Selling the communication access message. From a man with a nose for business

My name is Corina, I am a third year speech pathology student at Australian Catholic University. I am currently on placement with Yooralla’s eastern regional communication service which is part of the Communication Access Network (CAN). My supervising speech pathologist is Bronwen Jones. Together, we are working on the communication access project for the Monash City Council.

CANsymbolWe are working with five libraries and two local council customer service areas to increase their awareness of the barriers to communication for individuals with little or no speech. The library and council staff will receive training and information about communicating effectively and making people with communication difficulties feel welcome. The services will then be an assessed by people with communication difficulties. If successful they will earn the right to display the communication access symbol.

During my time with Bron, I was introduced to Matt Simpson. Matt wanted to be employed on the communication access project for Monash City Council but he needed a more effective communication system.  Matt has cerebral palsy and very limited speech. He cannot use his hands to access things and he gets around his house on his knees. He is an intelligent, exceptional individual who has developed great independence and management skills. Matt lives by himself, manages his own carers and has created his own successful online retail business that has customers worldwide. Matt does this all from home with the use of his very handy, pointy nose that he uses to type, point and scroll around a page. I was extremely impressed with Matt’s unique abilities, his independent way of living and all his achievements.

matt-1Matt has an extraordinary communication access set up at home that includes numerous computers and televisions. He has different methods of communicating for business and personal interactions. He mostly uses e-mail for business but has some face to face meetings with business associates once they have gotten to know him via e-mail. He communicates with others primarily by typing his messages via a keyboard and it displays on a widescreen TV in his lounge. This allows Matt to get the correct message across to his carers and visitors.

Matt accesses the community by himself and had been using a small paper alphabet board to talk to people. Unfortunately, lots of people weren’t aware of how to use it with him. Matt needed something more obvious for his community outings and something with voice particularly for business and regular council meetings.

Bronwen and I introduced Matt to a Nova Chat speech output device. This is provided by Yooralla’s Aids and Equipment Program through the Electronic Communication Devices Scheme. The Nova Chat provides Matt with a lightweight, portable, speech output communication device he can carry on his wheelchair and use as a voice for daily communication out in the community. He has already programmed it with a page of pre-stored information about his life and interests and another page with his professional biography for business meetings and work opportunities

matt-2Matt will be using his Nova chat as a main communication device when working on the Communication Access Project. He will assist Bronwen and I to train library staff, customer service representatives and members of the council. Using the Nova chat will enable Matt to successfully participate in delivering the project and provide him with his own voice and the opportunity to input his own thoughts and opinions. I know he will have a big impact on a lot of people.