supporting customers with disabilities

By Eliza Booth, Journalist, Energy magazine

With one in five Australians estimated to be living with a disability, it’s important for companies to be inclusive and understanding to the needs of their diverse customer base. Energy bills can be confusing at the best of times but for some Australians understanding the difficult language that comes with their bills can be a daunting task. With a new set of guides developed by AGL and disability support organisation Scope, customers now have access to important information about their energy usage and bills.

For customers it’s important that they have access to important information concerning their bills, so that they can make informed choices about their usage and payments. Unfortunately, there can be a lot of information that is difficult for people to understand, with walls of text and unfamiliar words causing stress for customers.

In an effort to be more inclusive and sensitive to the needs of consumers, energy company AGL has developed a set of guides which aim to assist customers in understanding their energy bills. In collaboration with disability support organisation, Scope, the easy English guides were developed with the aim of providing accessible information using simple language, clear fonts and images.

The easy English guides were designed using evidence-based best practices, including employing and liaising with people with low English literacy, to create a simplified source of information without unnecessary jargon.

The guides were developed for a range of audiences, including the estimated 44 per cent of Australians who have difficulty reading and writing, including people with intellectual disability and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. With large, clear fonts and images, the guides are also a useful tool for the elderly and people with low vision.

By providing customers with information written in easy English and accompanied by helpful images, people are able to do everyday tasks like banking, paying bills, and using online services.

AGL Customer Advocate, David Bland, said that the guides help empower people to make informed decisions when it comes to their energy usage and bills.

“Energy is complicated, and bills are at times difficult to understand, so it’s so important we meet the needs of all of our customers,” Mr Bland said.

“We conducted research with the University of Melbourne and the Thriving Communities Partnership into improving access and support for consumers with cognitive disabilities.

“We have developed eight guides, covering reading bills, energy efficiency and payment support options, in a style that provides understandable and concise information for people with low literacy.”

With people currently spending more time at home, understanding how to be energy efficient and save money is a big priority. With the assistance of the easy English guides, customers will be able to engage with their usage and make informed decisions for themselves and their families.

To further assist customers who speak little English or who have a different first language, AGL have also translated some of their easy guides into commonly spoken languages including Chinese, Vietnamise, Italian, Korean and Arabic.

The guides themselves break down different topics, highlighting common difficult words in blue and providing helpful explanations. They also highlight important information with images and provide information on who to contact in an emergency. There is also a section at the end of each guide where customers can write further notes to assist them in the future.

AGL have also made the guides on energy efficiency available to other energy companies to help them assist their own customers and to maximise the benefits of the guides across the community.

“We are sharing our energy efficiency guide with other energy retailers, generators and network operators so they can also help their customers understand how they can manage their energy use,” Mr Bland said.

By providing consumers with tailored information, customers are able to experience a better quality of customer service and feel more empowered when it comes to their energy usage and bills. Adapting to the needs of customers is an important step to become a more inclusive world.

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