Our local councils are such a central part of community life and it is so important that everyone has the equal opportunity to access their services. I have been approached by a number of councils recently in my region to work with them on their journey towards becoming communication accessible and it is excellent to see their commitment to creating more inclusive environments for people with communication difficulties.
Holding a Silent Morning Tea has been a great place to start with a number of the councils, including Brimbank City Council, Maribyrnong City Council and Hobsons Bay City Council. The Silent Morning Teas have been a lot of fun, but most importantly have resulted in increased awareness among the staff about what it can be like to have a communication difficulty, and it has got people brainstorming together about how to make their services more communication accessible.
Council staff getting into the spirit of the Silent Morning Tea
Training is a great ‘next step’ to build on staff communication skills, work on resource development (such as communication boards and maps) and make changes to the environment (such as reducing background noise) to ensure that everyone has the chance for successful communication. Hobsons Bay Libraries and Moonee Valley City Council have recently received training so that staff can start using these new strategies into their day to day work and Maribyrnong City Council, have developed customised communication boards for their different reception areas.
One of the most important practices that the Councils are embracing is consumer involvement, and they are doing this in a number of different ways. A recent example comes from Moonee Valley City Council, who engaged local residents through a focus group where they asked for local residents with communication difficulties to give feedback on their experiences communication with council over the phone and then took immediate steps to put these recommendations into place.
It is very exciting seeing all the wonderful work that is going on with local councils at the moment while they continue along their journey towards communication access. Stay tuned for updates!
By Julie Kenny