Key Concepts

Communication Disabilities Access Canada believes that: 

  • Communication is the foundation for revealing and exercising capacity, autonomy, expressing preferences, communicating and making decisions.
  • 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 choices and 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.
  • People have different communication support needs because of the type and degree of disability they have; how they communicate; whether they have access to appropriate communication systems and assistance as well as the context, the decision to be made and the skills of the person with whom they are communicating.
  • Communication supports for symbolic communicators, include 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 for non-symbolic communicators include approaches to interpret and respond to an individual’s body language, vocalizations and behaviours.
  • Communication support must always be applied within an intersectionality framework that recognizes an individual’s overlapping identities and experiences including additional disabilities, ethnicity, creed, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, financial, linguistic, economic status, educational, and cultural identity.
  • 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.
  • An understanding of the roles and responsibilities of support person(s), including communication assistance, proxy and advocacy communication, and decision-making support is critical in recognizing authentic communication of the individual being supported.
  • Organizations require policies, procedures, safeguards and documentation regarding the duty to accommodate the identification and provision of the communication support needs of people using their services.
  • A Speech Language Pathologist is required in critical situations 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)
    • in critical communication contexts such as medical assistance in dying and justice settings. 

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