Photo credit: Kate Garvey
Since face coverings became the norm due to COVID-19, communication between people has become increasingly challenging. Last week’s launch of a new disability symbol to make life easier for millions of people in the UK has therefore been described as ‘a lifeline in lockdown’, as UK businesses and organisations embrace the cause of accessible communication.
Communication is not just the ability to speak but also the ability to hear and understand what is said. More than 10% (1.4 million) of all children have a long-term communication need – and up to 20% of the UK’s population experience communication difficulty at some point in their lives.
The Communication Access Symbol, with underpinning training and standards, has been created for businesses, organisations and consumers by the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) in partnership with the Stroke Association, Headway, MND Association, Disability Rights UK, Business Disability Forum, Communication Matters, The Makaton Charity, and the National Network of Parent Carer Forums. The partnership is known as Communication Access UK.
Businesses and organisations can take up free online training on accessible face-to-face, telephone and online customer service. They will then be able to display the Communication Access Symbol – showing they have their customers’ needs close at heart.
Mark Chappell from West Yorkshire has aphasia due to a stroke. Although he can talk, he has difficulty finding words and names as well as reading, writing and processing information.
Mark said: “In shops, there is too much information and too many signs for my brain to process. In restaurants and cafes, I can’t understand menus with their small print and there are too many choices. I rely on my wife to read them for me.
“The Communication Access Symbol would give me more confidence to go to a shop as I know staff would understand my communication problems. If restaurants and cafes were also to invest in easy to read menus and price lists with pictures it would encourage me to use their premises.”
Skipton Building Society was the first financial provider to sign up to the programme and over the next 12 months it aims to roll this out across all customer facing teams from the branch networks to head office. Organisations from a wide range of industries are following suit including University of Leeds, Health Education and Improvement Wales and ISP Fostering.
Nick Hewer, RCSLT President, said: “Achieving the Communication Access UK standards and displaying the symbol will be a great way for organisations to show they value all their customers by being keen and able to communicate inclusively with people who currently have difficulties accessing their services. It’s a lifeline for millions of people.”