Wimmera Health Care Group’s chief speech pathologist Brooke Pay fully backs a Speech Pathology Australia call for greater action to ensure communication accessibility for the 1.2 million Australians with a communication disability.

“Like mobility or wheelchair access, communication access is enabling people with communication disorders to get their message across by removing barriers to effective communication, or providing extra support and strategies,” Ms Pay said.

“Communication access is vital to enable everyone to participate fully in the social, educational, economic and sporting aspects of community life in the region.”

That’s why during Speech Pathology Week, from 19-25 August, Wimmera Health Care Group is highlighting the week’s theme: Communication access is communication for all.

“Communication is a basic human right and Australia needs to do more to achieve communication access for those with a communication disability,” Ms Pay said.

“Communication, by definition, involves at least two people. People with communication difficulties often experience communication barriers to their full participation in community life. This may lead to social and emotion isolation.”

There are 1.2 million Australians with a communication disability. Ensuring communication accessibility for these Australians means they are treated with dignity and respect.

“People with communication difficulties communicate with others using a variety of means, including word-based or picture-based communication boards or books, sign and gesture, and spelling,” Ms Pay said.

“Technology plays a growing and vital role in keeping Australians with communication difficulties engaged with their family, friends and others in the community.”

Assistive technology such as electronic communication and speech generating devices, voice amplification and computer access aids (including eye-gaze mouse control and head tracking devices) allow people with communication difficulties to communicate with those around them.

Information from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) indicates that some 235,000 people with a disability use electronic or non-electronic communication aids for reading, writing and speaking (this does not include hearing aids).

“When people are denied a voice for political reasons, we take action. When they are denied for accessibility reasons, it often goes unnoticed. None the less, we all have a responsibility to uphold others’ right to communicate in daily life in order to enhance equality, justice and human dignity.”

“Our communities need to be accessible for everyone, including people with communication difficulties, physical disabilities, reading difficulties, vision impairment, hearing impairment and intellectual disability,” Ms Pay said.

“Building communication accessibility will ensure that everyone is treated with dignity and respect. When we create communication accessible communities, everyone gets the message.”

For information about Speech Pathology Week visit www.speechpathologyaustralia.org.au/week

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