Tag Archives: People with disabilities

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

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.)

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!

Preparing for NDIS Planning with Regional Communication Service Support

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) has been described as the biggest change in social services in 30 years and offers people who have received very little services in the past the opportunity to access life changing funding. But big changes can be disruptive and a bit scary, and the question on everyone’s mind is how to navigate the planning process to ensure that loved ones get the funding they need.

Planning for an NDIS planning meeting is one of the most important things people can do to ensure they get funding for communication supports that will make a difference in their lives. So, the North West Regional Communication Service has been offering  information sessions to support people to do this. Two information sessions have been run, and included information and discussion about setting goals, the range of communication aids available and where to go for support. These sessions were attended by adults with disabilities, their families and support workers. Many of the people who attended had not accessed speech pathology services in a long time and were excited about the possibilities that are now available.

Exploring communication aids and strategies

The information sessions generated a lot of discussion about how to navigate a new system that can seem quite alien and daunting. People who attended said that it was extremely beneficial to have the opportunity to exchange ideas with others going through the same process.

The groups recognised how very important it is to be prepared and organised well before your NDIS planning meeting to make sure you get the most out of your NDIS plan.

Here some of the tips suggested:

Be prepared and organised well before your planning meeting

It is recommended to start planning 3 months before your next review. There are lots of different ways to get prepared including planning workbooks and group sessions.

Collect any recent assessment reports and recommendations from existing service providers to bring to your planning meeting.

Think about your goals

Any services requested must directly link to your goals. Think about what your long and short term goals are and what supports you need to achieve these. You can talk to your current service providers for support in writing goals.

Use the language of the NDIS

It is a good idea to link your goals to the buzzwords of the NDIS. This will help your planner to understand that your goals are in line with the goals of the NDIS. Think about how your goals fit in with the following areas: Daily Living, Home, Health and Well-being, Lifelong Learning, Work, Social and Community Participation, Relationships and Choice and Control. The NDIS price guide can be a good tool to learn the lingo. 

Write a written justification if you didn’t use all the funding in your plan

There are many reasons why a person might not use all the allocated funding in their plan. There might be long wait lists for services, limited services available in rural and regional areas or an illness in the family. It is a good idea to write down why specific funding hasn’t been used and specify that it is still needed for the next plan.

Know that Support Coordination is available 

Support Coordinators are people who can help you make the most out of your funds by linking you in with service providers and helping you understand your plan. You can  ask for this to be included in your NDIS plan.

Seek support from others

It can be overwhelming to have to find services, manage funding and navigate a whole new system. Talk to family and friends about your experience and ask them to share theirs with you. Do they have a great speech pathologist that they can pass on to you? Can they pass on pearls of wisdom for preparing for planning meetings? It can make us feel supported to connect with others who are going through similar experiences.

Other tips

  • You can have more than one communication aid funded
  • Provide a quote where possible
  • Ask to see the plan before it is finalised
  • Bring someone with you to the planning meeting
  • Ask for a review if you are not happy with the plan
  • Swallowing assessments and reviews are currently being funded by the NDIS

Organisations or groups in the North West Metropolitan Region can contact the North West Regional Communication Service if interested in hosting an information session facilitated by the North West Regional Communication Service.

Sustainable Collaboration for Communication Access – Aqua Energy Leisure Centre, Wellington Shire: 2007-2018

Back in 2007, Gippsland Regional Communication Service began working with Aqua Energy as part of the Inclusive Leisure Initiative.

(Inclusive Leisure was a state-wide project lead by Leadership Plus (previously Inclusive Leisure Victoria) and Aquatics & Recreation Victoria. It was funded by a “Participation in Community Sport and Active Recreation” grants from VicHealth.)

A successful partnership was established between Aqua Energy, Wellington Shire Council, GippSport, Gippsland Regional Communication Service and community members, which continues today.

Aqua Energy partners for Inclusion in 2018: Geordie Cutler (Aqua Energy Customer Service/Administration Leader), Mark Thorpe & Shane Young (Auditors), Jocelyn Collins (Regional Communication Service), Leanne Wishart (Rural Access)

What did we do?

Communication Aids

Gippsland Regional Communication Service developed a Communication Kit with Aqua Energy. It included communication boards, and information sheets in Easy English.

There were different communication boards for different areas including the Reception/front counter, Café, Gym, Group fitness rooms and Pool. The range of communication boards ensured everyone has the vocabulary they need to communicate in all areas of the Centre.

Audits

Every month, an audit ensured all communication boards, information sheets, and equipment were maintained in the Centre. This audit was done by a person with a communication disability and an Aqua Energy staff member.

Outcomes

The Communication Access strategies seemed to be working. People said:

“All staff now chat and interact with my daughters. They always assist with our needs.” (Mother of a person with communication disability)

“All the staff at Aqua Energy are very friendly and helpful. I look forward to doing the auditing each month because I now have some great friends who work at Aqua Energy. The communication boards have made it more accessible for the public who have limited or no speech.” (Auditors)

“Through the making of the communication boards, the Aqua Energy staff and people with a disability developed relationships and understanding. It has developed confidence and broken down barriers.” (Support Worker)

Three years later

Three years after the partnership was initiated, the Regional Communication Service provided training and information sessions for management and staff at the Aqua Energy pool and gym. Communication boards were modified for new needs and some more boards and Easy English documents were produced.

The new Aqua Energy Communication Kit was launched in Sale on International Day of People with a Disability in December 2010.

But…

Three months after, things had changed at Aqua Energy! Many staff did not know what the communication aids were for, or where to find them. Customers with communication disabilities were frustrated!

Aqua Energy is a busy leisure centre, open 7 days a week for long hours. It has many part time, casual and sessional staff.

There had to be a new strategy to ensure all staff knew about communication access. The Regional Communication Service and Auditors had to find a way to  maintain a working relationship with staff and with management and to minimise the time required of them.

Sustainable Communication Access at Aqua Energy

The solution was to engage three customers with communication disabilities as independent Communication Auditors.

The Regional Communication Service trained the new Auditors. The Regional Communication Service and the Auditors worked together to develop and test an Easy English Communication Audit tool. Each Auditor, wearing a uniform, visited the Centre once a month. They reported their results to the Centre’s Manager. 

Soon, Management and staff warmly welcomed and supported these Auditors. There was again strong staff awareness and commitment to communication access and Easy English documents.  Communication aids were again available. Every month staff have opportunities to interact and learn from the communication Auditors. 

Into the community

The Auditors were invited to join the Access and Wellington Shire Inclusion Advisory Group, and now advise Councillors and Council Officers about disability policy.

Auditors had several new work experience opportunities.

The Auditors were involved in community awareness training, talking to to staff and community groups about their roles.

The Auditors received awards and were recognised by Wellington Shire at a community celebration during Volunteers Week.

What’s happened so far in 2018?

Aqua Energy was awarded the Communication Access symbol several years ago and maintains its commitment.

Two Aqua Energy Auditors ceased auditing. A new Auditor was engaged.

The Regional Communication Service ran an education session for the new Auditor and his carer. Then the two Auditors completed an audit together. The remaining Auditor assumed a mentor and training role for the new Auditor.

Each Auditor visits on alternate months. Results are reported to Aqua Energy Management and at the Wellington Shire Access and Inclusion Advisory Group (as a standard agenda item). Auditors report the number of crosses (ie unsatisfactory) and the reason for them.

The Aqua Energy Manager is very committed. She takes “crosses” seriously and fixes the issues quickly. Sometimes Auditors can include what has been done to rectify the issue in their regular reports.

When the new Auditor started, the Regional Communication Service provided a communication access refresher (in power point), which was emailed to all staff. The Regional Communication Service also provides face to face training on staff request.

Aqua Energy management recognises the value of the Auditors’ work to its business. It now remunerates the Auditors through free membership, worth about $800 per year.

Into the Future

Aqua Energy has sets a high standard for communication access in Sale. Its commitment to community partnerships and to receiving and addressing feedback, means that it remains a business where everyone can communicate.