Call for greater access for people with communication disability, similar to that apply for wheelchair users. A forum was held in Melbourne recently to explore interest in developing communication access standards and how this could be advanced in the future.

Speech Pathology Australia, national president, Gaenor Dixon said the community has failed to accommodate those with a communication disability in the same way it has for physical disability and wheelchairs. “There is a strong case for individuals, governments and organisations to do more,” she said. “For businesses, measures can include clear signage including symbols as well as words, the use of plain English and staff training.”  Generally, help depends on the communication difficulty that comes down to rephrasing a question in simple language, giving extra time or using pictures, write, sign and gesture or symbols. “Ultimately, speech pathologists believe the best way forward is to develop national standards on communication access, so everyone can get their message across,” she said.

Compared to the general population, people with communication support needs are more likely to be unemployed or underemployed, have difficulty accessing education and healthcare services or be misdiagnosed or misjudged as not able to comprehend.

 National Disability Services, Monash Health, Autism Spectrum Australia, Cerebral Palsy Education Centre, Children and Young People with Disability and Disability Discrimination Legal Service were among the 17 organisations that attended. A range of video case studies to raise awareness of the issue were also shown at the forum.