Don’t get me wrong – I love sharing my story and inspiring audiences to see their lives and their challenges in a different way as an inspirational speaker. It’s always a privilege to be given the opportunity to do so. But equally important to me is the opportunity of speaking to business audiences about the capabilities of people who are so often marginalised in the job market because of the misperceptions about disability.
Which is why I was so delighted to tackle the topics of the barriers faced by people living with disabilities at the Cape Chamber of Commerce’s breakfast event a fortnight ago. Being able to address a subject that is so close to my heart with my ideal audience was like receiving a gift!
Speaking to the members of the Cape Chamber of Commerce was a great experience –the group of over 50 people were clearly engaged with the information I was sharing and I received some great questions afterwards.
The most exciting aspect for me was how interested people seemed in making their products and services inclusive to those with disabilities, whether it be in making their websites more accessible to visually impaired customers, or in understanding how to make their workplaces accessible to those with a mobility impairment. And we touched on a related topic that’s very close to my heart – that of increasing employment of persons with disabilities.
My hope is that I’ll have the opportunity of engaging more with members of the Cape Chamber, either as a group or in their individual capacities, whether it’s to give them information on the accessibility of their websites, facilitate an assessment of the physical accessibility of their workspace, or to come and speak (formally or informally) to their teams about disability, diversity and inclusion.
My thanks to Bruce Wade and Linda Roopen for giving me the opportunity of speaking to members of the Cape Chamber of Commerce. I certainly hope it won’t be the last time I do so! XXXXX
I’m often surprised at how unaware customer service agents are when assisting people with disabilities. They often make assumptions about what I can and cannot do – like assuming that, because I can’t see, that I can’t sign my own name… or create an invoice for work that I’ve done for them, or type in my credit card code to approve a payment. Come on, people – I’m only blind!
I guess that’s a little unfair of me – after all, is it fair to expect them to know what is and is not possible for someone who’s blind, especially since we’re all different and have different strengths and abilities. So, yes, I guess it’s hard for a customer service agent to make a call on what assistance to offer.
On the other hand, surely it makes sense for organisations to provide at least some basic training for their employees who may come into contact with customers who live with a disability? Because it appears to me that a frighteningly small number of companies in South Africa do so.
Over the past few months I’ve been involved in customer service training projects for two large organisations, Vodacom and Uber. In each case the aim of the project was to develop a training video to demonstrate how to engage with a blind person with a guide dog. Neither video segment was long or complex. However, I’d be willing to bet that both will provide a valuable tool for customer service training in the future.
Of course, one has to ask the question of whether there is a need to train staff in how to engage with the disabled community – after all, how many disabled people are they likely to come into contact with? A recent article in Disabled World lists the number of people in Africa living with a disability at around 10%. Isn’t it in the interests of every company to provide basic training to their employees on how to engage effectively with these potential customers?
The image shows my guide dog Fiji and I with the team responsible for shooting the Uber Assist video.
Contact me to find out more about how your company could make their customer service agents more effective when engaging with blind and visually impaired customers. Let’s start the conversation…