Communication access legislation refers to practices and policies that businesses, service and organizations are obligated to have and exercise to ensure that people who have communication disabilities can use their services. This includes practices and policies about two-way communication in face-to-face and telephone interactions, teleconferencing, online learning, meetings, conferences, public consultations, reading (print, websites and digital), and writing (forms, signatures, surveys and note taking).
People who have speech, language and/or cognitive disabilities have a right to accessible, inclusive services. This means:
- being treated with respect and having their opinions taken seriously
- being given the accessibility accommodations and supports they request and/or need to effectively communicate in order to understand what is being said and/ or to have their messages understood by another person
- using their preferred communication methods
- having service providers follow their instructions on how to effectively communicate with them
- being given the extra time they may need to communicate
- expressing their own thoughts and /or validating agreement in a safe way, if they rely on a trusted person to convey opinions about matters that affect them
- requesting, authorizing and having access to someone they trust to assist with communication, if needed
- connecting over the telephone for services or using another way that works better for them, such as email, text, message relay services or a communication assistant
- having opportunities and supports to communicate effectively at meetings, conferences, e-learning and public events
- getting written information in ways they can read and understand
- accessing websites that comply with the latest web accessibility guidelines
- getting accessible forms and surveys
- being given assistance they may need to sign documents and take notes
- having access to a qualified Communication Intermediary or Speech-Language Pathologist when required for effective communication in critical communication where there may be a need for impartial communication support, such as healthcare services, capacity and consent adjudications, police, legal and justice situations.
People who have communication disabilities expect:
- service providers who know about their communication access rights, who can communicate with them and negotiate their accessibility requirements
- critical communication services to have robust safeguards to ensure they have the supports they need for effective and authentic communication where the capacity assessor is not experienced or qualified to provide communication support; a person has a complex communication disability or no obvious way of communicating; a person’s capacity to provide informed consent is questionable; if there is evidence of a conflict of interest, undue persuasion or coercion from support person(s) and in critical communication contexts such as medical assistance in dying and justice settings.