Friday, 5 September 2014

I Can... Speak Up and Be Heard!

All too often, we take daily activities like ordering a coffee, shopping for groceries, reserving a taxi or calling to make a doctor's appointment for granted.  For the thousands of Canadians with communication disabilities, these are all tasks that may present significant barriers that need to be overcome.  Currently, there is a campaign underway across Canada to promote communication accessibility for those who have speech and language disabilities. In this issue, we will highlight some of the work that is being done by Communication Access Now (CAN) and how you can get involved. 

People who use AAC have the right to access goods and services (including essential services like police, health care and legal) in the same way as everyone else.  CAN's goal is to improve accessibility to goods and services, and to open up opportunities for all people who have speech and language disabilities.  It is operated by Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC) with a funding contribution from the Government of Canada’s Disability Component of Social Development Partnerships Program. 

What are some of the barriers?
Too often, people who have speech and language disabilities experience major challenges in receiving appropriate goods and services because those who are providing the services:   
  • May be afraid to talk to them
  • May think they are hard of hearing
  • May underestimate their abilities
  • May not know how to communicate with them
  • May not do simple things to provide access to services 

CAN provides information, education, resources and toolkits related to communication access for: 
- Government, accessibility legislators and policy makers.
- Businesses, organizations and community services.
- People who have speech and language disabilities and their families.

Communication Access Symbol 
Have you seen this symbol around? Do you want to know what it is all about? 
The communication access symbol highlights the features of effective communication. Everyone benefits from effective communication, including people who have speech and language disabilities. The communication access symbol shows that communication:
  • Involves two people 
  • Is about interaction
  • Is about giving as well as receiving information
  • Is about listening and watching
Communication access means that people can:
  • Understand what you are saying 
  • Have you understand their messages 
  • Use the communication methods that work best for them such as speech, gestures, writing, pointing to objects or pictures, spelling words, typing on a communication device or human assistance
  • Read and understand your written information
  • Sign documents and complete forms in ways that are accessible for them

Six Things to Know about Communication Access:
  1. Communication access is good for everyone, including people who have speech and language disabilities.
  2. Organizations are legally obliged to provide accessible services including accessible communication.
  3. Access is more than getting into a building or having documents in alternate formats. It is also about how people interact, understand and express their thoughts. 
  4. Businesses and organizations can do simple things so that customers, patients and clients can communicate effectively with them.
  5. Lack of effective communication can result in serious consequences, especially in essential health, legal and justice services.
  6. In critical communication services, communication access means having protocols, staff training, communication assistance services and communication tools.

Join the discussion on Facebook  
and Twitter

Do you want to learn more about communication accessibility rights? 

If you are a TVCC client, family member or community member, bring your lunch and join us for a Lunch and Learn, to hear all about the Communication Access Now (CAN) project by Communication Disabilities Access Canada. October 6, 2014 at 12 noon in the Education Suites at TVCC. Please register ahead of time at the following link: 

I Can.....Move on to New Challenges!

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” 

Leo Buscaglia

We would like to extend our gratitude and heartfelt thanks to someone who has touched the lives of many of our children and families in the Augmentative Communication Service here at Thames Valley Children's Centre. Kristel Pallant is an Occupational Therapist who worked in ACS for many years. Kristel was one of the original team who started the I Can Blog (back then a humble newsletter!) back in May 2007, and worked tirelessly to move it into a blog format. This June, Kristel decided to take on some new challenges in another position at the Centre. We miss her in Augmentative Communication, but wish Kristel the best of luck in her new adventures! 

Lights, Camera, Action!!!
On August 29 2014, a dynamic group of actors hit the stage and performed 6 different plays at the Spriet Family Theatre in London, Ontario. The TVCC actors, together with volunteers from Original Kids Theatre Company, performed the plays they had been rehearsing all week, using their speech generating devices to deliver their lines. Everybody was very excited to show his or her skills in acting and performing. It was an amazing show!!! 


Upcoming Events:

October is AAC Awareness Month and exciting activities will be happening around the world!!!  In Canada, October 9 has been designated as 2014 AAC Awareness day.  Events that have taken place in the past include silent lunches, hands-on activities, presentations, guest speakers, and AAC relays. What will you be doing this year to promote awareness and accessibility for people who use AAC??? 

Please share how you celebrate AAC awareness day/month by sending us your stories and photos.  We will highlight October's events in the November blog. 

Rett Syndrome Communication Workshops 
Ontario Rett Syndrome Association has plans for Rett syndrome communication workshops in November! These unique workshops will be held in Toronto (Nov 6 & 7) and Ottawa (Nov 8 & 9). Speakers will be communication and literacy specialists, Judy Lariviere and Erin Sheldon. These sessions will be open to parents, caregivers, clinicians, and educators. On Day 1, you will see several low-tech and high-tech ideas for improving communication. Day 2 is a hands-on workshop, especially designed to try out software applications for the Tobii. You can choose to attend one or both days. Space is limited. There may also be an opportunity to meet with Judy to consult about the progress of a specific individual. Updates will be available as plans unfold. Online registration will be available in September.

TVCC Augmentative Communication Education Sessions:

Powerful Words for Children Who Use AAC - October 8, 2014, 6:00-8:00 p.m.
With the space limitations of most low tech systems and communication displays, we want to ensure that our communicators have access to the words that will have the most impact and usage throughout the day. This workshop will demonstrate how to use Core Vocabulary, the 200 words that account for 80% of our communication, to enhance a client’s communication potential.

How to talk with symbols so your child will too - November 26th, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m
Children learn how to talk by listening to and copying others. Learn how to facilitate communication by using symbols/strategies for children who are non-verbal or difficult to understand. During every-day fun activities, you will learn some key strategies and techniques. Materials will be provided for you to take home so that you can start immediately.

Adapting Books
This hands-on workshop will provide participants with the information and resources needed to adapt a book for their child who uses AAC. Come and create a gift that promotes literacy, communication and motor skills. This session will be in December.  Specific date(s) and details to follow.  

Closing The Gap conference - October 13th - 17th, 2014, Minneapolis, U.S.

Closing The Gap
This year's conference builds on a tradition of providing a comprehensive examination of the most current uses of technology by persons with disabilities and the professionals who work with them.Topics will cover a broad spectrum of technology as it is being applied to all disabilities and age groups in education, rehabilitation, vocation, and independent living.
Come and learn, first-hand, about the products and best AT practices and strategies by and for teachers, therapists, clinicians, parents and end users alike.

ATIA 2015 Conference - January 27 – January 31, 2015, Orlando, U.S.

 ATIA 2015 Conference logo

This event features more than 200 educational sessions spanning the breadth and depth of assistive technology and an exhibition hall where you can see the power of assistive technology in action. Professionals, teachers, users and parents will all benefit from this empowering new conference.

ISAAC 2016 - August 6 - August 13, 2016, Toronto, Ontario