Monthly Archives: June 2019

Communication Access at the Royal Melbourne Hospital – Royal Park Campus: A Communication Access Consultant

As a new member of the North West Regional Communication Service, I have been privileged to be involved in and experience the positive impact that the Regional Communication Service has on services/local communities and their members that service individuals with complex communication needs.

Donna experienced a stroke 2 years ago which left her unable to speak. Since this event, she has been using her iPad, specifically the app Proloquo2Go, gestures, photos, and writing to communicate with her friends, family and members of the community.

The North West Regional Communication Service has recently partnered with the Royal Melbourne Hospital – Royal Park Campus to present training regarding communication access to new staff members. The aim was to equip new staff members with the skills and knowledge to communicate with individuals with complex communication needs. This could not have been done without the help and courage of a communication access consultant, Donna.

Stephanie and Donna

Donna played a major role in delivering the training. She began by sharing her personal experiences after her stroke: frustration and isolation when people could not communicate with her successfully and sadness when people treat her differently. She also shared her new expertise: the importance of having strategies and alternative communication methods to foster successful communication and interactions.

Staff marveled at Donna’s proficiency in using the Proloquo2go app and also discussed ways in which they could improve the current communication boards to better suit people who have communication disabilities or difficulties. 

Donna with the Royal Melbourne Hospital staff she mentors

Donna has a new-found confidence in sharing her story with a variety a people that interact with individuals who have complex communication needs. She continues to support these staff to enhance their skills in communicating with people who have communication difficulties.

Stephanie Popovich, North West Regional Communication Service

Happy Ninth Birthday, Stroke a Chord Choir!

Stroke a Chord Choir is celebrating nine years of educating communities about stroke and aphasia – and of bringing joy to members and audiences.

This unique choir of stroke survivors with aphasia (loss of speech after stroke) began in 2010. The choir is supported by Maroondah’s Metroaccess worker and the Eastern Regional Communication Access Network speech pathologist. The choir began after Wendy Lyons, a stroke survivor herself, noticed that some people in her stroke group couldn’t speak, but could sing. The choir is conducted by a qualified music therapist and has had ongoing commitment from talented and passionate volunteer musicians.

Though remaining unfunded, the choir has hit many high notes, including a documentary film, several pieces of research, a book of members’ stories, as well as numerous performances including 8 large annual concerts. The latest achievement was a combined choir performance at Hamer Hall for an audience of 2000 people.

The choir has inspired several similar “aphasia” or “neurological” choirs to form in Victoria, Australia and even worldwide, with a Facebook page “Aphasia Choirs go global”, which is co – hosted with international specialists in music, speech and the brain.

Listen out as this small choir makes a big noise – singing its way towards a decade of inspiration!

Communication Access at the City of Greater Bendigo

The City of Greater Bendigo Service Desks Communication Access Symbol assessment is probably happening right now! Good luck everybody!

The City of Greater Bendigo has a population of more than 110,000 people. A few years ago, it identified communication access as an important part of its Community Access and Inclusion Plan. It requested support from the Southern Loddon Mallee Regional Communication Service.

Initial planning and training took place with the Manager of Customer Support and some selected “champions” working on the City of Greater Bendigo Service Desks.

Other Managers were informed and consulted about City of Greater Bendigo’s actions to achieve communication access.

One of the CoGB Service Desk Communication Book produced in collaboration with Service Desk staff and clients by the Regional Communication Service

The Mayor and Councillors and the Disability Inclusion Reference Committee were informed and reviewed the communication aids. The website was reviewed and changed.

By the start of 2019 City of Greater Bendigo service desks in three locations felt nearly ready for assessment.

City of Greater Bendigo promoting its communication access initiatives

In the first half of the year, the Regional Communication Service and City of Greater Bendigo staff worked hard to realise their goal to be awarded the Communication Access Symbol at the three main Service hubs in Bendigo and Heathcote.

Early in the year the Regional Communication Service observed and reported to City of Greater Bendigo managers on communication accessibility at the Service Desks. This led to some meetings with managers, to review results and plan responses.

The Regional Communication Service worked closely with the Customers Support Manager to make sure commercial picture communication symbols were properly acknowledged, to create explanatory material for the public and staff, and to organise staff training, including pre training questionnaires and tasks, pre and post training evaluations, scenarios for inclusion in training, and payment for the co trainer, who was a Communication Access Assessor and an Augmentative and Alternative Communication user.

The Regional Communication Service planned the training with the Communication Access Assessor. Four two hour trainings were delivered so that all staff at Bendigo and Heathcote Service Desks could attend.

Evaluations indicated that the training was highly valued overall. Participating in scenarios and roles plays, learning to use communication aids, learning how to interact with people with communication disabilities, and being able to ask a person with communication disability questions were all repeatedly commended. Everyone reported that they would recommend the training to others. 

The Communication Access Symbol

After City of Greater Bendigo receives its award, the Regional Communication Service will continue to support the sustainability of communication access. For example:

  • There is an identified champion who will review important elements of communication access provided by the Regional Communication Service regularly.
  • Links to CAN videos have been provided to enable new staff to understand communication access and old staff to refresh their knowledge.
  • There will be further liaison with City of Greater Bendigo Education staff who attended the training to ensure continued staff support.
  • The Regional Communication Service is involving other local organisations who can help resource the City of Greater Bendigo in communication access.

We hope more City of Greater Bendigo services will be developing their communication access.

Now another local government area has approached the Regional Communication Service for communication support, after seeing what the City of Greater Bendigo has done.

Meg Irwin, Southern Loddon Mallee Regional Communication Service

Increasing communication access at Information Centres in Gippsland

Bairnsdale Information Centre with the new symbols displayed

The Gippsland Regional Communication Service has been working with East Gippsland Shire Council’s Information Centres to increase communication accessibity. This is part of the council’s commitment to communication accessibility across all of its services.

Bairnsdale Information Centre has been the first Centre involved, with a view to roll out strategies across the Shire.

Bairnsdale Information Centre is an information hub in the centre of Bairnsdale. It is a resource for many international and Australian travellers. As well as providing information on local tourist activities, it helps travellers with logistical issues and with booking local accommodation. It also provide travellers with physical disabilities with information and links them to local resources to enable them to participate in tourism activities.

Information Centre staff had noticed some communication breakdowns in the centre. For example, travellers often made requests that indicated they were not aware of the Centre’s services. For example, it was not visually apparent that the Information Centre was able to book accommodation or that it offered free WIFI. All signage within the building was in written English words only, which was difficult to understand for people with low literacy or limited English. Staff also reported that several travellers daily asked for directions to public toilets (located outside of the building). This indicated that wayfinding signage could also be improved.

The Gippsland Regional Communication Service worked with staff to address these issues. Signage readability was increased by using visual symbols with written language. Symbols of  services provided by the Centre where displayed in the centre. Improved signage and a simplified map to direct travellers to the toilets made wayfinding easier.

The project is ongoing, but communication accessibity has already improved at Bairnsdale Information Centre. Feedback from both staff and travellers has been positive. This is another example of how small changes in a service environment can increase communication accessibility for everyone in the community.

Mel Newcomen, Gippsland Regional Communication Service