Monthly Archives: May 2018

Communication Access using eLearning – An Update!!

A while ago, we wrote about our Communication Access eLearning Package to teach businesses about how they can improve their communication accessibility.  We worked with Carl Russell, a gentleman living with communication disability, to develop the training.

This is the title page of the presentation.

This is video in the presentation of Carl telling his story.

This slide talks about the different types of communication boards that people can use.

Following an extremely successful pilot with a local council, a further 95 people working across the West Hume have completed the training.  These people work at businesses including councils, Visitor Information Centres, aquatic centres, neighbourhood houses and medical clinics.

We originally had some issues with Internet speed, but this has been fixed with the training now completed offline.  We also changed some of the content to include some wonderful video clips that were created by Speech Pathologists from the Gippsland and Inner South Regional Communication Services.

Highlights of the feedback we have received to date are:

  • 85% said their knowledge of Communication Access had improved “greatly” or “somewhat”
  • 100% said “yes” or “somewhat” to feeling more confident to speak to someone with a communication disability
  • 96% completed the training in 1 hour or less
  • 82% liked this style of training and 97% would recommend the training to others

For our service, the main benefits have been less travel time meaning more time can be spent on other projects; and being able to reach a much larger audience compared to if we only offered face-to-face training.

Karen Oswald

Technology and You Forum

Eastern Regional Communication Service took part in a successful forum in Ringwood organised by Maroondah City Council “20 minute neighbourhoods” Project Officer, Fiona Burridge. The event, titled “Technology and You” explored the rapidly changing technological advances that are impacting on people with communication difficulties and other disabilities.

Maroondah City Council partnered with EACH, Eastern Regional Libraries, Sage Hotel, Uniting lifeAssist and Yooralla’s Regional Communication Service to run community information sessions on how technology can be useful for people with disabilities.

Topics included:

  • Communication and networking
  • Work and creativity
  • Home automation
  • Independent living

Special guest presenters, carer, Garry Hills along with his son, Christopher, talked about their experiences using technology, how it changed their lives and how it may work for others. Christopher has severe cerebral palsy with head control his only reliable movement. He uses head switches to communicate and to control everything in his environment. He runs a successful video editing business. Chris is an Apple ambassador and showed the new emojis that Apple has submitted to the emoji dictionary.

See Chris on YouTube:

Melinda Spencer (who cares for three teenage children on the autism spectrum) spoke about how technology helped them all, as a family, to become more independent and confident in everyday activities.

The Maroondah Council NDIS Transition Coordinator spoke about how technology fits into an NDIS plan, particularly to improve independent living skills and community access.

Also two sessions, one in the afternoon and one in the evening, offered opportunities for everyone to meet and speak with the speakers and community partners.

At the Communication Access Network table, we demonstrated apps for communication such as the  Key Word Sign and Tools2Talk apps, as well as other memory and organisation supports. There was also information on the Communication Access Symbol and how organisations can work towards it. More than 40 people spent time at the CAN table discussing apps, trying them on the 3 ipads, and asking about community resources for people with communication needs.

The afternoon session was booked out with 100 participants and the evening attracted about 80.

Bronwen Jones

Eastern Regional Communication Service (Yooralla)



Give and take: Making a difference and developing skills – Students in a Regional Communication Service

Mietta and Sarah, before becoming fully fledged speech pathologists, did a final placement with the North West Regional Communication Service in 2017.

They really enjoyed it and learned heaps.

And they contributed heaps as well!

In one project, they made choice boards and community request cards to use at McDonalds. These aids enabled people with communication disabilities to choose and order their food and drink themselves. This was a new accomplishment for several people!

The McDonalds staff still use the record sheet the students designed. The students have moved on, but the record consistently shows more people communicating more often and more independently at this McDonalds!

In another project, the students held a “signing lunch” for workers at a health care facility to promote Key Word Sign. They made resource materials and handouts and taught some signs to staff.

Click here to download the Key Word Sign Lunch Vocabulary sheet

Everyone was filmed signing “Give me a Home Among the Gum Trees”. They were learning and having fun.

Click here to download the Key Word Sign “Give me a home amongst the gum trees” sheet

As well as working on projects, the students regularly spent time at a day service for adults with disabilities.

Mietta and Sarah said;

“At first, trying to communicate with people with moderate to severe levels of communication disability was quite overwhelming.

But we quickly found we couldn’t wait to get there each day and work with these wonderful people in supporting their communication. We felt privileged to see that our work was really making a difference.

Being able to communicate is so central to the quality of life of all people.  For people with disabilities, effective communication skills and tools are essential to be included and to be able to participate in their community.”

The Service’s managers reported that they were delighted with the input the students were able to provide for a number of participants.

A father was very happy with the students’ contribution to one young woman’s  independence on the train.

Mietta and Sarah said that they would always remember and value the placement.

And they showed that, through a community capacity building approach, students can make a lasting and positive difference for people with communication disabilities and their communities.