The following terms are used throughout this website.
Effective communication is a two-way process (expressive and receptive) in which messages are negotiated until both parties correctly understand the information.
Communication access refers to any accommodations and supports that a person may need for effective two-way communication in face-to-face interactions, communicating over the telephone, at meetings and case conferences, when reading and understanding written information, using websites and social media, completing forms and signing documents.
Any obstacle that prevents the effective exchange of ideas, thoughts, and questions in face-to-face, group or telephone interactions, and via reading and writing. Barriers include disrespectful attitudes, information that is presented in ways that the person cannot understand what is being said and/or written, and/or not having effective communication methods, aids, supports, time or opportunity to communicate their messages.
Items that enable people who have communication disabilities to understand and communicate effectively. Examples include picture/photo/text cards/ video explanations/ symbol or letter boards, communication devices, accessible call bells, voice amplifiers, hearing aids, glasses and visual aids, plain language materials, easy reading, and alternate-format documents. Some communication accommodations are personalized; others are generic to a setting (e.g., accessible call bell in a hospital, emergency picture or alphabet board in an ambulance).
Communication strategies are things that people can do that facilitate communication with a person who has a disability that affects their communication. Examples of communication strategies include providing information in ways the person can hear and understand and ensuring the person has the means, opportunity and time to communicate their messages.
Communication support refers to assistance and services that a person may require over and above the best practice communication strategies. Communication support can be informal and provided by a person who knows the individual well, such as a family member or support worker. In some situations, such as police, legal and justice settings, more formal communication support is required and is provided a communication intermediary.
People who have disabilities that affect communication
People who have disabilities that affect communication live in every community. They cross all ages, ancestry, colour, race, ethnic origin, linguistic, intellectual abilities, creed/spirituality, gender identity, sexual orientation, financial, family, marital status and cultural communities. In addition, they may or may not have additional (intersecting) disabilities such as physical, intellectual, sensory, learning ability and mental health issues.
Speech, Language and Communication Disabilities
Refers to a range of disabilities that can impact one or more areas of a person’s ability to speak, hear, read, write, and/or understand what is being said. Disabilities that impact on communication include cerebral palsy, intellectual disability, autism spectrum disorder, multiple sclerosis, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease), aphasia after a stroke, dementia, acquired brain injury, head and neck cancer, Parkinson’s disease and other disabilities.
Communication methods for people who have speech and language disabilities may include unclear speech, vocalization, mouthing, body positioning, facial expressions, eye gaze, gestures, mime, sign language, adapted signs, writing, drawing, typing, selecting or pointing to pictures, photographs, symbols, written words and letters of the alphabet. People who are Deaf, deafened or hard of hearing may use speechreading, lipreading, sign language and captioning in real time.
Communication aids are items that people who have with speech and language disabilities may use for communication. Examples include: pen, paper, letter board, picture board, speech generating device, artificial larynx, hearing aids, switches to operate call bells or devices, eye gaze technology, adapted call bells, pain scales, pictures that support comprehension; amplifier, and “In case of emergency cards”, etc. Communication aids can be generic or commercial for some situations (e.g., emergency room, ambulance, bedside, ICU), or custom made for an individual to reflect their specific communication needs. Most people obtain communication aids through speech and language pathology or augmentative and alternative communication services.
Preferred Communication Method
Refers to the person’s preference in using their communication methods in a specific situation. For example, in some situations, a person may prefer to use a letter board or answer yes and no questions rather than using their speech generating communication device.
Alternative Format Documents
Written information provided as an alternative to standard print, or handwritten information. Examples include large print, braille or electronic.
Accessible Text, Layout and Design
Refers to digital and print materials that follow best practice guidelines for font, alignment, color contrast, layout and use of graphics.
Plain Language / Easy Read Documents
Refers to writing that is clear, concise, well organized, and follows other best practices appropriate to the subject or field and intended audience.
Accessible websites comply with latest web accessibility guidelines, such as WCAG 2.0
A communication assistant is a person who is authorized by a person with a speech, language and communication disability to assist them in communicating. A communication assistant can be a family member, a support worker or someone else who is familiar with how the individual communicates. They may assist the person in two-way communication with another person as well as assist with reading and understanding written information, completing forms, signatures and note taking. An authorized communication assistant is not necessarily a substitute decision maker and does not typically have Power of Attorney.
Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)
AAC is a set of tools and strategies that an individual uses to communicate, such as speech, a shared glance, text, gestures, facial expressions, touch, sign language, symbols, pictures, speech-generating devices, etc. In Canada, there are specialized AAC clinics. Connect with ISAAC Canada for more information.
A Communication Intermediary is a Speech-Language Pathologist with additional training from CDAC to assist victims, witnesses and accused people who have speech and language disabilities to understand questions and to communicate answers effectively when communicating with police, legal or justice professionals.
CDAC’s Communication Assistance Database
A database established by CDAC where people can search for a communication assistant or a communication intermediary. People listed on database work independently and are not endorsed, accredited, or paid by CDAC.