
  4. Ask your customer to repeat information if you didn’t understand the first time.

Answer:

b is the correct answer:

Offer your elbow to guide the person. If he or she accepts, walk slowly, but wait for permission before doing so. Don’t take your customer’s arm and pull him or her along.