Communication Access Now

Communication Access Now (CAN) is a national campaign to help organizations and service providers communicate more effectively with people who have speech and language disabilities.

Over 440,000 Canadians have speech and language disabilities, not caused by hearing loss.

Communication disabilities may be caused by cerebral palsy, autism, cognitive disability, traumatic brain injury, aphasia after a stroke, dementia, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis or other conditions.

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 your documents and complete forms in ways that are accessible for them

Businesses and organization may need to make changes in how they communicate when providing their services to people with speech and language disabilities.

Click here for the communication access symbol.

Essential Tips

  1. Say “hello”, don’t ignore the person
  2. Talk directly to the person, not the person who is with them
  3. Ask the person if there is anything you can do when communicating with them.
  4. Be patient, do not rush the conversation
  5. Make an effort to understand what the person is communicating.

Click here for ways to make services communication accessible.

Communication Disabilities Access Canada

Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC) is a national, non-profit, charitable organization. CDAC promotes human rights, accessibility and inclusion for people who have speech and language disabilities that are not caused primarily by hearing loss.

Contact CDAC (email link) need full e-mail or phone (416) 444-9532

Click here for more information on CDAC



CDAC acknowledges a funding contribution from Employment and Social Development Canada.  (gov logo) need link where to get the logo and how you want the logo to be displayed

When communication is critical

Arti (not his real name) used the wheelchair ramp to get into the police station. But once he got in the door, the police officer could not understand his speech which is unclear at times. The officer did not know what to do and wanted to call one of Arti’s assistants. Arti didn’t want him do this as he was trying to report an assistant for ongoing abuse.

Jolene (not her real name) can’t speak. She types on a device to communicate. When admitted to hospital, the nurse locked up her device in the nurses’ station for “safe keeping”. Jolene’s communication was limited to answering yes and no questions. She could not request medication, ask for a drink of water, explain her pain and discomfort, or ask questions about her treatment.

In both these situations, service providers needed information about ways to make their services accessible for people who have speech and language disabilities.


Video (link to communication access now – video 1)

Six things to know

  1. Good communication is good business for everyone, including people who have speech and language disabilities.
  2. Organizations are legally obliged to provide accessible services.
  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. Lack of effective communication can result in serious consequences, especially in essential health, legal and justice services.
  5. Businesses and organizations can do simple things so that customers can understand and communicate effectively with them.
  6. In critical communication services, communication access means having protocols, staff training, communication assistance services and communication tools.