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Better communication

We communicate with people many times every day, either face to face, on the phone or in writing. When communicating with someone with disability, it is important to remember to treat each person as an individual. Also, treat people with respect and consideration and in the way that you would want to be treated.

Some general tips for successful communication:

  • use a normal tone of voice—do not raise your voice unless asked to
  • be polite and patient—do not rush the conversation
  • speak directly to the person rather than the person with them
  • ask the person what will help with communication—there are different ways to communicate
  • don't pretend to understand—let the person know you are having difficulty; try asking yes or no questions
  • be flexible—reword rather than repeat anything that is not understood
  • only refer to the person's disability if necessary or relevant
  • offer assistance if it appears necessary, but respect the person's wishes if they don't accept your offer
  • avoid saying anything that implies the person with disability is superhuman, courageous or special
  • relax—everyone makes mistakes; apologise if you believe you have embarrassed someone.

A way with words

A way with words provides guidelines for the portrayal of people with disability with the aim of promoting inclusiveness and the accurate and fair portrayal of people with disability. Topics covered include appropriate language, interviewing a person with disability, providing public information to people with disability and general guidelines on communicating with a person with disability.

Complex communication needs

Complex communication needs shares information about what the term ‘complex communication needs’ means, the perspectives of some people with complex communication needs, and some general strategies that can be used on a daily basis.

Communication boards

Communication boards are a visual way of representing speech. They let people with disability express their needs, and communicate, using pictures.

A range of communication boards are available for download. Each board is customised for a particular use, such as:

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia (CC BY 3.0)
Last updated:
19 November 2014

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