Every week, Authorized Cannabis Retailers across Ontario are opening new cannabis stores. And with each new store comes an opportunity to foster inclusivity by removing accessibility barriers and providing a truly welcoming environment for all cannabis customers. This month, we spoke to a Retailer who keeps inclusion at the centre of his business. And we’re shedding some light on what Retailers can do make their stores more accessible to consumers.
Currently operating in Brampton and Uxbridge, Cannabis Xpress has put inclusivity and accessibility at the heart of its commitment to customer service. With plans to open five additional stores by fall 2021, president and founder Chris Jones is always thinking about the customer experience first. Jones wants everyone who enters his stores to feel welcome, valued and respected, and knows the best way to achieve this is by creating equitable in-shop environments.
While searching for new store locations, Jones has prioritized newer and shell-form buildings that are easier to customize with accessible entrances, washrooms and spaces in store. Finding physical locations that are both centrally located and have modern accessibility features hasn’t been easy, but Jones sources grants and funds from municipalities offering accessibility incentives to companies to help reduce barriers to his business.
Jones’s commitment to inclusivity doesn’t stop with the physical store space: His diverse staff is trained to provide tailored accessible customer service for people with disabilities. “It is important to us that everyone feels welcome, and that’s possible by having a store with accessibility features,” he says. When choosing locations, Jones says accessibility for customers and staff is one of the top criteria. That means selecting a store with accessible or easily convertible washrooms and ensuring entrances are easy to navigate and can be monitored by staff.
It’s important to include accessible design from the outset. Here’s a refresher about accessibility industry standards in Ontario and best practices all retailers can incorporate.
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) standards, established in 2005, is intended to reduce and remove barriers for people with disabilities so that Ontario can become more accessible and inclusive for everyone. Collaboration among businesses, organizations, communities and all levels of government is key to reaching this goal. When implemented, the standards reduce and remove common barriers for people with disabilities, making it easier to fully and equitably participate in society. Looking ahead to a more accessible near future, the goal of the province is to be fully accessible by 2025.
To meet this goal, Retailers across the province, including Authorized Cannabis Retailers, must meet a number of accessibility standards, more information on which can be found here.
Accessibility at the Ontario Cannabis Store
At the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS), we are committed to meeting the accessibility needs of people with disabilities in a manner that is consistent with the principles of independence, dignity, integration and equal opportunity. Our Ontario Cannabis Store Multi-Year Accessibility Plan outlines how we’re providing an accessible and barrier-free experience for people with disabilities
Here’s how we’re meeting accessibility requirements:
- All OCS employees and individuals who provide goods, services or facilities on our behalf participate in customer service training specific to the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation under the AODA, and the Ontario Human Rights Code.
- Depending on customer needs, we provide alternative formats and communication tools upon request. Some methods we offer include audio format, large text, accessible PDF and Braille.
- Our website OCS.ca complies with the World Wide Web Consortium Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 and is compatible with assistive technology.
- We are an equal opportunity employer and are committed to providing reasonable accommodation throughout the recruitment process and during employment.
- We welcome feedback about the accessibility of our services.
Learn more about Accessibility at the Ontario Cannabis Store.