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Retail and Leisure

Audience: Staff in retail, leisure
Runtime: 2.00 min.
Focus: Tien Hoang on communication access when shopping

This section is for retail outlets, restaurants, coffee shops, bars, entertainment and sports venues, cinemas, theatres and leisure facilities.

The following information is intended to provide a starting point to improve access to services for people with Speech and Language Disabilities (SLDs), not caused by hearing loss. It is by no means a full comprehensive list of barriers or accommodations. It presents some of the unique challenges that people with SLDs may experience within these situations.

Sample Communication Access Barriers

Many of us who have a Speech and Language Disabilities (SLDs), experience the same barriers as people who have mobility, sensory and other disabilities. In addition, we may experience unique communication barriers due to our speech and language disability. The barriers we may experience from community members who offer services may include:

  • Being ignored or talked about as if we are invisible
  • Having our abilities underestimated or not being taken seriously
  • Making assumptions that we cannot hear or understand what they are saying
  • Not knowing how to communicate with us
  • Pretending to understand what we are communicating
  • Limiting our communication by only asking us yes and no questions
  • Not giving us the time we need to communicate
  • Noisy and dark environments where it is difficult to see our communication boards and devices or hear what people are saying

Suggestions to Improve Services

Everyone is unique and may communicate in different ways, so always ask what you can do to make communication go smoothly. Here are some general guidelines:

  • Talk directly to us, not the just the person with us
  • Do not underestimate our abilities
  • Assume we understand, unless we tell you otherwise
  • If it isn’t obvious, ask what you can do when communicating with us
  • If you do not know how we communicate “yes” and “no”, ask us
  • Watch and listen as we may use speech, body language, a communication board, device or human assistance
  • Be patient. It takes us longer to communicate
  • Tell us if you don’t understand. We may want to repeat or change our message
  • Sometimes it helps to move to a quiet, well lit place so that you can focus on what we are communicating
  • If we have difficulty understanding what you are saying, use everyday language, speak clearly or show us what you are talking about
  • If necessary, come around from the back of a counter to see what we are pointing to if we use a communication board
  • Make sure your signs are easy to understand and are at a level that can be seen by those of us who use wheelchairs
  • Ask if we need assistance to read your materials, menus, and brochures
  • Ask if we need assistance to complete your forms, take notes and sign documents
  • If your services involve telephone use, give us other ways to contact you such as text, email and SMS
  • Ask if we need your assistance when paying for items. If we do, please follow our instructions and handle our money in a place where we can easily see what you are doing.
  • Do not offer to assist us with entering PIN numbers

Resources for Community Services

Suggestions for People with SLDs

We can do some things that are helpful when using businesses and organizations in our community. Here are some things we may want to consider:

  • Prepare a quick greeting so that we can initiate communication with people rather than wait for them to speak to us
  • Have simple instructions in our device or on a card that tells the person what they should do when communicating with us Communication Access Card
  • If we need someone to assist us paying for things:
    • Keep our wallet close to our body and if appropriate, secured to it to our chair in a place we can see it
    • Have clear instructions that tell the person to handle our money in front of us, and to show and count out loud the money we are paying and any change we are receiving
    • Watch the cashier carefully as s/he handles our money
    • Pay with cash if we cannot physically and independently handle a card and PIN number. Never give our PIN to a cashier or stranger
    • Keep bus tickets, money, and credit cards in separate compartments or separate wallets so that we can direct people to the appropriate place
    • Only carry the amount of money that is needed
    • Shop at the same stores so we can build relationships with shop owners and cashiers

Resources for People with SLDs