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Welcoming Customers with Disabilities

Seven Steps for Making Your Customers with Disabilities Welcome

1. Can People with Disabilities Get into Your Building?

Can someone with a disability get into your facility? Are there clearly marked accessible parking spaces close to your building? Are there steps at your main entrance? Are your doors too heavy for someone with limited physical ability to open? If your main entrance is not accessible, is there another entrance that is at ground level? If so, post a sign pointing to the accessible entrance. If your building is inaccessible but other branches are accessible, post a sign next to the steps letting potential customers know where they can get access. You may also want to include information about how they can access your services online or by phone.

Useful Publication: Americans with Disabilities Act: Checklist for Readily Achievable Barrier Removal

2. Can Your Customers Interact Easily with Tellers and Other Staff?

It’s hard to communicate if you can’t see each other—or make a deposit if you can’t reach the counter. Some financial institutions have a lowered counter (not higher than 36 inches) that allows them to serve customers who use wheelchairs. Others have signs directing customers with disabilities to their customer service desks.

3. Can Your Staff Communicate Clearly with Customers with Disabilities?

Your staff needs to know how to communicate effectively with people who have disabilities. If someone brings a sign language interpreter or a personal assistant, staff should talk directly to the person with a disability, not to the sign language interpreter or assistant.

People who have hearing, speech or visual disabilities may require may require extra time or a quiet area to talk with staff or extra attention to understand what is being said. People who have low vision may require materials in alternate formats such as large print. People with cognitive disabilities (head injury, learning disabilities, mental retardation) and some people with physical disabilities may require assistance in filling out forms. Someone who is deaf or hard of hearing may prefer to communicate by writing questions or answers.

Useful Publication: Fact Sheet: Effective Communication

4. Can People with Disabilities Call You or Use Your Website?

Until recently, people with hearing or speech disabilities used Text Telephones (TTY) to place and receive telephone calls. However, now that telephone relay services (TRS) are available in all 50 states, people with communication disabilities use relay services for their phone calls. Your staff should be aware that calls placed through TRS begin with the operator asking, “Are you familiar with relay services?” This is not a survey—and your staff should not hang up!

Useful Publication: What You Need to Know About TRS

If you have a website, it should also be accessible. Many people with disabilities use “assistive technology” (e.g., screen reader software, voice recognition software, etc.) to enable them to use computers and access the Internet. Web designers may not realize how a few simple features built into a web page can change that page from inaccessible to easy-to-use.

Useful Publication: Accessibility of State and Local Government Websites to People with Disabilities

5. Do Your Policies Keep Customers with Disabilities Out?

Sometimes formal or informal policies, practices, or procedures can unintentionally prevent people with disabilities from using your financial services. For example, if your policy is to exclude all animals, that policy should be modified to allow people who use service animals, such as "seeing-eye-dogs" and "hearing-assist-dogs" to enter with their service animals.

Useful Publication: ADA Business BRIEF: Service Animals

6. Can I Get Help with Making my Facility Accessible?

People with disabilities can be your best source of information on making your business more accessible. Periodically ask individual customers and disability groups in your community to give you feedback on accessibility.

Useful Resource: Centers for Independent Living

Federal tax incentives are available to offset costs for making your financial institution accessible.

Useful Publication: Expanding Your Market: Tax Incentives for Businesses

7. Need More Information?

The DBTAC: National Network of ADA Centers (800-949-4232 (voice/tty; www.adata.org) provide free, confidential and accurate information, technical assistance and training on how to make your facility accessible and comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In addition, the DBTAC’s ADA Training Resource Center is a comprehensive resource for training materials, including free self-paced web courses, on accessibility and the ADA.