Improving Communication Access in our Local Community

By |2018-10-01T23:01:52+10:00October 1st, 2018|Speech Pathology|

Here at Southern Highlands Speech Pathology (SHSP) and Southern Tablelands Speech Pathology (STSP) we strongly recognise communication as a basic human right and strive to assist our clients to achieve the best of their communicative abilities in every aspect of their life.

In 2016, Speech Pathology Australia (SPA) initiated the ‘Speech Pathology 2030- Making Futures Happen’ project. From this, the ACT/NSW branch of SPA has focused on aspirations from the project, including ‘access for all’ and ‘communication accessible communities’.

SHSP and STSP have recently sent letters to both the Wingecarribee and Goulburn Mulwaree councils to encourage a greater focus on individuals living with communication disabilities within their Disability Inclusion Action Plan (DIAP).

Here is a copy of the letter we sent to the Wingecarribee Council for your interest:

Wingecarribee Shire Council
Attn: Human Resources,
Director of Community Services
68 Elizabeth St


Dear Madam/Sir,

Re: Disability Inclusion Action Plan for your organisation – Communication Access

As a member of the NSW Branch of Speech Pathology Australia, the professional association for speech pathologists, I understand that your council has recently been required to form a Disability Inclusion Action Plan, under the commitment of the NSW Government, Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) to improving the lives of people with disability in NSW and to work towards a fully inclusive society for all.

We commend you for the development of a DIAP in your locality and for your work in reducing and removing barriers for people with a disability, in order to foster a more accessible and inclusive community. An important segment of our community includes people with a communication disability and can involve people with developmental or acquired communication disabilities that might limit their capacity to speak, understand others, read or write, and in turn, impacts on their ability to interact and participate in society.

Communication is an essential part of what it is to be human and without it, our quality of life is greatly diminished. Being able to communicate successfully is critical for our dignity, our happiness, and our development. As a fundamental human right, communication is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 19). We tend to take it for granted until we lose it. If the right to communication is taken from people forcibly, for example, through the actions of a government or other form of authority, community outrage will be swift and loud. If that right is denied due to an illness, injury or other disorder, it often goes unnoticed even though 1 in 7 of us will struggle with a communication disorder at some stage in our lives. ABS data highlights that around 1.2 million people in Australia have a communication disability. Ensuring communication accessibility for these Australians means they are treated with dignity and respect.

This is one of the reasons the theme for Speech Pathology Week 2018 was “Communication access is communication for all”.

Communication disability can include those born with cerebral palsy or specific syndromes that might affect their speech or language abilities, people with hearing impairment, intellectual disability, those who stutter or perhaps those who have lost their voice through laryngeal cancer, trauma or other illnesses. In addition, acquired communication loss through traumatic brain damage, brain tumours or stroke can restrict a person’s abilities to comprehend, form or articulate their ideas, and communicate socially with others. People with communication disabilities may communicate with others using a variety of ways, including by verbal means, through signs and gesture, and through the use of augmentative or alternative communication devices, such as communication boards or computerised speech production devices. Communication access is the fundamental focus of our profession’s work.

As a speech pathologist I am deeply committed to advocating for and facilitating the rights of people with a wide range of communication disabilities in speaking, understanding and communicating inclusively. Communication accessibility is crucial for people to be able to communicate and to participate as fully as they are able in society.

Speech Pathology Australia is working to create public and organisational awareness of the rights of all people to be heard and to communicate, and as one strategy, to make more communities communication accessible.

Communication accessibility, like physically accessible buildings, means that everyone is able to access information and communicate in a way that will be understood by everyone. Speech Pathology Australia is advocating for the introduction of national standards which, when implemented across our community, will facilitate successful communication for any individual, experiencing any type of communication difficulty. The end goal is to see such standards incorporated into legislation, much like the International Symbol of Access (wheelchair symbol) has been for physical access.

With this letter I have included some general information about communication access and the speech pathology profession. On the next page are some general tips for communicating with people with a communication disorder. They are a simple and easy starting point and a great place to start a conversation in relation to your council’s commitment to planning for or implementing the requirements of the Disability Inclusion Act 2014. I would be pleased to meet with you and discuss what speech pathologists can offer to make our community a more communication accessible place for everyone.

I look forward to your response to discuss how I can contribute to your planning or training for Disability Inclusion. I can be contacted directly by telephone on 4862 5063.

Yours sincerely,


Jordan Duncan


On behalf of Kate Hanrahan, Ellie Jones, Mikaela Bow, Jessica Cooper and Connie Feng

Southern Highlands Speech Pathology

Member of Speech Pathology Australia, NSW Branch

E-mail: Phone: 4862 5063 Address: 2/2A Walker Street BOWRAL NSW 2576


ATTACHMENT 1 : General tips for successful communication*

  • Always treat the person with the communication disability with dignity and respect
  • Be welcoming and friendly
  • Understand there are many ways to communicate
  • Ask the person with the disability what will help with communication • Avoid loud locations, find a quiet place
  • Listen carefully
  • When you don’t understand, let them know you are having difficulty understanding
  • If you think the person has not understood, repeat what you have said or say it a different way
  • Try asking the person yes or no questions if you are having difficulty understanding them
  • Ask the person to repeat or try another approach if you don’t understand • To make sure you are understood, check with the person that you have understood them correctly
  • If you ask a question, wait for the person to reply
  • Allow the person time to respond, so always be patient
  • Speak directly to the person and make eye contact. (Though be mindful that there are some people who may not want you to look at them, e.g. some people with autism spectrum disorder)
  • Speak normally. There is no need for you to raise your voice or slow your speech.

*Source: Adapted from SCOPE, Communication for All Booklet,

We will keep you all updated with any responses we receive.

If you are an individual with a communication difficulty or provide care to someone has a communication difficulty, please feel free to let us know of any ideas you might have to help us get started in making our communities accessible for communication.

We can be contacted via e-mail at  or via phone on 4862 5063.