Gippsland Regional Communication Service – local, effective and valued

Staff and management of Gippsland Regional Communication Service celebrate their service at the end of 2019

Gippsland Regional Communication Service started in 2005.

Over the years the service has become an integral part of local communities in the geographically large area of Gippsland.

Working in partnership with people with communication disabilities, the Regional Communication Service has identified opportunities and needs in the local community and worked to address them.

A huge number of mainstream services (such as local bus and transport companies, emergency response workers, tourism providers, hospitals, primary health providers, and local government offices), as well as disability-specific services, have been able to improve their access and responsiveness to people with communication disabilities through their work with Gippsland Regional Communication Service.

Great work, Gippsland Gals!

Meg Irwin (Communication Access Network Coordinator)

Building communication access in the community: Lived experience makes a difference

Nateace has been working for several years with the Communication Access Network. She has been a member of the Southern Loddon Mallee Regional Communication Service Steering Group and is currently a Communication Access Symbol Assessor. From time to time, she also works with Southern Loddon Mallee Regional Communication Service to train community organisations in communication access.

As a person with lived experience of communication disability, her contribution to training is highly valued. Organisations willingly pay her to co-train with the Regional Communication Service (The Regional Communication Service is funded via the Victorian Government with no cost to community organisations).

Nateace oversees group work at a recent Central Goldfields Shire training in Maryborough

Meeting people with communication disabilities helps staff understand the barriers people with communication disabilities face. Staff also gain skills and confidence to communicate with everyone.

Workers try getting their message across without speech

Before their successful Communication Access Symbol assessment, Nateace was involved in training City of Greater Bendigo staff,

In their evaluation feedback, City of Greater Bendigo staff said they found all aspects of their two hour workshops useful:

role playing to simulate the experience of people who do not use speech to communicate

observing and role playing real work scenarios using communication aids and strategies

learning how to use the City of Greater Bendigo communication books.

And they especially highlighted the value of Nateace’s presence:

“It was great having Nateace there to ask her questions that you wouldn’t normally get the chance to ask”

“Great getting real life advice from a person who isn’t able to speak and listening to her life experiences”

“It was most useful having Nateace there as we didn’t have to make up scenarios we could practise with Nateace”

“Great having Nateace there to demonstrate.”

“I now know that it is okay to ask someone with a communication difficulty if there are other ways that we could communicate with one another, I know it isn’t offensive to ask.”

Meg Irwin Southern Loddon Mallee Regional Communication Service

More awards by Woodend Communication Access Group

The Woodend Communication Access Group have been out and about! This time they have made awards to two small businesses in Gisborne.

First they went to Mr and Mrs Shoe who provide podiatry services and also sell footwear.

The reasons the Woodend Communication Access Group finds Mr & Mrs Shoe communication friendly (from their certificate).

Then the Group visited Autocopy Printing.

The Woodend Communication Access Group with manager and staff of Autocopy Printing, holding their reasons for the award: Autocopy Printing staff talk directly to us, are friendly, listen to us, and are respectful, and we can find things.

Woodend Communication Access Group are keen to see and support communication access everywhere.

Meg Irwin, Southern Loddon Mallee Regional Communication Service

Communication Access at Brimbank Libraries

The North-West Regional Communication Service (NWRCS) recently worked with members of the Brimbank Disability Network to evaluate the communication accessibility of Brimbank libraries. St Albans, Keilor, Sunshine, Deer Park, and Sydenham libraries were all involved.

It’s great to have community members with complex communication needs so passionate about making community services accessible to everyone.

Megan providing feedback on her library audit experience

How did the project start?

The North West Regional Communication Service met with the Metro Access and Libraries Coordinator from Brimbank City Council. We spoke about Communication Access and the importance of having people with disabilities involved in the projects.

We decided to work with the Brimbank Disability Network to do an evaluation of the libraries and provide recommendations about what is needed to improve the experience of people with disabilities.

Each person involved had a meeting with the North West Regional Communication Service to talk about Communication Access and the project. Then each person went out to the libraries and used a ‘Library Audit Form’ or other tools to record their experience.

        

Community consultation meeting

Community consultation

After the the library audits were completed, a meeting was organised for everyone to share their experience at the libraries. The Libraries Coordinator from Brimbank City Council came to the meeting to listen to everyone’s experiences and suggestions.

Feedback

There were many positives but also some areas for improvement.

The group spoke about:

  • How staff can have better interactions with people with disabilities
  • The use of communication boards at the library
  • Signage and wayfinding
  • Having written information available in Plan Language or Easy English
  • Physical accessibility

This has given Brimbank City Council lots of information about ways to improve customer experiences at Brimbank libraries.

Where to next?

The North West Regional Communication Service aims to continue to work with Brimbank libraries to create inclusive and accessible environments for everyone.

Stephanie Popovich, North-West Regional Communication Service

Everyone contributes

Steph Bryce North West Regional Communication Service

Take Pride in Your Hub – Yooralla Community Hub St Albans

Yooralla Community Hub in St Albans has been an active part of the North West Communication Coordinator Network for the last 3 years.

Communication Coordinator, Rui, recently introduced a ‘Chores Chart’ with the aim of increasing participation and engagement at the ‘Hub’ and providing opportunities for participants to learn new skills.

How was the Chores Chart made?

There is a lot of planning that goes into designing a communication aid!

Rui carefully thought about:

  • The aim of the chores chart
  • Who will use it
  • What it will look like
  • Where it will be displayed
  • How it will be implemented
  • Who will be responsible for updating it

Scope’s Non Electronic Communication Aid Service supported with the creation the ‘Chore’s Chart’.

How has the Chores Chart been implemented?

Rui used lots of different strategies to make sure that everyone at the Hub was on the same page and knew how to use the chores chart. Rui introduced the chores chart in customer meeting to explain how it works and find out how many participants were interested in being involved. Rui also presented the chores chart in staff meetings to explain what is expected of the staff. Each morning Rui showed staff and participants how to use the chores chart.

Have there been any barriers?

Rui reflected that some staff feel that it’s more efficient to do the task on their own. Rui is doing a great job of reminding staff that the purpose of the chores chart is to support participants develop new skills and create meaningful engagement. 

What have the outcomes been?

Yooralla Community Hub has noticed lots of positive changes since the chores chart has been introduced.

Staff have noticed a decrease in behaviours of concern and an increase in interaction and engagement.

Participants are also learning a variety of skills, for example:

  • Being an OH&S Officer
  • Updating the program board
  • Laundry
  • Recycling
  • Gardening
  • Being a Traffic Controller

Fun at the Pool for everyone

Swimming is stressful for some people. How can we make it more enjoyable?

Jocelyn, a Gippsland Regional Communication Service speech pathologist, happened to be at the local pool. She watched as staff struggled with a patron who did not want to swim. Jocelyn had made social stories about swimming lessons for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and parents had reported they were very helpful. Jocelyn figured an adult version could also help adults with cognitive and communication impairments prepare for their pool visit. They could know in advance what the pool looks like, who will be there, and what will happen. 

Draft: Preparing for what might happen at the swimming pool

The facility management were quick to jump on board and support the project. Resources are being prepared right now! There will be a standard book that can be given to anyone, as well as a template that can be personalised with an individual’s own photos.

When the resources are designed, Jocelyn will seek feedback from community members and facility staff before finalising the books.

Expect more happy splashing in the local pool!

Communication Access Symbol awarded to City of Greater Bendigo: What Next?

Maintaining Communication Access at CoGB

City of Greater Bendigo has met the Standards to be awarded the Communication Access Symbol at their three main Service Centres in Bendigo and Heathcote. Their front doors now sport the Symbol.

So what next?

To continue to meet the Standards, City of Greater Bendigo will complete self assessments prior to another external assessment by Scope in 3 years.

In order to keep up the good work, City of Greater Bendigo has an identified Communication Access Champion (as part of her current work). She makes sure:

  • new staff complete CAN’s Communication Access E-learning package as part of their induction process
  • staff and customers regularly review communication aids and the aids are updated
  • documents for customers are in accessible formats
  • signage is clear
  • customers are asked for feedback on how communication accessible they find City of Greater Bendigo’s service desks
  • the Regional Communication Service provides more training for staff as needed

Well done, City of Greater Bendigo!

PS Did you know that the Inclusive Towns project, funded through an NDIS Information, Linkages and Capacity Building National Readiness Grant, has been extended? On 1 August we heard that half a million dollars had been allocated to the new “Champions for Change” program across Mount Alexander, City of Greater Bendigo, and Loddon shires to promote employment of people with disabilities to local businesses.

Hospital Passports for people with disabilities

Hospitals are big and busy places. When people with specific needs or communication disabilities have to come to hospital, problems can arise. Research has repeatedly demonstrated poorer health outcomes for people with intellectual disabilities than for the general community.

Bendigo Health wanted to improve the way it provided services to this group and to others who faced barriers because of cognitive and/or communication barriers. The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services provided a grant to employ a project worker.

The Regional Communication Service was consulted as the project was getting off the ground. We provided information about the range of strategies and solutions in Augmentative and Alternative Communication, support, information access and way finding which have been used in other hospitals around the world.

The first and second pages of the Bendigo Health Hospital Passport

It was decided that the first strategy to try was the Hospital Communication Passport. This is a template developed in the UK for use in the Hospital setting. It provides information about how the person being admitted communicates, how to best support them, and who this person is as a person. It means that staff who read it, especially if they do so before the person arrives, can make the admission much more successful.

Over a couple of years the project worker (who was a speech pathologist) adapted the template for local use, spoke to many forums, formed partnerships, visited workplaces where people with disabilities were supported, spoke to people with disabilities, trained hospital staff, and did all the work that was needed to get the template to be used effectively.

The Regional Communication Service was involved along the way, in particular, with feedback from disability service staff and people with disabilities in the community about how the implementation of the Hospital Passport was going.

Last month, the project worker finished her work. Use of the Hospital Passport is now embedded in the Hospital’s procedures.

Read more about the Hospital Passport used by Bendigo Health at https://www.bendigohealth.org.au/disability_or_special_needs/

Southern Loddon Mallee Regional Communication Service

Workers learn to support people with disabilities to communicate effectively

East Hume Regional Communication Service

Nineteen participants attended a morning of information and activities designed to raise awareness about communication difficulty.  Kelsey and Meredith provided strategies that support people to communicate more successfully, including an introduction to Key Word Sign.

Signing together

Participants included disability support workers, parents and family members of people with communication difficulty, and NDIS support coordinators.

Communication with Key Word Sign

Here’s what some participants said about the training:

“it is very important for all disability support workers/community services to attend this type of training; especially support workers”

“Good short course, great to have 2 presenters!”

“Very descriptive and covered areas interesting regarding my employment”

“ Very entertaining and informative…”

More workshops are planned in other LGA’s including Wodonga and Alpine

Better communication

Hi, I’m Hannah Chalker, a Communication Coordinator supported by North West Regional Communication Service at Distinctive Options. I have interviewed several of our participants and they have given permission to share what they said.

They talk about their perspectives about challenges they face, what works well and ideas on how we can communicate better together. Let’s hear what one person (also called Hannah!) said.

Hi, my name is Hannah. I  am 20. I live with PKAN, which affects my ability to move my tongue and means I can’t form words clearly.

Hannah

Q: Do you struggle to communicate to others? Do people struggle to communicate with you?

Yes, people don’t always understand me, even if they know me well. I often don’t have my tablet (which has a speech app) accessible, as I don’t have anywhere handy to put it. 

People who don’t know me don’t speak to me. They will speak to whoever I’m with, because they don’t understand what I’m saying.

Q What is your biggest barrier to getting your message across?

Not always having my tablet handy to use my speech app.

Q What have you found to be the best way for you to communicate to people who don’t know you well?

My Verbally app, talking really slowly and gesturing.

Q What are some annoying things that people do when communicating with you?

  • Speak to me like I’m a baby; e.g. “Hello sweetie”
  • Speak to the person with me, instead of to me
  • Not giving me the opportunity to talk back because my phone is in my bag.

Q Do you have any advice for people who feel nervous to speak to you?

Just speak to me like you would any other 20yr old.

Q What can people do so you feel included in conversations and activities?

Look at me if you’re talking to me or ask me something and give me time to answer. Get my tablet out so I can talk back.

Thank you Hannah!

(Since this interview, Hannah has new tags on her wheelchairs which say ‘Please get my tablet out of my bag for me’ . She gesture to them any time she needs to.)