With face coverings now part of everyday life in the Covid 19 climate, communication between people has become more difficult. For the 30,000 people in the north who live with speech, language or communication difficulties, the battle for hearing and understanding is the norm, and the new restrictions have only marginalized them further.
To make life easier for people with this invisible disability, a new communication access symbol is introduced today. Created for businesses, organizations and consumers with in-depth training and standards.
The blue symbol that wears two people face to face is from the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) working with a number of organizations including the Stroke Association, Headway, and the MND Association.
The Stroke Association’s local branch, which supports stroke survivors who may be living with speech, language, and motor impairments such as aphasia, dysarthria, and / or apraxia, has already adopted the symbol. It is hoped that the symbol will be as widely recognized as its wheelchair counterpart and that it will be used in public transportation and in businesses such as banks, shops, restaurants and hotels.
Scotland is currently at the forefront of becoming an accessible communications nation, having already introduced an inclusive communications law to its new Social Security Agency and Consumer Protection Agency. With the introduction of the communication access symbol, businesses and organizations in the north now have the opportunity to join the cause of accessible communication.
Those who take the free online personal, phone, and online customer service accessible training course will be granted the right to view the communication access icon. This shows their personal commitment to having all of their customers’ needs at the center.
One person who hopes the opportunity to learn new communication skills will be widespread is co-down husband Paul McLean. One man’s father suffered a stroke in 2016, a few weeks after his 40th birthday.
Paul, whose stroke was caused by a blood clot in the brain, underwent a revolutionary procedure called a thrombectomy at the Royal Victoria Hospital. This successfully removed the clot. But the stroke left the former school teacher having difficulty communicating and although he has recovered well, he still has problems with reading and writing, memory and language.
“I have strategies to deal with,” explains Paul. “For example, I feel better in the morning, but as the day progresses and when I get tired, my words become blurred and I make more mistakes.
“I prefer to do things like interviews or speak early at a conference. If you tried to talk to me in the evening, you would think you were talking to a completely different person.
“My reading is like that of a seven year old. I use audiobooks but I can be confused about where I am. Aphasia is not just about reading and writing, it’s also about how you are
“Now I’m losing parts of the audio book because my memory is so bad. I couldn’t tell you what I had for dinner last night. ”
After his stroke, Paul’s speech was severely impaired. But he had a few words and could say his name. He received great support from the local stroke team, including the speech and language therapist and occupational therapist. Paul also participated in the Stroke Association’s Communication Plus program.
Although his communication skills are much improved now and are better at the start of the day, Paul may still have difficulty making himself understood. This becomes all the more evident in public. For this reason, he is very interested in the new communication access icon being adopted by companies and employees in customer service.
One particular incident occurred to him when he was feeling frustrated and tearful and wishing he had a trained agent to turn to for help.
“As part of my rehab, I was sent to a supermarket to buy 10 items,” says Paul. “There were signs, but I couldn’t read them.
“I looked for tomato ketchup but was confused and couldn’t understand the words. I tried to ask and a woman turned around, but I pretended I hadn’t talked.
“I then tried to say ‘red sauce’ and the woman noticed that I was speaking. I could see she was trying to help, but I was struggling to communicate. She asked me if I was okay. That’s when I rose.
“I was so overwhelmed by the amount of signage and my inability to seek help due to my aphasia that I left.
“This is where the communication access icon would have been useful to me. It’s a fantastic way for people to learn new communication skills that increase their awareness of language, language and communication needs and give people like me the assurance that we will be treated like any other customer. ”
The tendency of people here to speak quickly, combined with the need to wear face coverings now, to complicate experiences such as shopping or public transport, becomes even more difficult for people with communication problems.
Paul says he often finds himself in situations where employees don’t have the skills necessary to communicate with him. For someone who needs to feel safe and comfortable in social settings, doing so can adversely affect their recovery.
“In general, people are understanding and friendly, but the lack of awareness can lead to increased stress,” he says. “I remember another occasion when I was trying to buy a coffee and someone asked me if I was drunk.
“When Covid-19 arrived and most forms of communication went online, I was faced with a new hurdle. I had to break new ground to talk to or contact people.
“We are all individuals. Nobody communicates in the same way. There is no such thing as normal, so we should all be heard and heard. The communication access symbol helps us all to be heard. ”
According to Ceara Gallagher, office manager at RCSLT NI, Covid-19 and wearing face masks have shed light on what many people take for granted – the ability to communicate well.
She believes that the new symbol will make communication “everyone’s business” and that society in general has a duty to “take responsibility” and do whatever it takes to make life easier and richer for those who have difficulty communicating close.
The online training is open to anyone who wishes to do it, is easy to learn and free. It offers simple ideas on how to interact, slow down the language, speak clearly, give people time to ask questions, and learn the art of listening.
“We all need to be aware that many people can have difficulties communicating,” she says. “If someone is in a wheelchair or has a physical disability, we can see that and meet them. But if it is a communication impediment, it is invisible.
“Difficulty communicating can be very stressful for a person and affect daily activities such as B. go to the store or get on public transport. The symbol encourages greater awareness of communication difficulties and helps people feel more involved and heard.
“The training describes the obligation that we educate ourselves and the rest of society to be more understanding, patient and supportive.
“We want to encourage as many organizations as possible to consider introducing the communication access symbol to enhance the day-to-day experiences of people with communication needs.”
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