How Australians feel about talking to people with communication disabilities

A diagram of 'did you know?' 1 in 7 Aussies will experience communication difficulty in their lifetime

Australians feel too self-conscious and anxious to talk to people that use alternate methods of communication, like spelling boards or sign and gesture, leaving those with a disability feeling frustrated, worried and lonely, our research reveals.

With one in seven Australians experiencing communication disability in their lifetime, Scope conducted over 100 in-depth interviews with people with a disability, and commissioned a survey of 1,000 Australians to start a conversation about one of the most common, yet least understood social challenges.

Highlighting the stark gap in understanding, four in five Australians (79.3%) believe it’s best to direct their conversation to a support person. Yet Scope surveys of people with a disability found talking to a support person instead of the individual made them feel frustrated (46%), worried (41%), and lonely (30%). In contrast, when spoken to directly, respondents reported feeling happy (78%), safe (63%) and relaxed (66%).

The research shows Australians are reluctant to converse with people with a disability, with two in five worried they will offend the person (39.6%), or just don’t know how to (39.4%). One in four (26.9%) are concerned the person will feel frustrated if they don’t understand them.

We are calling on organisations to undertake disability awareness education and to get accredited with the Communication Access Symbol, to ensure their businesses are ready welcome people with a communication disability.

An illustration of tools and resources to support people who have a communication difficulty

If you’d like to find out more about our research, disability awareness training, or the Communication Access Symbol contact Scope’s CIRC at or
03 9843 2000.