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This webinar will focus on customer service in two kinds of organizations: 1) those providing face-to-face service (retail, restaurant and entertainment, social services, health care, etc.) and 2) those primarily interacting with customers online or over the phone. The online and phone components will also apply to most organizations that primarily offer in-person service.

Using examples and concrete successful strategies, the webinar identifies often overlooked issues related to disability and best practices. It begins with a brief overview of the requirements of the various federal law and statutes as they apply to organizations that provide direct service. The next section of the webinar will identify areas that organizations need to evaluate to determine if their systems and services are fully accessible, providing a checklist for companies to use. These include information/merchandise presentation and other physical aspects of the business, IT and websites, and employee's understanding of disability and accommodations.

Next, the webinar will discuss accommodation strategies, many of them inexpensive or at no cost to implement. Universal changes to ways goods and information are provided, phone and online protocols related to customer access to services, and related information will be provided.

The final section of the webinar will focus on employee interactions with customers. This section uses examples to address common issues with employees that need to be addressed before providing specific training on working with customers with disabilities. Training systems for staff and the importance of regular training for any staff person who interacts with the public are addressed in the remainder of the webinar. This includes discussion of strategies for ongoing monitoring of service provision to people with disabilities.

Why you should Attend

People with disabilities are potential customers, many are already people your organization serves. While most organizations are familiar with accommodations for people with physical disabilities like people in wheelchairs, staff and management are often less familiar with the range of visual, hearing, and hidden disabilities like learning disabilities or memory problems.

As the population ages, an increasing number of consumers have hidden disabilities. Rude treatment or bad experiences can mean lost customers. Based on Dr. Schneider's extensive experience with customer service and disability inclusion, this webinar provides concrete strategies to improve customer service to people with disabilities for both in-person and phone/online businesses.

  • People with disabilities of all kinds are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and related legislation, which requires reasonable accommodations for your customers or consumers.
  • Most of the credit card readers and sign in devices used by organizations in the U.S. are not usable by people with visual disabilities and violate the ADA.
  • Many websites are difficult for people with either visual disabilities or learning disabilities to use and may violate federal rules for IT accessibility. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires that any company with federal government contracts or in an industry with federal funding ensure that their information technology is accessible to people with disabilities. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act requires any organization offering information or services to the general public to provide accommodations to make them accessible.
  • While some people may think of people with disabilities as needing help or less capable, most are resilient and creative in finding ways to address the challenges they face. Rather than treat them as a problem, staff help best when they listen and respond to requests for assistance from people with disabilities.

Areas Covered in the Session

  • Introduction and legal overview
    • What do we mean by disability and why is it important to pay attention to disability in serving customers/consumers
    • Understanding the breadth of ADA accommodations related to services
    • Websites and IT: 504 and 508 compliance
  • Creating an inventory of your business to ensure it is accessible to people with disabilities
    • Physical layout of establishment, presentation of information
    • For retail: carts or baskets provided to collect items to purchase
    • Phone systems
    • Check out systems (credit card readers, online checkout systems)
    • Websites
    • Customer service processes and ways employees interact with those being served
  • Accommodation strategies
    • Presentation of goods and information
    • Accessible carts/baskets and systems to assist customers in gathering goods, getting them into their cars. Delivery accommodations for customers with disabilities
    • Phone systems
    • Check out systems
    • Dos and Don'ts for accessible websites
  • Creating a disability friendly customer service system
    • Understanding employee's beliefs about disabilities and accommodations
    • Common cultural issues that can get in the way of good customer service
    • Creating an effective training system for all employees that interact with customers/consumers
    • Monitoring systems for disability customer service

Who Will Benefit

  • CEO/Owners
  • Managers
  • Customer Service Managers
  • Key Staff
  • HR Staff
  • Consumer Ombuds Service Providers

Speaker Profile

Dr. Jo Anne Schneider is an applied social scientist with over 30 years experience working with government, organizations, businesses and communities to develop innovative, evidence based model programs, policies, evaluations, continuous process improvement systems, and research on a wide range of community development and improvement, intergroup relations, education, workforce development, employment, human services, housing, and health topics.

Her expertise in disability combines research, policy analysis, development of model programs/policies, and consulting with colleges/universities, agencies, businesses and government. She has worked on disability issues since 2008, including projects for Source America, DDA/DORS, a legislatively mandated evaluation for MSDE, serving as a Commissioner for Baltimore County Commission on Disabilities, and various organizational consulting projects. She is also International Code Council (ICC) Certified Accessibility Inspector/Plans Examiner.