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Kelowna man with cerebral palsy vows to make customer service better for people with disabilities

Michael Haines is using a bad experience he had while being served in Kelowna 45 years ago as fuel to help make changes in the service industry. Michael Haines

A Kelowna man with cerebral palsy has been on a mission to help businesses improve their customer service skills for people with a disability.

Cerebral palsy is a movement disorder that can appear in early childhood and limits mobility and speech. Despite living with the cruel disorder, Haines is taking every day in stride.

“I’m really proud of the work I’ve done,” said Kelowna resident Michael Haines. “I feel like I am making a difference.”

Haines says he’s willing to travel anywhere within the Okanagan, or host his sessions over Zoom, to provide businesses with the tools and skills to improve their customer service by being more empathetic when serving those with a disability or challenge as Haines prefers to call it.

He’s also created a website and written an e-book called ‘How To Serve Customers With Disabilities.’ The idea to make a difference came to him 45 years ago, after a bad experience during a night out with a friend in Kelowna.

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“I was out at a pub with a friend of mine, and he ordered his meal, and without looking at me the waiter said to my friend ‘What would he like to eat’ as if I had no brain,” said Haines. “He had no idea of my intelligence.”

Click to play video: 'Queen’s University students help break barriers for individuals who identify with a disability'
Queen’s University students help break barriers for individuals who identify with a disability

As disheartening as the experience was, Haines said it helped open his eyes, propelling him to push for change. Back in 2019, Haines offered his coaching services to Tourism Kelowna. The training was so impactful that the business made improvements to their visitor centre, adding accessible automatic double doors at the front entrance, an accessibility entrance on one of their washrooms and a height-adjustable service desk.

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In October, Haines was also asked to speak at a retreat in Osoyoos for Community Living BC.

“I talked about how they can help people like me,” said Haines. “I love travelling and spreading my message.”

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Overall, Haines says his message is simple.

“People are people, and everyone has different needs that need to be met, and if they’re not being met, they’ll go somewhere else.”

According to a survey done in 2022 by Stats Canada, it revealed that 27% of Canadians aged 15 years and over, or 8 million people have one or more disabilities that limited them in their daily activities.

To view Haines’ website or to check out his e-book, click here.

 

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