Creating inclusive and accessible customer experiences

Making sure that your customers with disability are not left behind 

The COVID-19 pandemic has compelled organisations to rapidly adapt to a frequently shifting landscape. For some, this has meant moving services from physical locations to a wholly online presence. Some are changing the way their customers can connect with the business. Others have had to make alterations to the environment of their stores and offices, or implement new protocols and practices, to ensure the health and safety of their employees and customers. These changes, and the speed at which business as usual systems are changing, can all present unintended barriers for your customers, especially those with disability. 

AND reached out to our members to ask about the ways that they are supporting their customers, clients, and community to continue to access their services, and remain connectedWhat is apparent is how engaged members are in wanting to support and include customers with disability, to ensure that they have equal access to goods, services, and information. 

How our members are including customers with disability: 

  • ‘Community Hour’ rolled out across stores  dedicated shopping hours for vulnerable and elderly customers.
  • Online delivery service for people with disability.
  • Providing priority delivery for people with disability.
  • All university classes are online – for students with and without disability.
  • Developing a ‘tip sheet’ to support academics to create accessible online learning.
  • Providing new ways of delivering support services for people with disability, including shopping assistance.
  • Proactively contacting customers who are not actively using online services to offer alternatives.
  • Refreshing videos on website for accessibility – ensuring accurate captioning and that transcripts are made available.
  • Offering step by step ‘how to’ instruction videos on signing up for online services.
  • Launching a ‘Basics Box’ consisting of meals, snacks and essential items for customers unable to leave their homes.
  • Providing information about COVID-19 and available services, community grants and support packages in accessible formats on the website.
  • Information/communications packs to ensure people with cognitive disability understand how to stay safe.
  • Promoting community wellbeing.
  • Partnering with pharmacies for deliveries.
  • Developing Easy English resources to share key information.
  • Identifying which community members may need financial assistance to purchase equipment to stay connected.

A new way of connecting 

With the closure of physical sites, and the move towards accessing services online, you may be asking your customers to engage in a new way of connecting with your business. Some questions to consider include: 

  • Dcustomers/clients have access to the technology required to connect with the organisation (e.g. computer, internet access, smartphone)? 
  • Are there alternative ways (e.g. phone) that people can use to contact your organisation? 
  • Do you have capacity to offer a dedicated service (e.g. phone line) to support people who need assistance to navigate the new online system?  
  • Is the technology (e.g. application, platform, portal) accessible for people with disability? 

If you have identified and flagged a customer’s preferred method of communication, there is an opportunity to contact them via this method to offer support and assistanceSome organisations have developed step-by-step videos outlining the process to sign up for their online services; others have proactively reached out to customers to offer support and provide alternatives if needed.  

Keeping customers informed 

With customers reaching out to businesses for information about COVID-19 and the support that organisations can offer, ensuring that your communications are accessible has never been more important. Providing information sheets, communication packs, and support guides in multiple formats – accessible HTML, PDFMicrosoft Word document, Easy English  ensures that your communications can be accessed by everyone. 

Equally important is the accessibility of your websitand online spacesThe Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 reflect the current recommended standard for accessibility in digital spaces. 

“COVID-19 has highlighted that accessibility and inclusion impacts everyone as we are all seeing and experiencing within today’s environment  Majella Knobel, Westpac 

Case study  Commonwealth Bank 

Commonwealth Bank have developed a COVID-19 update page on their website which outlines the supports they can offer their Personal, Business, and community customers during this uncertain time. With businesses being forced to shut down, or individuals being stood down from their jobs, it is important that people are able to access information about available support. Commonwealth Bank has been ensuring that their information and support guides are available in accessible HTML format. Commonwealth Bank are also working on developing the COVID-19 financial support guides in multiple languages, and Easy English. Commonwealth Bank are also planning to refresh the videos on their website to ensure that they have accurate captioning, are fully accessible, and that transcripts are provided.  

Commonwealth Bank is making 250,000 proactive phone calls to customers who may not be active online users (e.g. may rely on accessing the branch or uses a passbook) to provide support and offer alternatives such as access to a debit card on digital channels (e.g. mobile phone) or telephone banking.  

Commonwealth Bank is also looking to develop a new Access and Inclusion Plan, with AND support, and are kicking off with (virtual) external and internal consultations as part of considering how to best help their customers during this time and moving forward.  

Case study – Uber Australia 

We’re being really conscious of the bigger role that we can play as a company.  Chris Pycroft, Uber 

Uber Australia has been discouraging people from travelling – according to Chris Pycroft, Accessibility Lead (Australia and New Zealand), this is a new approach for the business – a pop-up message appears advising riders to not travel unless necessary. The organisation is focused on the safety of their drivers and their riders, communicating with them based on government advice and ensuring physical distancing measures (e.g. riders sit in the backseat). For people with disability, Uber supports rider’s needs (e.g. unable to sit in the backseat) on a case by case basis and connects with state regulators for up to date advice. Uber also recently began a pilot program to extend taxi subsidies to Uber riders for essential travel only – this has been committed to until the end of May 2020.  

Uber Eats has been experiencing an uptick – people still want food delivered – and have quickly rolled out a new functionality: contactless delivery. With the recipient providing instructions to support the delivery, this means there is no need to interact with the delivery person. The contactless delivery functionality is one that the disability community has been asking for and this has now been made possible via Uber Eats.  

Finally, Uber has made a global commitment to give 10 million free rides around the world as part of their Social Impact program – Move What Matters. Move What Matters supports free rides, and deliveries, for people in need. If an organisation has been significantly impacted by COVID-19, Uber asks that you get in contact via email.

Case study – Kmart 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has really brought to light a lot of ways that we can extend ourselves and be there for all customers” – Marcelle Harrison, Diversity and Inclusion Manager, Kmart

Kmart recognised that customers with disability may find it difficult to access their stores and products due to the COVID-19 restrictions. In order to support these customers, Kmart designed a dedicated phone service for people with disability and senior customers to assist them to navigate Kmart’s digital platforms, online shopping portal, and seek further support. Call operators are able to spend more time guiding customers through an issue or through navigating the shopping portal. Kmart is currently considering ways that they could support customers to go through the end to end transactional experience via the phone.

Marcelle Harrison, Diversity and Inclusion Manager, explained that Kmart are also working with AND to provide disability awareness and “situation and circumstance-based training” for all Kmart call operators.

While the phone service is a work in progress, Kmart are already receiving about 100 calls per day. Kmart will look to share this facility out to peak bodies and community organisations to let them know about the service, to collaborate, and to seek feedback – as Marcelle notes “to make sure that it’s serving its purpose for our customers and we take on learnings as we go” – before communicating the service more broadly.

“We don’t want this to be a temporary initiative; we want this to be a long-term initiative” – Marcelle Harrison, Kmart

Kmart has also piloted ‘Quiet Hour’ in 26 stores across Australia and New Zealand. For two hours a day – 2:00pm to 3:00pm; and 6:00pm to 7:00pm – these stores implement environmental changes to support customers with disability and their families. During these times overhead lighting is reduced, as is background noise like music and announcements (these are only used for emergencies during these periods), and Kmart provide signage to assist customers to navigate around areas that may cause sensory overload (e.g. candles, bikes, toys). Staff at these sites have undertaken sensory sensitivity training, and resources on how to support customers who experience sensory overload has also been communicated through the teams. Kmart partnered with Disability Employment Service (DES) providers and Autism support services in each state to seek feedback from the community.

Getting feedback 

A key part of implementing new practices and processes is checking that they are working for the customers and community members they are designed for. This can be done directly via a survey, or indirectly through the provision of a contact person or feedback section on your website.  

While feedback and consultation are certainly effective when changing services and processesthey are also useful for developing future plans and practices such as an Access and Inclusion Plan (AIP). Some organisations are running (virtual) internal and external consultations with people with disability, carers, allies, staff, and Not-For-Profit and peak body organisations to develop a new AIP; others are continuing to progress the AIP commitments they currently have.  

To paraphrase Majella Knobel, Director – Accessibility and Inclusion at Westpac, it is about:  

  • Asking the right questions;  
  • Learning as we go; and  
  • Allowing for opportunities to improve our service. 

Practical tips for inclusion 

  • Ensure your internal and external communications  support guides, information sheets – are developed in an accessible format. Read practical tips on accessible and inclusive communication.
  • Proactively reach out to customers who may require additional support to access online services. 
  • Check the accessibility of your website and online portals – if this is the primary way that people connect with your organisationensure that everyone is able to. 
  • Consult, collaborate, and connect – we are all in this together.

Useful factsheets and information: