August 23, 2021

Speech Pathology Week: Communication is everyone’s right

Speech Pathology Week, celebrated 22-28 August, seeks to promote the speech pathology profession and the work done by speech pathologists with the 1.2 million Australians who have a communication disability. The theme for this year is: Communication is everyone’s right.

As part of Northern Health’s commitment to breaking down barriers for those living with a communication disability, we have implemented the Communication Access training program through Scope. After undertaking this training, the service is assessed and if successful, it gets awarded with the Communication Access Symbol.

At Northern Health, Henry’s Cafe and the front reception at Northern Hospital are accredited by ‘Scope’ to communicate with people with communication disability.

Hien Pham, a Speech Pathologist who has been instrumental in the roll out of this program, explains “What that means is that if someone has a communication disability and they see that symbol, they know that the staff have an understanding of their disability and are aware of different ways to communicate”.

“Communication impairment is different for different people – one person might use a high-tech device to communicate, while another might just use thumbs up or down, so staff need to adapt to that person’s communication style” she added.

In line with this year’s theme Speech Pathology have collaborated with the Northern Health Disability Action group to find practical ways to upskill Northern Health staff.

The Communication Access program aligns with the Northern Health 2018 – 2022 Disability Action Plan with Northern Health’s Disability Liaison officer Simone Ortiz adding: “Successfully obtaining two packages from ‘Scope’: Communication Access and Disability Inclusion, will allow Northern Health staff to develop a better understanding and approach to working and communicating with people with disabilities. This online package for our staff and those who work at Henry’s café addresses our goals of promoting inclusion and participation as well as achieving tangible changes in attitudes and practices which discriminate against persons with disability. Our disability sub-committee is excited about this progress and also appreciate the work and contributions of our speech pathologists for their work and passion towards improving communication.”

Stephanie Bennetts, Speech Pathologist added that this is a great example of how Northern Health is accommodating patients with the communication impairment and adapting our environment to suit the needs of our community.

“One in 500 people have a communication disability.  It is important that we as a health service make sure we are accommodating these patients.  Wheelchair ramps are normalised for people with physical disability so this is a way of normalising supports, like communication boards for people with communication disability” she said.

Henry’s Café and front desk reception staff at the Northern Hospital have previously been accredited with this symbol. The team are excited to continue with the commitment to Communication Access – with re-accreditation planned this year and the introduction of a new online training module for staff.

“This shift to online training will allow us to maintain our credentialing even with the barriers COVID-19 has created,” she concluded.

Featured image: Front reception staff member Elizabeth with Hien, Speech Pathologist.