Audio interview: Communication access as a human right - Part 1
My name is Lisa, and I have an acquired brain injury.
I chose to interview Scope as it is a disability organisation dealing with, among other things, communication.
Disability is an evolving concept, which results from the interaction between persons with impairments and the attitudinal and environmental barriers that inhibit their full and effective participation in society.
On an equal basis with others, persons with disabilities are supposed to have the dignified and enjoyable freedom of expression through all forms of communication of their choice.
When we think about communication impairment, we may think about what skills a person can learn to help them communicate and what tools they can use.
For example, a lot of community work has been implemented to enable some people with disabilities to solve the mystery of social encounters by recognising the keys and emotions of others, making use of the various information providers, including information through the internet.
What if we focus on communication as a right?
This being the case, and as a fundamental element of human society, which includes measures of freedom of expression, it then quite naturally includes the freedom to seek and pass on information and ideas on equal basis with others, through all forms of chosen communication.
To realise this right for all people with a disability, may mean working with a variety of parties, from government departments to family businesses.
This involves understanding the various aspects required by an organisation, in terms of customer satisfaction and staff confidence.
My interview with Maree Ireland and Barbara Solarsh from Scope doesn't focus on the provision of disability services. It focuses on the right to communicate.
I have been working with Scope and the Communication Access Team.
My role is to co-present training, to conduct communication access audits, and to represent Scope and people with communication difficulties at different forums and on accessibility committees. Until June 2019, I worked with Field, a registered training organisation, for ten years. I have a law arts degree, and prior to my position at Field, I worked in the disability advocacy sector for several years.
I believe creating communication access in our communities is our next major challenge.
I use the Litewriter to talk, which is a voice synthesiser to communicate.
Scope’s mission has extended beyond care and support of people with disabilities, to a broader human rights approach. It also reflects the belief that people with disabilities themselves have the capacity and skills to really influence and change people's attitudes and the way people interact with them. This is particularly relevant for people with communication disabilities.
People with communication difficulties, work alongside speech therapists, training staff and conducting communication access audits at services and organisations. These audits ensure staff include, accept, respect and engage with all people with disabilities.
This is at the heart of communication access.
How important is it to see the person with all their diversities, their character and physical abilities?
How important is to see the possibilities for the person rather than the barriers?
If we do this, then each individual can develop a positive self-identity and belief in themselves to do what they want to achieve. With this positive identity, they can then develop the determination and strength to identify and negotiate any barriers in the way of their goals. By putting people with communication difficulties at the centre of all the communication access work we do, Scope is playing a key role in getting this message out.
When we do our training, it may be the first time a staff member has communicated with someone who uses a communication device. Before, they may have ignored the person and interacted only with their companion.
Now they can see how damaging assumptions are.
Staff have the chance to talk to us, ask us any question they wish, and learn from us. And they leave the training changed.
We ask participants, what was the most useful part of the training? The answer is always meeting and talking to the presenter with the communication disability.
That sounds great.
I'm a speech pathologist.
I work at Scope, and for the last almost 20 years I have been leading the Communication Access Initiative.
Each of the communication access trainers deliver a personal story, and so they see that person in all their diversity. And all their rights to be part of that community. And it's really eye-opening for them to hear how people are ignored, dismissed, not spoken to, and not really considered a person with whom they could communicate.
There really is a change in people after they have participated in this training. They really do see things differently.