Over 440,000 Canadians have disabilities that affect their speech and/or their ability to understand what someone else is saying. Like everyone, people with communication disabilities have a legal right to equal access to goods and services. For that to happen, they have to be able to communicate successfully. Businesses, organizations, and essential services in Canada are required by law to make their services fully accessible for people who have communication disabilities.
What Is Communication Access?
Communication access is what people who work in businesses and organizations can do to help people with communication disabilities:
· understand what’s being said
· have their messages accurately understood by others
· have the supports they may need to communicate at meetings, public events, and over the telephone
· get written information in ways they can understand and use
· sign documents, take notes, and complete forms
· communicate in the ways they prefer, such as:
· speech (talking)
· pointing to objects or pictures
· spelling words
· typing on a communication device
· having someone assist them
People with communication challenges may have individual communication access needs, but there are some general things your business or organization can do to improve access to your services.
· Welcome the person with a communication disability by smiling, saying hello, and talking directly to them and not just the person with them.
· Ask the person for the best way to communicate with them. They may tell you or give you instructions to read.
· Move to a quiet area or where you can see and read how to communicate with them.
· Give the person enough time to communicate. It often takes longer for a person with a communication disability to get their message across.
· Wait until you understand the person’s message. Tell them what you understand so far and ask if you can guess what they mean, or wait for them to repeat the message or tell you another way.
· Use everyday language and show pictures and objects of what you’re talking about if they have difficulty understanding what you’re saying.
· Provide different ways for people to contact your organization (e.g., telephone, fax, email, text, TTY, relay services, online ordering).
· Be prepared to communicate with people who use speech devices and assistants over the telephone.
· Make sure your signs are clear, easy to see and understand.
· Give the agenda for any meetings or public events to them ahead of time, and ask how they will signal that they have something to say.
· Make sure your reading material is easy to read and understand. Ask people if they want help or if they want an electronic copy of the material.
· Make your forms easy to read, understand, and complete. Ask if they want help writing on the form or if they would like to complete an electronic form on a computer.
Ask the person how they sign written forms. They may use:
· a written signature
· an X
· a stamp
· an electronic signature
· someone to assist them
When using a business or organization, people who have speech and language disabilities have the right to expect to:
be treated with respect
understand what the person is saying to them
have their messages understood by the other person
use the communication method(s) that work best for them
use a communication assistant if they want
have someone follow their instructions on how to communicate with them
get enough time to communicate their messages
ask questions and express their opinions
be taken seriously
connect with the organization using the telephone or another way that works better for them
get communication supports that they may need to communicate effectively at meetings
get supports they may need to read or understand the organization’s written materials
get supports they may need to complete an organization’s forms, take notes and sign documents
Credits: Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC)