People with Communication Disabilities

Over 440,000 people in Canada have speech and language disabilities, not caused by hearing loss that affect how they speak and / or understand what others are saying. 

Speech and language disabilities can affect one or more of the following areas:

  • a person’s ability to understand what others are saying
  • a person’s ability to speak or use a communication display or device to express information, ideas, opinions and ask questions

Some people who have speech and language disabilities can have difficulty reading and writing.

Disabilities that can affect communication include cerebral palsy, autism, cognitive disability, acquired brain injury, aphasia after a stroke, dementia, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis or other conditions.

While some speech and language are obvious (e.g. person who cannot speak and uses a device to communicate) others may not have physical symptoms. For example, a minor stroke or a learning disability can have a profound impact on a person’s ability to comprehend spoken language or express their messages.

Having a communication disability does not necessarily mean that a person has an intellectual disability or that he or she has difficulty hearing or understanding what is being said.

People who have speech and language disabilities may communicate using:

  • Speech (speech may be unclear)
  • Body language and facial expressions
  • Gestures (e.g. wave to signal goodbye)
  • Pointing or looking at objects and people
  • Writing, typing or drawing
  • Spelling on a letter board, which is usually custom made for an individual
  • Pointing to pictures symbols and/or written words on a communication display, which is custom-made for an individual
  • Using a communication device, which is usually obtained through a clinical service
  • A familiar person who assists them communicating