Paul Hart from Sense Scotland spoke at the recent Communication for All conference organised by deafscotland and Disability Equality Scotland. He spoke about trust and relationships being at the heart of effective inclusive communication. He highlighted his belief that communication support needs always lie at the meeting place between people.
It is not just one person who has a communication impairment but instead a communication support need can emerge when people meet together. And since as many as 1 in 5 of Scotland’s population described themselves in the 2011 census as having a disability or long-term health condition, this easily suggests that there are thousands of interactions every day where communication support needs are visible.
Of course, we have laws that describe people’s rights to equal access and this includes communication access, and businesses know that they can increase their profits by including as many people as possible, so we can imagine that we are well-placed as a nation to have communication for all. Yet we can still do more to make sure that every citizen of the country is fully involved in their own lives and the life of the country. This means that each of us can take personal responsibility, as well as responsibility on behalf of any groups that we are involved with, to make sure everyone is included.
Perhaps we don’t always know where to start or we feel embarrassed or we worry that we’ll be criticised if we get it wrong but there are many individuals and organisations who can provide advice in a supportive, encouraging way that helps us all to make changes. We can encourage each other to share our stories and experiences so that we learn about the steps (sometimes simple steps) we can take to make all citizens of Scotland feel welcomed, valued and included. And that makes the human case for access perhaps the strongest case of all. It is simply the right thing to do – who really wants to exclude their family member, friend, neighbour or colleague?