Welcoming Customers with Disability

Many leading Australian businesses are realising the benefits of welcoming people with disability as employees, customers and stakeholders. Through targeting the “disability dollar”, businesses broaden their customer base, increase their performance and reap major economic benefits.

Forward-thinking organisations are therefore looking for ways to improve their confidence and capability in meeting the needs of the four million Australians with disability, who are people with spending power.

To equip your customer service staff with the necessary confidence and skills to respond effectively to customers with disability, please also see our Welcoming Customers with Disability publication and training.

It contains easily understandable guidance for front line employees, and ways in which businesses can improve their accessibility. It is a user-friendly A5 booklet, which can be customised for individual organisations, with your organisation's branding, and information relevant to your sector.

Tips for Communication with Customers with Disability

  • When approaching a customer, be polite, introduce yourself, and ask how you can help.
  • Wait until your offer is accepted before trying to assist someone.
  • Be considerate of the extra time it may take some customers to do or say some things.
  • Don’t patronise or talk down to a person with disability, or assume that they won’t understand you.
  • Be aware that some people may need written information to be provided in different formats, such as electronic, large font, braille or audio. Verbal instructions can also be very helpful.
  • If a person is blind or has low vision, consider describing the layout of the area to them, especially any obstacles like stairs or furniture.
  • Don’t distract a guide dog or assistance animal by patting it or giving it food.
  • Speak directly to the customer, even when they are accompanied by an interpreter or assistant.
  • Always make sure you’re facing the customer when you speak to them, so that they can read your lips if they need to. Don’t cover your mouth or speak when your back is turned.
  • Don’t shout, use big hand gestures, or speak extra slowly to someone who is hard of hearing or has difficulty understanding - just speak clearly.
  • Try and put yourself at eye level with a customer who is a wheelchair user, and speak directly to them.
  • Don’t push a person’s wheelchair if they haven’t asked you to, and never lean on or hang things from a person’s wheelchair.
  • Try and make sure sign-in counters are low enough to be reached by a wheelchair user. If that’s not possible, come around to the front of the counter to talk to the customer, and offer a stable surface for them to write on if needed.