photo-icon Margie Charlesworth trainer from Two Way Street, demonstrates the communication materials with trained library staff member, Belinda.

A clearer conversation

Our Wellbeing

It’s easy to take the power of speech for granted. Without a voice, a quick question can become a challenge. More than 1,170,000 people in Australia have a communication disability including speech and hearing difficulties [i]

The responsibility to enable conversation does not lie solely in the hands of those with these difficulties – many organisations recognise this and are working to break down the barriers to conversation, including the City of Adelaide.

What often comes to mind when people think of communication aids are hearing aids or other technologies controlled by the person with disability, but businesses can also play an active role in providing access to communication. Adelaide-based company Two Way Street specialise in communication solutions and provide businesses with tailored training and resources.

Armed with the new knowledge, trained businesses are assessed and those who are up to scratch are awarded with the nationally recognised Communication Access Symbol. The symbol is awarded by disability service provider, Scope, and sends a clear message about which businesses are communication accessible.

Access symbol

The Communication Access Symbol

Passing the test

Gaining the accreditation does not require expensive equipment and specialists on staff but rather, a change in process, tools, and often, perspective.

One of the fundamental requirements for accreditation is that staff are willing to use different methods of communication. A communication board is a low cost and low tech communication method that businesses can supply for their customers. The boards are printed cards with images and words that enable people to communicate by pointing in combination with or without voice. These boards are usually tailored to depict the most relevant information for the customer and situation.

Four City of Adelaide services was awarded the Communication Access Symbol in August 2019 – its customer centre and three libraries. The accreditation came after years of planning and months of staff training and production of communication materials. Although the symbol has been awarded to hundreds of locations, Scope considers these locations especially significant as they are the first locations the symbol has been awarded outside of Victoria, where the organisation is based.

Receiving the accreditation is one of the actions outlined in the City of Adelaide’s 2019 to 2022 Disability Access and Inclusion Plan

Broad appeal

It’s not only people with disability who benefit from accessible communication material. 44% of Australian adults have low English literacy [ii], which equates to reading and comprehending a standard newspaper. Making materials available in alternative formats, such as simplified English or an audio version, is crucial to empower almost half the population.

The appeal of simplified versions goes beyond those with low literacy and communication difficulties. Sarah Cleggett, the City of Adelaide’s Senior Social Planner responsible for access and inclusion, says she has found an alternative version is preferred by almost everyone.

A prime example is the Easy English version of the City of Adelaide 2019 to 2022 Disability Access and Inclusion Plan. It’s not hard to understand the appeal when you compare the 570 words across 13 pages of the Easy English version to the of 7,000 words across 25 pages of the original.

”In our busy world, having our messages available in a format that assists people to quickly grasp key concepts can help us more effectively communicate with our community.”

Sarah Cleggett, City of Adelaide Senior Social Planner

Value in diversity

There’s enormous value in enabling communication. For businesses it makes economic sense to increase your customer base and differentiate yourself from competitors by offering quality communication, but the value for the community is even greater.

Improved materials enable people with communication barriers to take an active role in the community and contribute to decision making. The benefits of this involvement are broad, improving everything from the quality of public programming to greater accessibility in new infrastructure projects.

Ultimately, making improvements to the quality of communication for those with disability, makes improvements for everyone.

Header image: Margie Charlesworth trainer from Two Way Street, demonstrates the communication materials with trained library staff member, Belinda.

Article by

Georgie Smith

Georgie Smith

Maker and curator of things

Georgie has been BFFs with Adelaide her whole life. They’ve shared many special moments: over cheese platters at art exhibitions, cycling through the park lands and immersed in sequin-clad theatre shows.