Communication is the foundation for connection and our wellbeing for each of us. It is how we initiate and cultivate relationships. It is how we share our needs and ultimately is formative in our ability to have those needs met. Communication is not just how we share ourselves with the world, but also how we orient ourselves within it. It is how we play, love, work and interact with our world. Communication is foundational to the human experience.
When a disability impairs communication, to any degree and at any stage, it can be devastating. A disability that impairs communication not only limits expression but can create additional barriers for connection with others and limit independence. Connection is critical for our survival and ability to thrive, and disabilities can impose challenges on what’s possible when connecting with others and connecting with the environment we live in.
This month is “Disability Awareness Month”, and it is bringing to light the challenges that disabilities bring to the human experience. Disabilities – from physical to cognitive and everywhere in between – bring challenges as unique as the person. We recognize that we all have different skills and different experiences that shape our ability to connect with the world, our communities, and even ourselves and we are committed to a world that removes those barriers so human thriving is accessible for all.
Tools in the Toolbox
Everyone’s communication styles are unique to us as individuals. How one person chooses to order their dinner at a restaurant will inherently look and sound different than the person ordering next to them. When a disability is involved that affects communication – whether it was impaired from birth, as the result of a traumatic incident, is part of a degenerative disease progression, or other cognitive impairment – the look and sound of a “typical” request can feel even more foreign.
We all possess tools in our toolbox that can be used for expressing our needs. Those tools are a large part of what ultimately inspired EyeTech early on to set out on the Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) path. There are incredible opportunities ahead for expanding and augmenting the communication methods accessible to anyone of any ability. Identifying the tools can be a challenge, but a worthwhile one to explore with the help of a Speech Language Pathologist, doctor or loved one, as the payoff is profound.
Using the Tools
Digital interactions alone have reshaped the world over the last decade. Excitingly, technology – and the trajectory of communication technology – is swiftly closing the gap in providing ways for people of all abilities to connect with each other and their environments; both in real life and online.
As much as digital experiences have brought down barriers, the stigmas of disabilities in physical interactions continue to incite barriers to meaningful connection. How disabled persons can interact with the world around them may look different and it can be hard for others to empathize with people that look and interact differently. What is unfamiliar and unknown for all can be scary. However, when the tools available are identified for each individual and implemented in a meaningful and supportive way, those barriers can be brought down. Connection can be established and restored.
Regaining Abilities to Connect
We all need connection to thrive and reach our potential. When people of all backgrounds, abilities, and experiences have the tools they need to communicate and control their lives, connection can build bridges from which innovation can be born. When barriers are removed that were preventing effective communication and limiting independence, opportunities for equitable access to resources open as well.
We should all seek to be creative and embrace the myriad and spectrum of tools available that help with communication and independent control. With effective tools, we are capable of many incredible things that can improve the human experience. By providing and improving access to technologies that improve communication and independence, we are ultimately capable of improving connection – and that can provide and exciting potential for a future unimpaired by a disability and change that individual to one seen with abilities.
Let us know what disabilities have you seen that need to be changed into abilities.