Scarborough Tim Hortons Canada’s 1st with Order Assist

The discomfort felt by people with hearing or speech impairments when ordering at food joints might soon be over.

The Tim Hortons branch at Kennedy Road and Hwy. 401 is catering to its hearing- and speech-impaired customers to ensure they feel more welcomed and at ease.

Owned by disability advocate Mark Wafer, the branch is Canada’s first Tim Hortons to have a device installed for customers with special needs.

With this device installed for the drive-through, they don’t even have to come inside or get out of their car.

— La Shown St. Louis

Order Assist has since been installed in Wafer’s four other Tim Hortons stores in the GTA. It’s also proven helpful to people with language barriers, such as immigrants or tourists.

“Usually with customers that have hearing deficiency or something like that, they have to come inside the store if they want to order,” said store manager La Shown St. Louis. “But with this device installed for the drive-through, they don’t even have to come inside or get out of their car.”

By the numbers

According to the Order Assist website, 6,500 people who are deaf or hard of hearing were asked about their experiences at restaurant drive-thru.

Here’s how they replied:

  • 42% said they leave without buying anything.
  • 94% said they would be a lot more willing to go to a restaurant or food establishment that installed a drive-thru system to improve access for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Order Assist allows customers ordering in drive-through lanes to press a button and inform staff they have either a hearing deficiency or language barrier. Employees are alerted through a signal in their earpiece and a light that turns on inside the store. Customers are directed to pull up to the window where they receive an Order Assist form to write their orders. Regular customers receive several forms at once to save time.

“It’s not just much easier for them, it’s much easier for us, too,” said employee Michelle Munawa. “When the order is written down for you, there’s no miscommunication.”

Munawa recalled serving a customer with speech impairment before the device’s installation.

“[The customer] had a hard time placing his order all while the line-up behind him grew,” she said. “Sometimes you don’t know how to communicate with them.”

Employees had to undergo several trainings sessions before the device was set up.

“We learned that you have to know how to be patient with them, and not cross their personal boundaries,” St. Louis said.

The store does not only extend special accommodations to customers, but to potential employees who may have disabilities themselves. There are many people with disabilities who have been employed at the Kennedy branch.

“We really believe in giving everybody an equal opportunity,” St. Louis said. “It’s the right thing to do.”

About this article

By: Maya Akbay
Posted: Apr 30 2012 9:39 pm
Filed under: Arts & Life

3 Comments on "Scarborough Tim Hortons Canada’s 1st with Order Assist"

  1. Peter Monty | May 14, 2012 at 5:21 pm |

    Congratulations to Tim Hortons. A real step forward in communications accessibility!

  2. I appluad the progress.

  3. Camille Edwards | May 14, 2012 at 11:59 am |

    What a great idea and hopefully all other drive-thrus will do the same. Accessibility is coming to Ontario and Tim Horton’s is leading the way.

Comments are closed.