Customer Service for visitors with disabilities - Art Gallery of Ontario policies
The AGO’s mission is to bring art and people together. We are committed to being a welcoming and accessible destination that anticipates and responds to the diverse needs and expectations of the public. Building on this foundation, the AGO continually works to identify, prevent and remove barriers for our visitors with disabilities. The following policy articulates the AGO’s commitment to our visitors with disabilities, as set out by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Customer Service Standard.
The AGO embraces the AODA principles of dignity, independence, integration and equal opportunity to serve our visitors with disabilities and our community at large. With these principles as our foundation, we will:
- communicate information through channels that takes the person’s disability into account;
- create a welcoming and respectful environment;
- design public spaces that can be navigated with ease;
- present works of art in creative ways that can be enjoyed and understood by visitors with various types of disabilities;
- deliver programs that enable personal connections with art and accommodate the needs of visitors with disabilities, where reasonable and;
- operate public feedback mechanisms to respond to questions and suggestions, and enable us to continually strengthen and improve our service and programs for visitors with disabilities.
In accordance with the AODA Customer Service Standard, the AGO has documented a series of policies and procedures that deal specifically with the following issues:
- assistive devices;
- service animals;
- support persons;
- alternate means of communication;
- training for staff and volunteers;
- feedback mechanisms;
- communicating temporary disruptions in service.
To further enable the visiting experience, the AGO also offers front-of-line access to our visitors with disabilities.
Notices will be posted for the public by January 1, 2012, to advise that the policy documents required by the AODA Customer Service Standard are available upon request. Information will be provided in formats that takes a person`s disability into account
The AGO will continue to work on an ongoing basis with staff, volunteers and the community to meet, and exceed where possible, the requirements of the Customer Service standard of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and to demonstrate leadership in the AGO’s commitment to access.
Some visitors may require assistive devices to enjoy their experience at the AGO. The AGO provides certain assistive devices and will accommodate, wherever possible, personal assistive devices brought by visitors with disabilities.
The AGO provides a number of assistive devices. These include, but are not limited to:
Automated entry doors: The AGO has automated entry doors at the main entrance, McCaul Street entrance, group entrance and the Weston Family Learning Centre.
Wheelchairs: Wheelchairs are available to visitors free of charge. Wheelchairs may be reserved in advance through the AGO website, or may be requested on site on a “first come first serve” basis. AGO staff providing wheelchairs to visitors, and other key front-line staff will be trained in the safety and use of wheelchairs.
TTY service and text messaging: A Bell pay telephone with TTY service and text messaging is located in the main entrance by the coat check.
Pen and paper: Pen and paper should be available at the Information Desk, Membership Desk, Box Office ShopAGO and all food service outlets to assist communication with visitors. Protection Services Officers also carry pen and paper which may be used to assist communications with a visitor.
Audio guides: Audio guides are provided for selected exhibitions and collection galleries. AGO staff and volunteers dispensing audio guides will be trained in their use with hearing enhancement devices.
Audio information via cell phone technology: Some galleries provide audio information that can be accessed by cell phones/smart phones, etc. AGO staff and volunteers in gallery spaces will be trained to assist visitors to use this technology.
Downloadable podcasts and tours: The AGO website offers a variety of downloadable podcasts and tours that enable visitors to understand and explore the galleries.
The AGO recognizes that visitors with disabilities may bring personal assistive devices. These devices will be accommodated unless they present an immediate danger to other visitors or works of art. This includes articles that are normally not allowed in gallery spaces (please see “Prohibited Items in Gallery Spaces”). These articles will be marked with a sticker to indicate that permission has been granted to bring the item into the galleries.
Alternate means of communication
A visitor with a disability may need to use an alternate means of communication to ask for and understand information provided by the AGO. We will identify and offer the most effective and courteous two-way communication with a visitor with a disability.
The AGO uses a variety of ways, wherever possible, to make communications more accessible by:
Considering the needs of people with disabilities during the planning stage of services, programs and communication systems and vehicles.
Using plain language to make a document easier to read for people with certain learning disabilities.
Including captioning or sign language windows to audio presentations, as resources permit, so people who are Deaf, Deafened or hard of hearing can understand these communications.
Offering information in an alternate format, such as:
- Handwriting or typing information back and forth;
- Large print maps;
- Providing commonly used information in printed format, including large print and Braille versions for people who have low vision
- Using the web as an alternate channel to provide accessible communication.
The AGO also provides a variety of alternate formats to convey information provided in its exhibitions, installations and programming.
A service animal may accompany a visitor or any third party with a disability to all AGO areas that are open to the public and designated office areas.
A service animal may accompany a visitor or any third party with a disability to all public areas of the AGO. Service animals may be used for, but not limited to, the following disabilities: vision loss, physical disability, hearing loss, autism, epilepsy etc. Service animals are most commonly dogs, but can also include ferrets, monkeys and other animals. The AGO ensures that all employees, volunteers and others dealing with the public are properly trained in how to interact with people with disabilities who are accompanied by a service animal.
To be considered a service animal, it must be readily apparent that the animal is being used because of a person’s disability. The person with a disability may be asked to provide a letter from a physician or nurse confirming that the service animal is required because of his or her disability. Service animals are not pets - they are working animals. They are used by people with disabilities to overcome barriers much like assistive devices such as a white cane or a wheelchair. The AGO enforces a general by-law that does not permit pets on the premises, including the AGO property surrounding the building.
The AGO anticipates there will be special situations and is prepared to make every effort to accommodate the circumstances on an individual basis, as they arise, keeping safety to the visitors, service animals and art work in mind. At times, due to capacity situations in public areas, visitors with disabilities accompanied by service animals may be advised that the crowded conditions may make it difficult to manoeuvre.
The owner is responsible for the conduct of the service animal while on AGO property. The owner is responsible for looking after the service animal’s needs, including the cleanup and disposal of feces. If the service animal is causing a disturbance for other visitors, the visitor and accompanying service animal may be required to leave the area or the AGO.
A support person accompanying a visitor with disabilities will be allowed to stay with the visitor at all times and will be provided with free admission to the AGO.
Any person with a disability who is accompanied by a support person is allowed to enter the AGO’s premises with his or her support person. At no time will a person with a disability who is accompanied by a support person be prevented from having access to his or her support person while on the AGO premises.
A support person is an individual hired or chosen by a person with a disability to provide services or assistance with communication, mobility, personal care, medical needs or with access to goods or services. The visitor with a disability pays regular admission to the AGO; no fee will be charged for the support person. Complimentary admission for one support person is the standard. Requests for additional support people will be addressed by Visitor Services on a case by case basis.
Front of the Line Access
The AGO offers front of the line barrier free access to the box office, coat check and membership services, to any visitor with a disability and their party. Visitors with disabilities will be allowed immediate access to AGO box office, membership services and coat check rather than waiting in a line up (a line up is defined as more than four individuals waiting in a queue) and will not be prevented access to galleries. In the event that a gallery is full to capacity, the visitor with a disability and those accompanying him/her will be allowed entry first when there is space available.
Temporary Disruption of Service
Visitors with disabilities will be made aware of temporary disruptions of service that could diminish their access to the AGO.
When a temporary disruption of service is scheduled, a public notice will be communicated through the following networks, as appropriate:
- Telephone recordings
- Public address system
- Protection Services Officers and Visitor Services staff
- Intranet for staff and volunteers
- Temporary signage
In the event of an unexpected disruption, when advance notice is not possible, the AGO provides notice, as soon as possible, through the above communication networks, as appropriate.
The AGO provides a variety of vehicles for the public to provide feedback on its programs and services. These feedback vehicles are available for the public to comment on the AGO’s customer service for visitors with disabilities.
Visitors can offer comments about the AGO’s programs and services for visitors with disabilities through the following feedback vehicles:
- Visitor Comment Cards available throughout the gallery;
- AGO web site;
- Social media
- Canada Post;
- In person to AGO management
Once feedback is received, the following actions are taken to respond:
- The feedback is directed to the appropriate person for action.
- The feedback is assessed for appropriate action.
- Visitors who provide their contact information can expect an answer within two business days, where appropriate.
The public is made aware of the availability of these feedback vehicles through:
- A notice on the web site;
- A sign in the AGO;
- A document describing the feedback process, available on request in different formats;
- Other communication networks, as appropriate.
AODA Customer Service Standard Training for staff and volunteers
The Art Gallery of Ontario ensures that all Board members, staff, volunteers, interns and all those involved in the development and approval of customer service policies and procedures complete training on the AODA Customer Service Standard and appropriate methods to serve visitors with disabilities. The AGO ensures that third parties and others who deal with the public already have the mandatory AODA training.
The AGO will develop, deliver and evaluate ongoing training programs for its Board of Trustees, management, staff, volunteers, interns ensuring that all are fully apprised of AODA Customer Service Standards.
A record will be kept of the dates of training sessions delivered and the names of individuals having completed the training.
Learning outcomes from the training include:
- Awareness of the AODA legislation, the Customer Service Standard.
- Awareness of the importance of access for visitors with disabilities and the four principles of dignity, independence, integration and equal opportunity.
- An understanding of the impact of the legislation/standard on the AGO and on the individual’s role.
- Increased confidence by the staff and volunteers when welcoming and hosting visitors with disabilities and their empowerment to respond to individual needs.
The training content includes:
- The history of the legislation and the purposes of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 and the requirements of the customer service standard.
- Definitions of disability, dignity, independence, integration and equal opportunity.
- How to interact and communicate with people with various types of disabilities.
- The AGO’s policies and procedures relating to the customer service standard, including service animals, support persons, alternate communications, feedback mechanisms.
- The assistive devices available on the AGO’s premises or otherwise that may help with the provision of goods or services to people with disabilities.
- What to do if a person with a disability is having difficulty in accessing the AGO’s services.
- A description of an exceptional AGO experience for visitors with different disabilities
- Visitor scenarios, specific to the AGO’s experience.