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Special needs

Guidance for serving customers with disabilities

Hearing-impaired customers may use assistive technology to overcome communication barriers with USPS employees.

The Postal Service is reminding employees and contractors that they are expected to treat all customers with respect and to always offer helpful service.

This expectation includes providing prompt and courteous service to customers who may have hearing, visual, physical or mental impairments or language barriers.

Although USPS remains a lifeline for millions of people during the coronavirus pandemic, those who are deaf or hard of hearing might find it even more challenging to communicate with others while wearing face coverings.

However, hearing-impaired customers may use assistive technology to overcome communication barriers with postal employees.

For example, special software is available on cellphones that transcribes speech or text. This allows deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals to read the questions being asked of them.

It’s important for employees who deal with the public to remain flexible and allow customers to use tools such as these to complete their transactions. Using these tools also aligns with the organization’s policies on maintaining social distancing in USPS lobbies, which protects employees and customers alike.

The Postal Service recently distributed a stand-up talk that contains this information, along with these tips for employees:

• If you aren’t being understood, try using another word, hand gestures or writing it down.

• If a person who is hearing-impaired uses sign language and has an interpreter with him or her, continue to speak directly to the hearing-impaired individual. The interpreter serves as a tool to facilitate communication.

• Don’t pretend that you understand the person when you don’t. Mistakes can be costly.

• Treat adults with disabilities as adults. Don’t patronize them.

• Listen to any instructions the person may want to give you.

Employees who deal with the public should also accept persons with disabilities as individuals, entitled to the same respect and treatment they would want for themselves. It is against the law to discriminate on the basis of a disability.