Speaking up about the right to communication this Speech Pathology Week

Posted 2 years ago by Anna Christian
Speech Pathology Week’s theme this year is ‘Communication is everyone’s right’. [Source: Shutterstock]
Speech Pathology Week’s theme this year is ‘Communication is everyone’s right’. [Source: Shutterstock]

This week the speech pathology community is raising awareness of the rights of every person to be able to communicate.

From August 22-28, during Speech Pathology Week, the focus is on the 1.2 million Australians who have a communication disability which affects their capacity to either understand or be understood by others and impacts their quality of life.

There are four important points for all Australians to learn for this week; communication is a basic human right, communication disability is largely invisible, confident communication helps with education, health and social outcomes, and communication is not just about speech.

Speech Pathology Week’s theme this year is ‘Communication is everyone’s right’ and aims to highlight the impact the COVID19 pandemic continues to have on people who can communicate more effectively when face to face with others.

Speech Pathology Australia wants to use the week to spread awareness that people with communication disability always have the right to be heard and recognised without judgement, whether the world is dealing with a pandemic or not.

Tim Kittel, the President of Speech Pathology Australia, says the isolation felt by people with communication disability in pre-pandemic times has been increased by recent stay at home orders and mandatory masks.

“If one in seven Australians are having difficulties understanding and using language, their entire ability to access and influence the world is impaired,” Mr Kittel says.

“People who can’t communicate, who can’t understand information, or who can’t structure coherent arguments, are ultimately at risk of being overlooked, and not having their rights respected.”

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics children under 12 years of age and older people over 65 years of age make up 75 percent of people with a communication disability.

Children are also four times more likely to have a profound or severe disability than older people.

Without the ability to communicate people struggle to control their own lives and may not be able to express what they need or want to live happily, Mr Kittel says.

“Success within entire systems including health, education, and justice, rely on the ability to communicate effectively,” he says.

“When people can access information, they are in control. 

“They can make informed choices and ask questions.

“We recognise that it’s important to be able to read and understand text, but we also need to recognise that being able to listen and speak is just as vital.”

Speech Pathology Australia provides a list of tips for successful communication to ensure people with communication disability are understood:

  • Treat the person with dignity and respect

  • Be welcoming and friendly

  • Understand there are many different ways to communicate

  • Ask the person what will help with communication

  • Find a quiet place to communicate in

  • Listen carefully

  • When you don’t understand let them know you are having difficulty

  • If you think the person has not understood you, repeat what you said in a different way

  • Ask the person to repeat what they are trying to communicate if you don’t understand and try using ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions

  • Check with the person that they have understood you or if you have understood them correctly

  • Wait for responses to your questions

  • Be patient

  • Make eye contact if the person is comfortable with it

  • Speak normally – without a raised voice or slowed speech

For more information visit Speech Pathology Australia.