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Draft NZ Disability Strategy

AAC ActivistThe draft NZ Disability Strategy is now out: here is the link http://jointheconversation.nz/ We need to provide feedback to this document if we want to ensure that communication is well included. The Disability Strategy is a high level document, and one cannot fault the intent.

Highlights for me are around the “whole-of-life approach” and the commitment to breaking down the barriers between the silos of supports and services and instead focusing on the outcomes we have the potential to achieve, along with the frequent reference to providing support to communicate.

In Outcome 1: education, it was great to see the reference to the need for technology, equipment and specialist supports. However, I was disappointed to see that although there was special reference to deaf and blind and the requirements they have, there is no mention of students with communication impairments. I would like to see the following statement added

If I have a communication impairment, I will be able to access augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) tools and strategies.

In Outcome 5: accessibility, it was great to see mention of innovative use of technology both mainstream technology as well as technology designed specifically for disabled people.

Outcome 6: attitudes, attitudes are so important and we as AAC activists need to breakdown attitudinal barriers:

“Just Because I don’t Speak, Doesn’t Mean I Don’t Have Anything to Say”

The use of AAC tools and strategies means that we do have a voice. As the Strategy says: My voice will be encouraged and listened to, just like anyone else, even though I may communicate differently, use aids, or augmentative devices, and/or have support to communicate or express my preferences.

In addition, the following paragraph at the start of the document also raises another issue:

The international catch-cry of disabled people is ‘nothing about us, without us’. For our disability community here in New Zealand, this also includes people who find it hard to, or are not able to, speak for themselves and who can sometimes be amongst our most vulnerable and marginalised members. While there may be different terms used for this group, such as people with intensive support needs, the thing they have in common is that they often rely on other people to help make decisions for them, or with them.

I attended the Supported Decision Making Hui held by Auckland Disability Law recently. It was a great meeting, and I hope that there will be some very positive developments as more people recognise the barriers to making decisions. It was apparent that there was not a lot of awareness of AAC and how the use of AAC tools and strategies can help people be active and independent participants in the decision making process. The message from the Complex Care Group was particularly powerful and I think this is recognised in the Strategy with the reference to some people with intensive support needs….. often rely[ing] on other people to help make decisions for them, or with them. Hopefully with the emphasis on, “with” them. We need to ensure that supported decision making is done in the most appropriate way.

You now have a chance to Join the Conversation and provide feedback on the draft NZ Disability Strategy. I hope you take the opportunity, as TalkLink will be doing. This feedback needs to be completed by Sunday 21 August 2016.

Be an AAC activist and make your voice heard on this important guiding document.

But wait there is more:

Did you know about the International Communication Project? http://www.internationalcommunicationproject.com/about-icp/ Here is an extract:

Established in 2014, the ICP is built on the premise that communication is vital to life; yet is largely ignored as a disability. The World Health Organization’s World Report on Disability estimates that roughly one billion people around the world are living with some form of disability. However, the authors of the report acknowledge that people with communication disabilities may not be included in this estimate, despite the fact that they encounter significant difficulties in their daily lives.

No wonder it is hard to get people thinking about communication, but reassuring that there are lots of references to communication disabilities in the draft NZ Disability Strategy!


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Ann Smaill

Ann Smaill

General Manager, Speech Language Therapist at The Talklink Trust
I am the General Manager of the TalkLink Trust, and also a speech-language therapist. I have been working with people who have complex communication needs for many years.
Ann Smaill

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.talklink.org.nz/index.php/2016/08/03/nz-draft-disability-strategy/


  1. Alison Paulin

    Thanks Anne,

    Right on the button as usual. I will submit as well, and presume you are happy with some liberal cutting and pasting from your thoughtful response.


  2. Ann Smaill
    Ann Smaill

    Thanks Alison, absolutely I hope lots of people will submit, feel free to use this content liberally.


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