I am Brandon Tomlin and I work for Scope’s Communication and Inclusion Resource Centre as a communication access assessor. I am also a disability advocate and a writer. I have a passion for social justice issues especially making sure that people with communication difficulties have the same rights and opportunities that everyone else enjoys.
I communicate with an eye gaze board. This is a large, clear, plastic board with letters and numbers printed on it. My communication partner holds up the board and I spell out my message by looking at each letter I want to select. This requires a lot of trust and understanding from both parties in the conversation.
About a month ago I went to a government department to deal with some urgent personal matters. I have been to this department before and found the staff were able to use my eye gaze boards, so I was confident to go again. However, on this occasion I found the experience to be quite different.
As soon as I entered staff spoke to me as if I was a child. This is demeaning for anyone, especially for someone like me who lives on their own and is very independent. The staff were prematurely predicting what I was trying to spell which was frustrating and made our interaction even more complicated. I felt like I was being rushed through the whole interaction and that staff only wanted to get rid of me as soon as possible.
I think my experience highlights the need for government departments to consider the need for communication training so that they can communicate appropriately with people with complex communication needs. I also think that having a simple communication board or book with typical lines of enquiry would be of great benefit to all people with communication support needs, including people with limited literacy or from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
At the end of the day, everyone has a fundamental right to communicate, regardless of what their challenges are.
If you would like more information on training, communication aids, or how to become communication accessible, contact Scope’s Communication and Inclusion Resource Centre on 1300 472 673 or firstname.lastname@example.org