In 2010, Canada ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Recognition that people with disabilities enjoy legal capacity on an equal basis is at the core of Article 12 of the CRPD. Article 12 clarifies that this requires that people have access to the supports they may need to communicate and/or make decisions.
People who have disabilities that affect their speech, language, communication and/or cognition may require communication supports and accommodations to reveal and exercise their capacity to make and communicate decisions that matter to them. People who have disabilities that affect communication may have difficulty hearing, speaking, understanding, remembering what is said, making and/or communicating decisions.
CDAC recognizes that each adjudicative body (healthcare, legal, justice, financial and community services) must act in accordance with governing laws, rules and policies; that people with disabilities have a right to equality in Canadian law, and this applies to decision-making contexts.
- People who have disabilities that affect communication may require supports to reveal and exercise their legal capacity to control decisions that affect them – whether they make decisions independently, with support from trusted people or if they rely on another person to make decisions on their behalf, based on their known will and preferences.
- Having a disability that affects communication does not necessarily indicate a capacity issue.
- Communication supports include practice, tools and assistance that an individual may require in one or more areas of:
- Understanding spoken information
- Reading and understanding written information
- Expressing questions, preferences and decisions
- Making decisions
- Completing and signing forms
- Assistance or support to make a decision may or may not be required.
- Communication supports must be in place before a person’s capacity is determined and throughout the process of decision making to ensure their opinions and preferences are heard and acknowledged.
- Communication supports differ in type and amount depending on how the individual communicates, whether they are symbolic or non-symbolic communicators, their personal support needs, the decision to be made and the skills of the person with whom they are communicating.
- An understanding of the distinct roles and responsibilities of support person(s) is critical in recognizing authentic communication of the individual being supported.
- Understand the key concepts and contextual factors in providing communication supports that people may need to reveal and exercise capacity to make and communicate preferences and decisions.
- Identify and record an individual’s communication support needs.
- Identify the support person that the individual authorizes to assist with communication and/or decisions and arrange signing of confidentiality forms, if required.
- Ensure the individual has access to communication tools they use or need at all times.
- Use best communication practices to support an individual in one or more areas of understanding, problem solving, decision-making and/or expressive communication.
- Hear and acknowledge the individual’s questions, concerns, opinions and decisions.
- Engage a Speech Language Pathologist in critical situations and if there is evidence of undue persuasion, coercion or abuse of power.
- Document how communication supports were provided and how decisions were made.
Webinars and Resources:
- Communication and Capacity: Context and Guiding Principles (Barbara Collier)
- Communication Disabilities: Barriers and Impact on Choice and Control (Barbara Collier)
- Legal Context for Exercising Capacity and Provision of Communication Supports (Lana Kerzner)
- Communication Supports: Formal, Symbolic Communicators (Barbara Collier)
- Communication Supports: Informal, Non-Symbolic Communicators (Jo Watson)
- Identify a number of people in your organization to take on a leadership role in developing policies, procedures and practices to ensure people have the communication supports they need for effective communication and decision making.
- Watch the CDAC communication support webinars.
- Use or adapt the communication support forms:
- Email your questions to us on ways to ensure people can effectively communicate and make informed decisions when using your services.