Tag Archives: easy english

Working together to Build Communication Access – There’s a communication aid for that!

The Communication Access Group in Bendigo was initiated by Southern Loddon Mallee Regional Communication Service (see our July, September & October blogs) in partnership with Distinctive Options, a day and lifestyle service. But the Group couldn’t have happened without Kharlie, Communication Coordinator and Disability Support Worker!

Kharlie worked closely with the young women in the Group, getting to know them well and supporting them to use communication aids and strategies and to learn about communication access in the community. Kharlie stayed in touch with the Southern Loddon Mallee Regional Communication Service and went to Communication Coordinator Network meetings. Distinctive Options provided time every fortnight for Kharlie to develop communication  aids and resources. The Communication Access Group, and others supported by Distinctive Options, got the benefits.

Here are just some of the things Kharlie developed:

  • Picture based (individual) choice boards
  • Picture and object based shopping lists
  • Picture based what to bring lists to prepare for outings
  • Picture based instructions such as safety in the kitchen
  • Picture based routines such as arrival or washing the dishes
  • Community request cards (shared and individual)
  • Who here photos of everyone (both participants and staff)
  • Picture based activity planner so everyone can plan the details of what will happen and have an accessible way to remember it
  • Picture based story guides for individuals such as a road safety book for one participant

And she’s inspired others:

Now staff include pictures in notices to go home. That means participants have more access to information that concerns them.

Now one member of the Communication Access Group gets resources organised to ensure that staff and participants keep developing more communication strategies.

Over the year, Kharlie’s understanding of communication strategies and contribution to communication access has grown. She will be able to support Distinctive Options to be an even more inclusive and innovative service for participants with little or no speech into the future.

Communication Access using eLearning is launched!

A big focus of the Regional Communication Services around the state has been Communication Access. Communication Access is about making our communities more accessible for people living with communication difficulties. The role of our service is to support businesses to become more Communication Accessible. This can involve staff training, developing communication boards, advice around signage, and support to develop written information in an accessible format (e.g., Easy English). Previously, we have trained staff at businesses face-to-face. A barrier identified by businesses with this method was being able to back-fill staff so they can attend training. With our very large geographical area, training dozens of staff from different businesses was difficult due to travel time.

In partnership with Carl Russel, a gentleman living with communication difficulties, we designed an eLearning Package to be piloted at a local council. This package essentially has the same content as the face-to-face training which covers communication strategies, other tips to make businesses more accessible, and Carl speaking about his experiences. Using iSpring, an add-on to PowerPoint, our face-to-face training was converted into presentation with voice recordings and video clips. The presentation was then published to a USB stick, mailed out along with instructions, and voila – staff can complete! The training takes around one hour and can be completed when this suits the business. We anticipate that eLearning will reduce issues around staff cover; and eliminate hours of travel meaning more people in our community can be trained.

Those who have completed the training so far have said that they really liked the eLearning format. Unfortunately, access to YouTube and Internet speed has been a barrier but we are working on having the training available offline.

This slide talks about communication strategies to use when speaking to a person with communication difficulties.

This slide talks about communication strategies to use when speaking to a person with communication difficulties.

This is a slide from the presentation. The link takes you to a YouTube clip of Carl telling his story.

This is a slide from the presentation. The link takes you to a YouTube clip of Carl telling his story.

By Karen Oswald

West Hume Regional Communication Service Speech Pathologist


Easy English Training launched in the West Loddon Mallee

1On the 18th of March this year, the West Loddon Mallee Regional Communication Service launched its first localised Easy English training module in Swan Hill. This was followed by another short session where participants could bring their practise documents to share with each other and problem solve together.

Due to the success of our first training session and high public interest, we held a second training session in Mildura on 20th May.

Participants of both sessions came from a wide variety of community organisations including the Local Councils, Private Health clinics, Community Legal Services, Community Support Services, Early Learning Centres, and more.

All reports from attendees were very positive. Participants reported gaining more awareness of the literacy skills of the general community and reported that the statistics were an “eye-opener.” Some also felt they gained an awareness of the fact that how their documents are currently written are “often not fit for the audience”, and that they need to make sure the message that is delivered is actually received.

The groups reported finding the training well balanced, and described it as an “enjoyable, interactive and practical workshop.” Some felt they had gained a skill that will help them to “better engage their clients”.

By the end of the session, some had set high goals for themselves when asked if there was anything they intend to do differently when they return to work as a result of the workshop:

“Re-designing Service Brochure within 2 months”.

“Update Client Services Handbook by June 30 2016”.

Very soon after the first training session in Swan Hill, Sharon and I received great examples of Easy English documents that attendees were working on and requests for pictures to add meaning to their documents. It’s very rewarding to know that the training has made a difference to how the participants intend to communicate with their audiences from now on.

The fact that our community is so willing to take on advice of a different way to convey their messages to the public, a format which looks so different to any they have used in the past, is very encouraging to us as Regional Communication Service practitioners.

Some participants even expressed interest in attending the Communication Inclusion Resource Centre’s two day intensive Easy English Writing Course. It’s reassuring, to know our community is so willing and committed to engaging our members who require accessible information in order to fully participate, and gives us proof of our continually developing “communication friendly” community.

Emma Douglass & Sharon Champion

WLC RCS Speech Pathologists


Easy English training received with great enthusiasm

East Hume Regional Communication Services rolled out Easy English Training to regional organisations wanting to improve access to printed information for all their community members.

Team members from Community AccessAbility Wangaratta, Upper Murray Family Care and Interchange Wodonga and Wangaratta attended lunch time sessions held in Wangaratta and Wodonga.

Up skilling staff within their Wangaratta and Wodonga offices was high on the agenda. Attending the training session is just the beginning to helping these organisations learn ways to develop “Easy English” resources for their clients. 

Community AccessAbility is an organisation utilising contributions from over 220 volunteers to deliver programs to the 12 Shires of the Hume region of Victoria and provide services and programs including:- Community Transport, Volunteer Friends and Getting There Network.

Upper Murray Family Care (UMFC) and Interchange is a vibrant and diverse organisation whose primary goal is to strengthen, nurture and care for children and families throughout North East Victoria and the Upper Murray. Some of their services include Aged and Disability Support Services, Child and Family Services, Family Relationship Services and Foster Care.

The training sessions were a fantastic way to introduce team members to the “Easy English” opportunities and styling when developing brochures and service documents required in everyday use.

Anna, Brooke and Maddy complete the activity of creating some “Easy English” phrases.

Anna, Brooke and Maddy complete the activity of creating some “Easy English” phrases.

Staff were keen to engage in the activities delivered and the feedback focused on including more of these “hands on activities” as they felt it helped them to adjust their thinking and use plain language.

Feedback from the whole presentation was positive with staff able to discuss what documents they could start to produce in “Easy English”

“It was good having two presenters to create a balance”

“Good balance of activities and information on the power point”

“This training session made me realise we need to think differently about not being “pretty” with our documents but clear and concise”

By Justine Waite East Hume Regional Communication Service