With Speech Pathology Week later this month, we dive into communication disability to understand what it is and highlight the importance of supporting the needs of people living with it Australia-wide by fostering a safe and inclusive environment.
What is communication disability?
According to the Speech Pathology Australia, communication disability “affects someone’s ability to understand others or be understood by others.” People with communication disability may face difficulty with language, speech, literacy, social communication, voice, or fluency. Communication disability can further introduce barriers in expressing thoughts, preferences and in one’s ability to exercise choice and control.
The Australian Human Rights Commission states that over 80% of disability is invisible. Commonly misunderstood and misdiagnosed, communication disability is often considered unseen and out of sight.
The ABS profile of people with communication disability in Australia states that as of 2015:
- There are over 1.2 million Australians with communication disability
- 38% of people with communication disability were in the workforce
- 1 in 7 people with communication disability needed formal assistance
- 50% of all people who needed assistance with communication had an unmet need
- 3 in 5 people with an unmet need were children
What can be done to improve communication accessibility in Australia?
In 2019, Speech Pathology Australia’s then-Acting National President Belinda Hill said, “Everyone can take action – and it starts with being more aware and empathetic”.
If you’re looking for a detailed list of tips for communication, we recommend reading: Speech Pathology Australia’s Tips for successful communication.
According to Scope, one in seven Australians will experience a communication difficulty in their lifetime. To fully address this issue:
1. Action by communities, organisations, services, and employers should be taken.
Australian employers and organisations alike are a driving force of societal change and can help shape a more inclusive society.
Accessible communication includes:
- Clear signage, symbols, and words
- Information provided in different formats such as audio, or Easy Read using plain English
- Using closed captions in any shared videos
- Making any special access requirements necessary
2. Early intervention should be promoted.
Returning to the ABS’ 2015 profile, children make up the majority of people with communication disability in Australia at 64% and are also most likely to have more expressed communication disability than any other age group. As a result, early intervention is especially important to speech and language development.
How are people with communication disability professionally supported?
The main way people with communication disability are professionally supported is through Speech Pathology. Speech pathologists are university-trained allied health professionals who study, diagnose, and treat various forms of communication disability, including speech/voice, language, social skills, reading and writing.
Ability Options’ Speech Therapy services support people through various means, including Speech Pathology. Our comprehensive sessions are provided through the NDIS and are tailored to help reach goals to enhance and improve communication.
Read more about our Therapy Services.
Read about our Occupational Therapist and Speech Pathologist roles.