- What government policy and legislation can I look at to get helpful information about communication needs?
Two key pieces of legislation affect disabled people in the UK. First, the UK has agreed to the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People. This document explicitly states that disabled people have the same rights as others, including, among others, the right to be free from discrimination, the right to education, employment, health and justice. Information about the convention can be found here: www.un.org/disabilities
Second, the Equality Act 2010 provides the UK’s framework on discrimination protection. Under this piece of legislation, a disability is defined as an impairment that causes ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effects on the ability to perform daily activities. The entire Act can be found here: www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/contents Government guidance can be found here: www.gov.uk/equality-act-2010-guidance
- What types of services are available to help me find the right communication system?
There are many services that can help individuals find AAC systems that work best for them. Communication Matters has compiled a list of services available throughout the UK here.
Through the service reviews and modelling of services currently in progress across England, Wales and Scotland, the following may be reconfigured within a new national framework over the coming months. The information that follows was accurate, to the best of our knowledge at the time of publishing.
Some charities aim to help people who may benefit from AAC. These include the ACE Centre in Oxford and Oldham; Hannah’s Trust in the South West; and the Percy Hedley Foundation in Newcastle.
CALL Scotland, at the University of Edinburgh, helps people with disabilities in Scotland and their supporters make the most of new technology. It specialises in helping pupils access the curriculum in educational settings. CENMAC has similar aims for helping children in Greater London. CandLE in Cumbria is another independent organisation that can assist with AAC assessment.
Some services address disability more broadly and can provide assessments for physical limitations as well as communication impairment. These include AbilityNet in Warwick; Assistive Technology Consultancy Services in Winchester; Compass at the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability in London; and Sensations CTS in Nottingham.
Local specialist AAC services are available through the NHS in Ayrshire and Arran, Barnsley, Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Central London, East Kent and Swale, Glasgow, Kent, London Great Ormond Street Hospital (children’s service), Newcastle, North Bristol (children’s service), Oxford, Sheffield, Southwark and Sussex (children’s service). Councils that provide advice on AAC include Aberdeen (children’s service), Edinburgh, Fife and Norfolk (children’s service).
Most of these services would like to work with everyone involved with the individual who will be using AAC, including family members, therapists, educators and support workers.
- How do I get access to services?
The websites of all the services listed above detail each organisation’s referral procedure. Some can only be accessed by referral of a speech and language therapist, other medical professional or education professional, but others accept self-referrals.
- Do these services charge a fee? Would I have to pay the fee?
Services offered through the NHS are free at point of service. Some independent consultants and private companies will charge a fee for their service. Charitable bodies may offer a combination, with some advice being free and more bespoke services incurring a cost. Funding may be available through your school or local authority.