One morning, many moons ago…back in high school, while I was wheeling past the school office on my way to class, the boys’ guidance counsellor happened to be in the hallway and asked, “Glenda, would you rather be able to walk or to talk?”
Some people might find that question insensitive or even offensive. I found it sincere and genuinely interested.
I am puzzled by society’s obsession with the ability to walk. That not being able to move about upright on one’s own two feet makes you less of a person, less worthy or valuable. And it is something that needs fixing or curing.
But the inability to clearly communicate verbally is far more disabling. For some reason, which I still do not understand, the majority of society links the ability to speak with the ability to hear and to understand. When encountering someone who has troubles speaking or who they assume do not understand, they automatically begin talking louder and slower, and even use hand gestures as if an impromptu game of Charades had broken out.
Not being able to speak clearly causes much frustration, misunderstanding and isolation. It means the daily interactions people have with others without even thinking about it becomes an ordeal. Little things like making a hair appointment, ordering an iced mocha latte with skim milk, or talking with one’s doctor in private becomes an ordeal, if not impossible. It also means missed opportunities when it comes to socializing, making friends, and finding jobs. This negatively impacts one’s self-esteem and self-confidence, leading to further social isolation.
To the counsellor’s question, I immediately uttered “talk” and continued, unfazed, on my way to class.
Nearly thirty-five years later, the last frontier in accessibility is finally being addressed: communication access.
Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC) has launched a 2.5-year national project Communication Access Now (CAN) to promote communication accessibility for people who have speech and language disabilities.
If that isn’t fantastic enough, I am excited to share that I am now the Social Media Coordinator for this national awareness campaign; a project very dear to my heart for obvious reasons. I am now tweeting and facebooking (that is a word, right?) on behalf of Communication Access Now. I get to help get the message out, using communication tools I love! How perfect.
How can you become involved?
Check out the education and resources about making goods and services accessible to people with communication disabilities. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
Please join us in this awareness campaign. Together, we can conquer this final frontier in accessibility.
If you enjoyed this post, consider buying me a chai tea latte. Thanks kindly.