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The Communication Access Symbol

We’ve found that businesses, services and organisations choose to become communication accessible for a number of reasons, for example:

  • they may have received feedback from advisory groups and committees that have stated that their level of access can be improved,
  • they may want to improve customer service for the regular customers they have who have communication difficulties,
  • they may want a competitive advantage in the marketplace,
  • they may have improving accessibility as a key strategic commitment identified through their Disability Action Plan (DAP),
  • they want to be in alignment with current Australian disability and anti-discrimination policies of the Disability Discrimination Act (1992) as well as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability (2006) to which Australia is a signatory,
  • or simply, they may just want to make a commitment to supporting an important human rights issue.

But for whatever reason a business may choose to become communication accessible, the overwhelming response from the staff is “why didn’t we do this sooner?”

Two businesses that have recently successfully gone through the 10 Steps to Communication Access is the City of Stonnington council and Merri Health Community Centre.

Stonnington Council

We asked Christopher Ashburner, the Library Technician at Stonnington Council why they felt it was important to become accredited with the Communication Access Symbol:

“The City of Stonnington was keen to help its staff improve service delivery to people with a range of communication styles. We didn’t want people to experience barriers to using the libraries, recreation centres or other services because staff weren’t equipped to interact with someone with communication difficulties.

Our libraries worked with Scope to develop a communication board relevant to library use and, most importantly, people from Scope told us about the different ways they communicate and how we could improve our listening and understanding.

Stonnington Library Board

Stonnington Library’s communication board for reception staff and customers to use

I definitely feel more confident after the Scope training. I know it’s okay to ask someone how they like to communicate; it’s okay to say if I don’t understand and to clarify my understanding. Our staff know that some people need more time to tell us what they want and we are prepared to take that time.

We’ve had several good experiences with library users since receiving our Communication Access accreditation and I’ve also had several library users comment on our communication aids, so having them visible is a good way of raising general community awareness of communication issues.”

Our communication boards have helped more people than we ever anticipated – including our customers from non-English speaking backgrounds

Our communication boards have helped more people than we ever anticipated – including our customers from non-English speaking backgrounds

Merri Health Community Health

We also asked Danica from Merri Health Community Health about why they felt the need to get the symbol:

“Merri Health is a community health centre located in Northern metropolitan Melbourne. It services a wide range of clients including children, adults and the frail aged. Given the diversity of the population that Merri Health work with they recently identified the need to become more communication accessible.

Following on from initial discussions, contact was made with the Regional Communication Service which forms part of the Communication Access Network (CAN)

This process involved conducting a self-evaluation to determine how we performed as an organisation in meeting the needs of clients with complex communication needs or non-English speaking backgrounds. Following this there were a number of areas identified where we as an organisation could better support people accessing our service.

Training was co-presented by Libby Brownlie and Ron Morey, a person with a lived experience with disability, and communication boards were developed following observations of frequent topics discussed at reception.

Merri Health’s front reception communication board

Merri Health’s front reception communication board

A review of building signage was also completed and new communication accessible signs were developed.

Accreditation was completed by a mystery shopper accessing our service both in person and via the phone.

We’ve found that following on from training and the implementation of communication strategies, staff are better able to work with a range of clients accessing our service. They are more aware of how to support someone with a communication impairment on the phone as well as in person. People can easily navigate their way around our Coburg site and are less reliant on others to advocate or ask questions for them.

It’s definitely been a positive initiative implemented at Merri Health, and one that we encourage other similar businesses to engage in.”

If you would like more information on how your business can become communication accessible, contact Scope’s Communication and Inclusion Resource Centre (CIRC) on 03 9843 2000 or circ@scopeaust.org.au