Georgia Burn – TT

Everyone, Everywhere: Exploring the interface of Communication Access for People with Communication Disabilities with the Principles of Universal Design

Table Topic

Discussion Leader: Georgia Burn, Communication Access Coordinator, Scope

The ability to socially interact and participate in community life are essential components of social inclusion. People with communication disabilities are vulnerable to social exclusion, due to challenges with communicating. People with communication disabilities may experience a range of communication difficulties of physical, sensory, cognitive/intellectual, neurological and/or psychosocial origins.

Since 2011, Scope (Aust.) has worked with businesses, services and organisations within Victoria, Australia, to create communication accessible communities, and award eligible services with the Communication Access Symbol. Communication access has attempted to act as a vehicle for the social inclusion of people with communication disabilities. It is said to occur when “people are respectful and responsive to individuals with communication disabilities, and when strategies are used to support successful communication”. This grass-roots initiative has gained world-wide momentum, with early-adopters now building this communication access movement globally in places such as Canada and the UK, and has prompted an increasing number of businesses and organisations to seek this accreditation as part of Accessibility Action Plans or wider organisational policy. In 2018, Speech Pathology Australia established the National Communication Access Alliance, and has embarked on a project to develop national communication access standards working in collaboration with Standards Australia.

Communication access is still an emerging concept. There appears to be similarity between communication access and the concept of universal design; however, the exact relationship is yet to be defined. The aim of this study was to therefore begin conceptualising this connection.

A systematic literature review study was conducted, which aimed to ascertain the key elements of universal design to provide a basis for which communication access can be compared. Universal Design relating to the Built Environment, Learning, and Web Accessibility were explored and considered in relation to communication access. Findings and future work will be discussed.