Accessible Customer Service Policy

Policy Statement

The Accessible Customer Service Policy of Utilities Kingston establishes a framework for the delivery of accessible goods and services to customers with disabilities.

It was developed in accordance with the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service, and as required for the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA).

The Accessible Customer Service Policy takes effect January 1, 2012.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA) is a provincial act with the purpose of developing, implementing, and enforcing accessibility standards in order to fully achieve accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities by the year 2025. Accessibility Standards will establish requirements in key areas including: customer service, information and communications, employment, transportation and the built environment.

The Accessibility Standards for Customer Service (Ontario Regulation 429/07) is the first accessibility standard created under the AODA.

Scope

This policy applies to every person who deals with the public or other thirds parties on behalf of Utilities Kingston whether they do so as employees, agents or otherwise; and, every person who participates in developing the corporation’s policies, procedures and practices that deal with providing goods and services to the public or other third parties.

This policy applies to all services offered at facilities owned, leased, or operated by Utilities Kingston, as well as all public events hosted by Utilities Kingston, regardless of where the event takes place. The policy also applies to all external groups and agencies that use facilities owned, leased, or operated by Utilities Kingston to hold a public event.

This policy addresses the following for customers with disabilities:

  • the provision of goods and services;
  • notice of temporary disruptions in services and facilities;
  • the use of assistive devices;
  • the use of service animals;
  • the use of support persons;
  • customer feedback regarding the provisions of goods and services;
  • training for all persons outlined in Section 2 below; and,
  • notice of the availability and format of documents.

Definitions

Disability

  • any degree of physical disability, infirmity, malformation or disfigurement that is caused by bodily injury, birth defect or illness and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, includes diabetes mellitus, epilepsy, a brain injury, any degree of paralysis, amputation, lack of physical co-ordination, blindness or visual impediment, deafness or hearing impediment, muteness or speech impediment, or physical reliance on a service animal or on a wheelchair or other remedial appliance or device;
  • a condition of mental impairment or a developmental disability;
  • a learning disability, or a dysfunction in one or more of the processes involved in understanding or using symbols or spoken language;
  • a mental disorder; or,
  • an injury or disability for which benefits were claimed or received under the insurance plan established under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997.

Assistive Device

A device used to assist persons with disabilities in carrying out activities or in accessing the services of organizations covered by the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service. Assistive devices may include, but are not limited to, wheelchairs, walkers, canes, oxygen tanks, and electronic communication devices.

Service Animal

Any animal used by a person with a disability for reasons relating to the disability, where it is readily apparent that the animal is used by the person for reasons relating to their disability, or where the person provides a letter from a physician or nurse confirming that they require the animal for reasons relating to their disability. Service animals may include a variety of animals used to assist with sight or hearing, to detect seizures, or to provide any other form of assistance necessary to a person with a disability.

Support Person

A person who accompanies a person with a disability in order to assist them with communication, mobility, personal care, or medical needs, or with access to goods or services.

TTY

A teletypewriter, teletype terminal, or text telephone, which is a special device that allows people, who are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech-impaired to use the telephone to communicate, by allowing them to type text messages. A TTY is required at both ends of the conversation in order to communicate.

Customer Service Policies

The provision of Goods and Services to Persons with Disabilities

Utilities Kingston will use all reasonable efforts to ensure that its policies, practices and procedures are consistent with the following principles:

  • Utilities Kingston’s goods and services are provided in a manner that respects the dignity and independence of persons with disabilities;
  • the provision of Utilities Kingston’s goods and services to persons with disabilities are integrated with those provided to persons who do not have disabilities, unless an alternative measure is necessary to enable a person with a disability to obtain, use or benefit from Utilities Kingston’s goods and services; and,
  • persons with disabilities are given an opportunity equal to that of persons without disabilities to obtain, use and benefit from Utilities Kingston’s goods and services.

Communication with Persons with Disabilities

All corporation communications will be written in a manner so that the intended audience understands the message clearly. This will be done using the principle of “plain language”, which is defined as language that avoids obscurity, inflated vocabulary, and convoluted sentence structure.

When communicating with a person with a disability, verbally or in writing, Utilities Kingston will do so in a manner that takes into account the person’s disability. 

Utilities Kingston will train all persons who communicate with customers on how to interact and communicate with people with various types of disabilities.

Telephone Services

Utilities Kingston is committed to providing fully accessible telephone service to our customers.

Utilities Kingston will train all relevant persons to communicate with customers over the telephone in clear and plain language, to speak clearly and slowly, and to tailor their responses as much as possible in support of the individual.

Utilities Kingston will offer to communicate with customers in person, by e-mail, or by teletype services (TTY) if telephone communication is not suitable to their communication needs or is not available.

Website Services

Utilities Kingston is committed to maintaining its website and providing on-line resources that are fully accessible to our customers.

Billing

Utilities Kingston is committed to providing accessible invoices and bills to all of its customers.

For this reason, invoices and bills will be provided in the following formats, upon request: hard copy; large-print; and, electronic.

Utilities Kingston will answer any questions customers may have about the content of an invoice or bill in person, through the regular postal service, or by telephone, or e-mail.

Additional Communication Services

Should a customer require an alternative form of communication not listed above, such as a document printed in Braille or the need for the services of a sign language interpreter, Utilities Kingston will make every possible attempt to accommodate those needs. In order to accommodate certain requests and services, the customer may be required to provide advance notice to Utilities Kingston.

The Use of Assistive Devices

Some people with disabilities require the use of assistive devices. Employees and other acting on behalf of Utilities Kingston who require training under the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service will be trained on the use of various common assistive devices.

Notice of Temporary Disruptions in Services and Facilities

Utilities Kingston is aware that the operation of its services and facilities is important to the public. However, temporary disruptions in Utilities Kingston’s services and facilities may occur due to reasons that may or may not be within Utilities Kingston’s control or knowledge.

Utilities Kingston will provide notice of the disruption to the public, including:

  • Information about the reason for the disruption;
  • Its anticipated duration; and,
  • A description of alternative facilities or services, if any, that may be available.

Where the disruption to the service or facility is planned, Utilities Kingston will provide notice in advance of the disruption. However, in the case where the disruption is unplanned, Utilities Kingston will provide notice as soon as possible.

When temporary disruptions occur to Utilities Kingston services or facilities, Utilities Kingston will provide notice by posting the information in relevant visible locations, on the Utilities Kingston website www.utilitieskingston.com, and/or by any other method reasonable and applicable under the circumstances. Other methods of notification may include e-mail messages to stakeholders, and the use of various forms of local media.

Assistive Devices

A person with a disability may provide their own assistive device for the purpose of obtaining, using and benefiting from the Utilities Kingston’s goods and services. Exceptions may occur in situations where Utilities Kingston has determined that the assistive device may pose a risk to the health and safety of a person with a disability or the health and safety of others on the premises.

Utilities Kingston may offer a person with a disability other reasonable measures to assist them in obtaining, using and benefiting from Utilities Kingston’s goods and services, where Utilities Kingston has such other measures available.

It is the responsibility of the person with a disability to ensure that their assistive device is operated in a safe and controlled manner at all times.

Service Animals

A person with a disability may enter premises owned or operated by Utilities Kingston accompanied by a service animal, and may keep the animal with them if the public has access to such premises and the animal is not otherwise excluded by law. If the service animal is excluded by law, the corporation will ensure that alternative means are available to enable the person with a disability to obtain, use or benefit from Utilities Kingston’s goods and services.

Where it is not readily apparent that the animal is a service animal, the corporation may ask the person with a disability for a letter from a physician or nurse confirming that the person requires the animal for reasons relating to his or her disability. If proper documentation is not produced, then the person may be asked to remove the animal from the premises.

It is the responsibility of the person with the disability to ensure that their service animal is kept in control at all times. This will include controlling the behaviour of the animal and cleaning up after the animal.

Support Persons

A person with a disability may enter premises owned or operated by Utilities Kingston with a support person, and is entitled to have access to the support person at all times while on the premises.

In situations where privacy and consent issues are applicable, a support person may be subject to the same confidentiality requirements as the person with a disability that they are assisting. A support person may be required to sign a waiver with respect to any privacy or confidentiality issues.

Feedback

Utilities Kingston is committed to providing high quality goods and services to all members of the public it serves. Feedback from the public is welcomed, as it may identify areas that require change and encourage continuous service improvements. 

Feedback from a member of the public about the delivery of goods, services or facilities to persons with disabilities may be given by telephone, in person, in writing, in electronic format, or through other methods. 

All feedback, including complaints, will be directed to the Customer Services Department, and customers can expect an acknowledgement of their message within five (5) business days. Complaints will be addressed according to Utilities Kingston’s existing complaint management procedures, and all personal information collected will be managed in accordance with the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA). A copy of all complaints will also be filed with the Human Resources Office, in order to maintain a record related to compliance with the customer service standard. 

Information about the feedback process will be readily available to the public, and notice of the process will be provided via the customer service website of Utilities Kingston www.utilitieskingston.com and at Utilities Kingston’s customer location.

Training

Utilities Kingston will ensure that all persons to whom this policy applies receive training as required by the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service (Ontario Regulation 429- 07). The amount and format of training given will be tailored to suit each person’s interactions with the public, and his or her involvement in the development of policies, procedures and practices pertaining to the provision of goods and services.

The content of the training will include:

  • a review of the purposes of the AODA;
  • the requirements of the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service (Ontario Regulation 429/07);
  • instruction on the policies, procedures and practices pertaining to the provision of goods and services to persons with disabilities;
  • how to interact and communicate with persons with various types of disabilities;
  • what to do if a person with a particular type of disability is having difficulty accessing the corporation’s goods or services;
  • how to interact with persons with disabilities who use assistive devices or who require the assistance of a support person or service animal; and,
  • information about the equipment or devices available on the premises that may help with the provision of goods or services to persons with disabilities.

Timeline for Training

Training will be provided as soon as practicable after employees and others are assigned the applicable duties. Ongoing training will also occur as changes are made to the policies, procedures and practices dealing with the provision of goods and services to persons with disabilities.

Training Records

Utilities Kingston will keep records of the training, including the date on which training is provided, the number of individuals to whom it is provided, and the nature of the training that is provided.

Availability of Documents

All documents required by the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service (Ontario Regulation 429-07), including Utilities Kingston’s Accessible Customer Service policies, procedures and practices, notices of temporary disruptions, training records, and written feedback process are available upon request, subject to the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA).

Where a person with a disability requests a document in an alternate format, the corporation will provide the document in an accessible format or with communication support. We will consult with the person making the request to determine the suitability of the format or communication support. We will provide the accessible format in a timely manner and at not additional cost. 

Notice of the availability of all documents required by the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service (Ontario Regulation 429/07) will be posted on Utilities Kingston’s website at www.utilitieskingston.com

Amendments

This policy will be reviewed on an annual basis, or, as required due to legislation or policy, this policy may be reviewed and amended at any time in order to comply with current legislation.

Modifications to this Policy

No changes will be made to this policy before considering the effect on persons with disabilities and compliance with legislation.

Related Documents

Where a person with a disability requests a document in an alternate format, Utilities Kingston will provide the document, or the information contained in the document, in the format that is requested and that takes the person’s disability into account.

Notice of the availability of all documents required by the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service (Ontario Regulation 429/07) will be made available through the Human Resources Office.

Questions About this Policy

Questions about this policy can be directed to:

Manager, Human Resources & Organizational Development, Utilities Kingston