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)
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.
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.
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