Tag Archives: communication disability

Building for the Future – A local training organisation focuses on communication support skills in their Cert IV in Disability

In 2015 there were 4.3 million Australians living with disability, and over one-quarter (1.2 million people) had a communication disability.

The Certificate IV in Disability provides students with the skills and knowledge to work effectively with people with disabilities in a range of services. Students learn to develop and implement programs that empower people with disabilities to achieve greater independence and well being. Students later work in residential group homes, training resource centres, day respite centres, other community settings or people’s homes.

Many training organisations across Australia do not include optional communication units in their Cert IV Disability courses, but Federation University in Ballarat recognised that skills in communication are very important. They wanted their students to know more about communication and the different ways people can communicate.

This year, Grampians Regional Communication Service is working with Federation University for their Certificate IV in Disability, aiming to give students a more “hands on” experience of AAC devices and communication strategies.

The VET Teacher for Disability & Community Services and the Regional Communication Service speech pathologist are working together, focusing on developing student skills in identifying communication needs and implementing strategies to support communication needs.  Students will have an opportunity to try, experience and ask questions of a range of AAC devices, enabling future disability support workers to support others with their communication needs. Students will get to experience diverse AAC, such as Talking Mats, chat books, communication boards and books, community request cards and key word sign as well as speech generation devices. Assignments and lectures have been designed to have a more realistic feel and to focus on facilitating and supporting communication to increase independence and participation. Students are also informed of resources available such as allied health professionals, visual supports, Communication Access, Easy English and the National Relay Service. 

For more information on Federation University’s Certificate IV in Disability see: https://study.federation.edu.au/#/course/DLLA

By Georgie Turner, Grampians Regional Communication Service

Working Together to Build Communication Access –          Our First Award!

The four young women taking action on communication access in Bendigo (see last month’s blog) have made their first award to a local small business for being so communication friendly.

They regularly visit the Terminus Milkbar in Golden Square. They have always felt respected and have been able to communicate successfully without speech.

The staff were delighted with the certificate. They put it up where everyone could see it.  

Presenting the certificate

Using the communication board to explain:  “You are welcoming, take time to communicate, talk directly to us, and listen really well.”High fives all round!Everyone is proud

Southern Loddon Mallee Regional Communication Service

Working together to Build Communication Access – an update

In July we wrote about the Communication Access Group in Bendigo.

In the first half of  2018, These four young women got ready to work for more communication access in their  town.

The group is supported by the Southern Loddon Mallee Regional Communication Service and Distinctive Options.

What’s happened?

The Regional Communication Service has continued to attend the group each month. The trained Communication Coordinator in Distinctive Options has continued with the group.

The group has steadily built skills. It is now easy for group members to identify items on picture  communication displays and use them to communicate their opinions and wishes.  (Through using the communication aids, some members of the group are saying some more  words and recognising more symbols and printed words.)

In August, the group contributed to a video. It showed people from all over Victoria using communication aids. The video was for Speech Pathology Week, which had the theme “Communication access is communication for all”. Group members showed community request cards and a communication board in the video.

Makng the video: Bendigo’s fountain and community request cards

In September, the group consulted on communication aids being developed by the local water authority. They were paid for this work by Coliban Water.

After reviewing the details, this group member was happy with the communication book

The Group also prepared to acknowledge good communication access at a local small business. They used a communication board to identify the good things the business does so that everyone can communicate.

A communication board to talk about communication access

The Group is now well on its way and contributing to communication access in Bendigo!


3 Days without speech for a Speech Pathologist

North West Regional Communication Services’s Steph Bryce decided to take a three day challenge of communicating without speech.

It was a way to raise awareness among her colleagues at IPC Health. It also gave her a chance to partially “walk in the shoes” of people with communication disabilities.

Steph reflected on some things she noticed…

It helped to have an introduction card.

It explained how she was communicating and why. It  provided the context for communication partners. Then they made more time to communicate.

It was natural to use many methods to communicate. 

Steph found that she  pointed to objects, typed out words, used facial expression and gesture –  often all in the same sentence!

At home, communication methods were different – and it was easier.

Steph used a ‘text to speech’ app on her iPad to type out messages. She found she used the iPad much less at home. There, she relied on gesture, facial expression and yes/no questions. It was quicker and required less effort.

There were a number of things to consider with communication technology.

Steph tried a few different text to speech apps and found apps with better predictive text easier to use.

She was speaking with an English accent (which did not suit her!) because the easiest app had no  alternative voice options.

She used an external speaker. The volume on the iPad was not sufficient for noisy environments or large groups.

She had to make sure that the iPad was charged at every opportunity. And she had to remember to take it everywhere.

Steph’s colleagues learnt a bit about communication and alternatives to speech. They are looking forward to working with the Regional Communication Service to improve communication access at IPC Health. 

Let’s talk about the TAB and Pokies – Equal Access Extra Risk

Did you know people with disabilities are at a much higher risk of developing problem gambling? 1 Yet, limited information about this risk has been available for people with disabilities and the people who support them.

Of the disability support workers we surveyed only 30% were aware of the increased risks of problem gambling for people with disabilities, yet 60% reported that they attend Pokies and TAB venues with the people they supported. This is not surprising, because in East Gippsland, like most rural places, the only place you can get a well-priced, decent meal is at a pub, of which the majority also have pokies and the TAB.

Equal Access Extra Risk is a grassroots project that aimed to highlight the risks of electronic gambling amongst people with disabilities. It came about through discussions by a group of people with disabilities, their families and a Gambler’s Help counsellor to “do something” about this important issue.

equal access extra risk

Mel, Peter and MaryLou presenting
“Equal Access Extra Risk” at Noweyung in Bairnsdale

With the support of the Gippsland Regional Communication Service, the group created a 30 minute presentation about the higher risks of problem gambling for people with disabilities and strategies to reduce this risk. The intended audience was people with disabilities without gambling problems and their support people who often guide decision making around leisure activities for people they support.

A Building Inclusive Communities grant was secured from the East Gippsland Shire Council which enabled the presenters with disabilities to be paid for their work. Eight presentations occurred across East Gippsland and one in Sale, Wellington. Venues included Adult Training and Support Services and Planned Activity Groups. A total of 127 people with disabilities and 25 support workers were reached.

The presentation had an impact on its audience with participants sharing their experiences. “I thought once a week would be fine (to go to the Pokies). I also thought everybody was the same, no one group would have more of a problem with gambling,” said a support worker from Bairnsdale.

Following the presentation many support workers reported they would change their work practices including choosing venues without pokies machines. “(I will) source venues who offer cheaper meals that don’t have pokies machines,” said a support worker from Lakes Entrance. Others reported to be more aware of the increased risks of problem gaming for people with disability.

The presenters reported positively about their experiences taking part in this project. “I’m proud, “I’m happy,” presenter Peter Ward said about doing this presentation.

Equal Access Extra Risk is a project that promoted community participation, leadership opportunity, and economic engagement of people with a disability. It enabled 3 people with a communication disability to develop and present presentations about the risks and strategies of safer electronic gaming for people with disabilities and their supports and present across East Gippsland and Sale.
1 Gambling effects 2 in 100 of the Australian population and 7 in 100 of people with lifelong disability, and up to 25 in 100 of people with an acquired disability. (Gambler’s Help information brochure)

By Mel Newcomen Gippsland Regional Communication Service.

Carl’s story

Carl using his lightwriter

Carl using his lightwriter

Carl is a very intelligent, inspiring gentleman who lives in Tatura. He has not been able to talk for some years now as the result of a brain injury. Carl’s Lightwriter is his voice – a small, typewriter like device that converts text into speech. We were fortunate to meet Carl through Cuppa and Conversation, a group for people living with communication disability held in Shepparton.

Carl very kindly spoke with us about the advantages and disadvantages of living in a small community, his “love/hate” relationship with his Lightwriter, and the challenges of living with a communication disability.


“I guess most of the benefits of being in a small community surround the fact that most of the locals know my story, so they are aware of my disability and that helps with their patience in conversing with me and so on. Some of the disadvantages are the lack of anonymity in that people have certain expectations that may not always be good ones. One of the biggest barriers to access to services that I experience is the difficulty the person on the other end of the phone has when I make phone calls. Even though I might pretype out what I want to say they just don’t have the patience that is required for me to type out an answer to a question etc. Patience is the greatest skill that someone without a communication difficulty needs to have when communicating with someone who uses AAC.”

“The most challenging part after the accident was the inability to talk because it is so isolating. For example, even my closest friends post-accident have basically deserted me because I’m not much fun to be around. The Lightwriter is an essential piece of kit for me. It is my voice. I have a real love/hate relationship with it. Love because it provides me with a voice and a way to express myself to the outside world but hate because I have to type out everything that I want to say and that takes time; so I find that conversation gets pared back to very basic and direct forms and it doesn’t flow like it should. As well, it is not good in group situations because the natural speakers conversations tend to leave you behind. It’s just a fact that we don’t realise how fast our speech is; even if I was an A grade Typist, which you can see that I’m definitely not, I don’t think this problem would be eliminated.”

By Karen Oswald