Challenges and Opportunities of Certification

How we develop a framework to overcome these risks and turn them into successes will be the key to creating an accessibility certification program that works for everyone. While providing full access to all aspects of society does cost money, if done right that investment can pay off many times over through more revenue, a better customer experience, and a more inclusive workforce.

What are some key risks and success factors in developing an accessibility certification program in Ontario?

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DaveBest's avatar
Jan 7, 2016 - 11:53

Certification credibility is subjective from any organization, and can only be valued according to the procurement requirements and perceptions of prospective consumers. That is, the quality of certification has two aspects for consideration; First the organization that delivers the skill training, and second the ability of the certificate holder to demonstrate level of experience and knowledge skills. The risk in creating an accessibility certification program is in defining the scope of the skill set and the level of authenticity. To achieve this goal there must be a clearly defined separation of role responsibilities; Program decision making, Program delivery service, and Program assessment/review roles cannot be performed by the same group of people. The goal of the certification program should be to maximize educational opportunities for all people, not just those providing direct accessibility services.

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Louise's avatar
Jan 10, 2016 - 14:33

My comment on this topic is that people who are disabled are individuals. As such, we all have varying levels of ability. We also have varying levels of support to help us to live independently in the community.

I'm still trying to wrap my head around, what do we measure and how do we measure it? People are individuals. I can do more things than other power wheelchair users in some aspects, and less, in other aspects. So, when we say a business is accessible, I want to know, in whose eyes?

I'm going to start this discussion with a brief note to create awareness. I'll then talk about one example - grocery shopping. Finally I'll ask questions about the shopping experience. The questions will be designed to make one think - is it accessible or is it not?

~~ A brief story to create awareness: ~~

Did you know that someone like me, who uses a power wheelchair and can't walk, lives alone in an apartment that is barely accessible?

Did you know that home care services, such as CCAC, doesn't provide help to grocery shop, cook meals, or do most of the essential tasks of daily living?

Some people are lucky. They have family to help.

For those of us who don't, we have to learn how to adapt to doing without many of life's basic things. We don't, for example, have someone we can call to run an errand or come with us when we shop, go to the bank, pay bills, go to a movie, get our dry cleaning or laundry done.... and the list goes on.

With that background in mind, let's talk about the challenge of certification and how to do it.

~~ A Description of the Shopping Experience as one who uses a Wheelchair: ~~

Let's look at one example - a grocery store.

Say I need to buy a week's worth of groceries as a power wheelchair user.

What happens?

Well, I book Wheel-Trans several days in advance.

I get to the store, one I know has a level entrance, and I set about trying to do my shopping.

I can't push a grocery cart and I can't use the grocery baskets because, with torn rotator cuffs in both shoulders, it's too painful.

I bought a skinny blue box that fits between my feet, so I take it with me to use as a grocery basket. I'm good to go. I have a basket. It's small, but it helps.

I then go down through the veggie aisle and... oops... the plastic bags are mounted way up high and out of reach. I put the fruit back down, wheel 2 aisles over to the bag rack that's installed down lower so I can reach it, and I peel off about 5 bags. I go back to the shelf I started at, select my fruit, and move on. The job gets done, but time was wasted trying to go to another rack to get a bag. No consideration is given to the fact that, for a person with a disability, time is still money. Many people with disabilities work. Many do other things that require them to stick to a schedule.

I pick up one or two fruits, several types of vegetables and...oops... the blue box between my feet is full.

I pull out the veggie bags and hang them off my joystick so I have room to put other groceries. I move on.

I get to the cereal aisle and, being an health conscious adult, I try to reach down the Muslix from the top shelf. No go. It's too high. I find a customer, they hand me the food, and I move on. Throughout the rest of my shopping excursion I have to stop and wait for a customer to come by often, who can reach the food off a high shelf.

If I decide to go to the front of the store and ask for an employee to help, the employee will come and help me get down the one item and then they will leave. They're not allowed to be taken from their other duties long enough to go throughout the store with me. I do my best to adapt and not get angry.

Finally I get up to the cash register. Customers will usually help me lift the blue box on to the checkout counter, but then it is up to me to pack up the food after it's been rung through. Some can go back in the blue box, but the veggies can't stay hanging off my joystick and the loose stuff that's been piled up precariously around me, the box, and on my foot pedals, must be made more secure. I need help to put the groceries into the bag that I carry on the back of my wheelchair. Not all cashiers can, or will, take the time to help me pack up. I'm supposed to pre-arrange that.

So... now we want to rate the accessibility of this store.

~~ Thought Provoking Questions on How to Rate the Level of Accessibility: ~~

What do we want to look at?

Level entrance? - check
Accessible doorway?... oops.... bars that swing from left to right and can't be pushed open by the hand that must be used to drive the wheelchair - the right hand. (I get through those entrances by turning around and going backwards or I wait for a customer to help hold the gate open.

Grocery carts? Will they be deemed accessible? Some customers can push them, so maybe. Then again, how many can push them? Do we have a way to determine a majority so we can decide how to rate it?

Grocery baskets... same deal as grocery carts... how do we measure it?

Veggie bags.... do we determine the store is accessible if 2 out of 15 rolls of grocery bags are set down low enough for a person using a wheelchair to reach, or do we ask that all rolls of grocery bags are placed down low before we rate the store as accessible? My answer is, it must be all... What do others think?

How about getting stuff down off shelves? Do we rate the store for providing help? If so, do we ask that the help be provided the same time as the customer arrives - give or take a reasonably short wait for the employee to break free from what they were doing? Or do we decide that the disabled customer must prearrange the help a day or two in advance? If we go for the latter, what happens if the customer is very late due to Wheel-Trans being caught in heavy traffic?

What about the height of PIN pads so we can pay for our groceries?

What about the height of the deli meat counter?

What about the policy regarding helping a customer bag groceries after they've paid for them?

What about - and the list goes on.

This discussion is only about a person who uses a wheelchair and must do their shopping alone.

What about all the other people out there who are trying to live the independent life as well?

If a person has vision loss, how do we rate the store for meeting their needs?

I hope this spiel incites others to join in some fruitful discussion. I'm sure there are solutions - we just have to be creative.

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