The Co-operators Accessibility Multi-Year Plan and Policy
This 2014 – 2021 Accessibility Plan and Policy outlines the actions that The Co-operators will implement to improve opportunities for persons with disabilities.
Statement of Commitment to Creating and Maintaining Accessibility and an Accessible Environment
The Co-operators is committed to providing an accessible environment in which all individuals have equal access to The Co-operators services and programs in a way that respects the dignity and independence of persons with disabilities. This includes creating and fostering an inclusive environment that is considerate and accommodating for all individuals, including people with disabilities. We will continue to prevent barriers by designing inclusive and supportive positive attitudes and preventing attitudes which devalue and limit the potential of persons with disabilities.
The Co-operators supports the goals of the accessibility legislation in Canada and will establish policies, practices and procedures which are consistent with the established accessibility standards, including accessible customer service, information and communication, employment, the built environment and transportation.
In working towards its goals under this Statement, The Co-operators is committed to becoming a barrier free environment and meeting the requirements of all existing legislation and its own policies and goals related to identifying, removing and preventing barriers to people with disabilities that might interfere with their ability to make full use of the services provided by The Co-operators.
In accordance with Human Rights legislation, a disability is defined as follows:
a) Any degree of physical disability, infirmity, malformation or disfiguration caused by bodily injury, birth defect or illness and includes but is not limited to:
- Diabetes mellitus;
- A brain injury;
- Any degree of paralysis;
- Lack of physical coordination;
- Blindness or visual impediment;
- Deafness or hearing impediment;
- Muteness or speech impediment; or
- Physical reliance of a guide dog or other animal, or on a wheelchair or other remedial appliance or device.
- b) A condition of mental impairment or a developmental disability;
- c) A learning disability, or a dysfunction in one or more of the processes involved in understanding or using symbols or spoken language;
- d) A mental disorder; or
- e) An injury or disability for which benefits were claimed or received under the insurance plan established under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997.
A barrier is anything that prevents a person with a disability from fully taking part in society because of that disability. Some barriers include:
- Physical barriers (e.g. a step at the entrance to the building or a door that is too heavy to be opened by an individual with limited upper body mobility and strength)
- Architectural barriers (e.g. A hallway or door that is too narrow for a wheelchair or scooter)
- Information or communication barriers (e.g. a publication that is not available in large print)
- Attitudinal barriers (e.g. assuming people with a disability cannot perform a certain task when in fact they can or ignoring a customer in a wheelchair)
- Technological barriers (e.g. a website that is not accessible for people who require the use of screen readers)
- Barriers created by policies or practices (e.g. Not allowing animals on the premises, excluding or removing individuals who require the use of service animals)
The Co-operators is committed to reducing/eliminating barriers in its environment for staff, clients and customers with disabilities as well as providing services to these individuals in accordance with the requirements of all Human Rights legislation and other federal and provincial legislation. As legislation changes and develops, The Co-operators will review, and change as necessary, its policies, practices and procedures to reflect any changes made in legislation.
To achieve this goal, The Co-operators will endeavour to take the following steps:
- a) Identification of Barriers
- b) Removal of Identified Barriers
- c) Prevention of Barriers
- d) Increase Awareness of Accessibility Initiatives at all levels of the organization
- e) Promotion of compliance policies and procedures with respect to accessibility to both staff and clients
Customer Service Policy
The Co-operators Accessibility Policy and Statement of Commitment to providing accessible customer service gives guidance to the delivery of services to people with disabilities. This applies to all Co-operators staff, volunteers, third party contractors who deal with the public on behalf of The Co-operators, and those who are involved in The Co-operators policy and procedure development.
The Senior Management of The Co-operators is committed to, and will work to improve access and opportunity for people with disabilities by identifying, removing and preventing barriers that might interfere with their ability to make full use of the services. They will foster an inclusive and accessible business environment for people of all needs and abilities. Should there be any unexpected accommodations that need to be made to allow an individual access to our environment; The Co-operators will make the necessary provisions to allow access.
Customer Service Philosophy
The Co-operators goal is to deliver exceptional customer service that meets and exceeds customer expectations. We endeavor to service our customers in a manner that reflects the principles of dignity, independence, integration and equal opportunity. Our commitment is to provide all customers, including those living with disabilities, the same opportunity to access our goods and services and benefit from those goods and services in the same place and in a similar way.
The following guiding principles clarify expected attitudes and behaviours in daily work life with customers and each other:
- Respect: Each of us will demonstrate honesty, integrity and belief in people.
- Ownership: Each of us is accountable for creating an environment that contributes to the success of our customers and each other.
- Collaboration: Each of us has an important role in working together for a common purpose.
- Continuous Improvement: Each of us is committed to ongoing improvement in all we do to anticipate and exceed needs as they evolve.
Providing Goods and Services to People with Disabilities
The Co-operators is committed to excellence in serving all customers including persons with disabilities by removing barriers to their full participation that might arise in the course of doing business as follows:
- Communication: We will communicate with people with disabilities in ways that take into account their disability. We will train staff who communicate with customers on how to interact and communicate with people with various types of disabilities.
- Telephone Services: We are committed to providing fully accessible telephone interface to our clients and potential clients. We will train staff to communicate with customers over the telephone in clear and plain language and to speak clearly and slowly if required by the customer. We will offer to communicate with customers using email if telephone communication is not suitable to their communication needs or is not available. Training will be provided on how to use the Relay system and TTY (teletypewriter) when needed.
- Assistive Devices: We are committed to serving people with disabilities who use assistive devices to obtain, use or benefit from our goods and services and as such, clients are free to use their personal assistive devices in any Co-operators environment. The Co-operators offers other measures that may assist our clients while on site and we will ensure that our staffs are familiar with the various assistive devices that may be used by clients including: elevators, escalators, wheelchair ramps and automatic doors. Assistive devices for access to specific services shall be kept in good working order and the public shall be informed of their availability.
- Billing: We are committed to providing accessible invoices to all of our customers. We will answer any questions customers may have about the content of the invoice in person, by telephone or email.
- Documentation: All published documents can be available in hard copy, large print and email if requested.
The Co-operators staff, volunteers and third party contractors shall accommodate the use of service animals by people with disabilities who are accessing our services and facilities.
To be considered a service animal under this Customer Service Policy, it must be readily apparent that the animal is being used because of a person’s disability or the person with a disability must provide a letter from a regulated health professional confirming that it is required because of his or her disability.
Where a person with a disability is accompanied by a support person, The Co-operators staff, volunteers and third party contractors shall ensure that both persons are permitted to enter the premises together and shall ensure that the person with a disability can access the support person while on the premises.
A support person is a person who accompanies the person with a disability in order to help with communication, mobility, personal care or medical needs or with the access to goods or services. The support person can be a paid support worker, volunteer, a friend or a family member.
Notice of Temporary Disruption
The Co-operators will provide customers with notice in the event of a planned or unexpected disruption in the facilities or services usually used by persons with disabilities. This notice will include information about the reason for the disruption, its anticipated duration, and a description of alternative facilities or services, if available.
Notice of a service disruption will be placed in a conspicuous area and/or communicated by any method deemed to be reasonable under the circumstances.
Training of Staff
The Co-operators will provide training to all staff and others who deal with the public as well as those who are involved in the development of corporate policies, practices and procedures. The Co-operators will also ensure that the staff of any third parties acting on their behalf, have received training on serving our clients with disabilities.
Training will cover the following:
- How to interact and communicate with people with various types of disabilities.
- How to interact with people with disabilities who use an assistive device or require the assistance of a service animal or a support person.
- How to use any of The Co-operators assistive devices.
- What to do if a person with a disability is having difficulty accessing The Co-operators goods and services.
- The Co-operators policy, practice and procedures relating to the Customer Service Policy.
- Those involved in policy development will receive additional training about providing goods or services to the public or third parties.
Training for new staff members will occur within the first month of employment as part of The Co-operators orientation training for new staff. Ongoing training will be provided to all staff with respect to any changes to The Co-operators policies, practices and procedures.
Information and Communications Policy
The Co-operators is committed to meeting the communication needs of people with disabilities. Those individuals with disabilities can consult with their advisor to determine how we can best meet their information and communication needs.
- The Co-operators ensures all new websites conform to WCAG 2.0., Level A (effective: January 1, 2014). While we do our best to ensure documents in other formats (such as PDF) are also accessible, this is not feasible in all cases. In these instances, we will consult with the individual making the request in order to find an alternate solution that takes his or her disability into consideration.
- The Co-operators is working towards ensuring that all new websites confirm to WCAG 2.0., Level AA by January 1, 2021.
- We periodically review and monitor the navigational experience for those with disabilities needs and make adjustments accordingly.
Upon request, The Co-operators will accommodate people with disabilities during the recruitment and assessment process and when people are hired; this commitment is include in our commitment within job postings, on our Job Opportunities page at www.cooperators.ca, when arranging an interview with qualified applicants, as well as in offer letters of employment. (Effective: December 31, 2014).
The Co-operators will take the following steps to develop and put in place a process for developing individual accommodation plans and return-to-work policies for employees that have been absent due to a disability:
- The Co-operators has in place a Workplace Accommodation Policy and a Medical Leave Policy, both of which support the development of individual accommodation plans and return-to work policies for employees with accessibility needs.
We will take the following steps to ensure the accessibility needs of employees with disabilities are taken into account for performance management, career development, and redeployment processes:
- The Co-operators has in place a Workplace Accommodation Policy which supports the development of individual accommodation plans and for employees with accessibility needs through the performance reports, career development, and redevelopment process.
Design of Public Space Policy
The Co-operators will meet the Accessibility Standards for the Design of Public Spaces when building or making major modifications to public spaces, including:
- Sidewalks, ramps, stairs, curb ramps, etc.;
- Accessible off street parking; and
- Service counters and waiting areas.
Communication and Feedback Process
Documentation that describes our accessibility commitments will be maintained on The Co-operators website and provided to individuals, upon request, in the appropriate format.
Comments on our services and how well those expectations are being met are welcome and appreciated. The Co-operators will thoroughly review all customer feedback, investigate its relevance to our Customer Service Policy and to our accessibility commitments, and determine actions or steps to rectify to the customer’s satisfaction.
Feedback regarding the way in which The Co-operators provides goods and services to persons with disabilities can be shared through our website, by email, verbally or in written format. Alternative accessible formats and communications will be considered upon request and upon consultation with the client.
Questions Concerning This Policy
Any client questions about this policy should be referred to firstname.lastname@example.org.