When interacting with a person who has a disability that affects communication:
- Treat the person with respect by talking directly to them, not just the individual who might be with them.
- Speak naturally and clearly, using your normal tone, volume and rate.
- If you can, move to a quiet, well-lit place to communicate.
- Do not underestimate the person’s abilities.
- Be patient. Do not rush the conversation.
- Prepare to spend more time communicating.
- Ask if there is anything you can do to make communication go smoothly.
- Give the person opportunities to communicate what they want. Avoid guessing and overuse of Yes and No questions.
- Be mindful of the person’s right to privacy.
If the person’s speech is difficult to understand
- Watch the person as they are speaking.
- Take the time to get familiar with the person’s speech.
- Politely tell the person if you do not understand what they are saying, so that they can repeat it or communicate it in another way.
- Video: Krystine
If the person uses a letter or picture board
- Make sure the person has access to their communication board at all times.
- Ask them to show you how they use their board, if it is not obvious.
- It helps to write down the items that the person selects so that you can keep track of the message.
- Vide: Colin
If the person uses a communication device
- Make sure the person has access to their communication device at all times.
- Avoid looking over the person’s shoulder or asking how they use the device.
- Do not interrupt when the person is constructing their message.
- Video: Colin
If the person has difficulty understanding what you are saying
- Use clear, everyday language.
- Avoid jargon, technical terms and long, ambiguous sentences.
- Pause between your sentences to allow time for the person to process what you have said.
- Ask if they want someone who knows them well to assist them in understanding information.
- Show the person what you are talking about such as pointing to pictures, drawing or writing things down.
- Video: Bill has aphasia after a stroke
If the person has difficulty hearing you
- Find out if the person uses a hearing aid, if they have it and if it is working.
- Sit in a place where the person can see you when you are speaking.
- Speak normally, do not yell or shout, or talk too quickly.
- Reduce background noise.
- Use other ways of communicating such as writing, typing or showing examples of what you are talking about.
If the person has a support person with them
- Speak directly to the individual, not to the accompanying person.
- Ensure that the individual has access to their support person when needed.
- Accept the person’s messages as conveyed to you by the support person.
- The support person may also help the person understand what is being said.
- Do not assume the support person makes decisions for the individual.
- Check with the individual before sharing any confidential information with the support person and if required, have them sign a privacy agreement.
- Video: Colin