Legal and Justice Professionals
Legal, the justice system and human rights agencies have critical roles to play in ensuring that people have the accommodations and supports they require for effective communication in all aspects of their lives and when using the services that they provide.
The following points, in conjunction with applicable laws, rules and policies, should guide the provision of accommodations and supports for an individual who has a speech, language, communication and / or cognitive disability:
- Mandatory training for all legal and justice professionals on recognizing and accommodating the needs of people with speech, language, communication and/or cognitive disabilities.
- Acknowledgment that an individual’s way of communicating should not be grounds for determining their capacity to make decisions.
- Understanding that people who have disabilities that affect their speech, language and/or cognition have a right to the supports they need to communicate and/or make decisions that matter to them regardless of whether they make decisions independently, with support from trusted people or rely on someone who knows them well to make decisions on their behalf, based on their known will and preferences.
- An individual who has a communication disability may or may not require support to make a decision. If a supported decision-making arrangement is required, communication supports are integral to the process.
- Communication supports include policies, practices, tools and assistance that an individual may require in one or more areas of understanding spoken and/or written information; retaining information; problem-solving, weighing up risks, consequences and making decisions; expressing questions opinions, preferences and decisions.
- 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.
- Alternate decision making arrangements and guardianship should not be considered unless ALL effective communication and/or decision-making supports have been put in place.
- Engagement of a Speech-Language Pathologist or Communication Intermediary may be required to ensure that an individual has the communication supports in the areas of:
- Identifying and providing an individual’s communication support needs for effective two-way communication
- Determining and confirming an individual’s understanding of critical information
- Providing impartial communication assistance in critical situations and when there may be evidence of a conflict of interest, undue persuasion or coercion from support person(s)