Supporting Communication

Supporting communication

Communication accessibility

Everyone has the right to communicate, but some people do not have easy access to communication.

Communication accessibility means overcoming any barriers to communicating.

Communication accessibility means that anyone is able to go out into the community and know that people will:

  • be welcoming and friendly and treat them with dignity and respect.
  • look at them and talk directly to them
  • give them time to get their message across
  • listen to what they have to say
  • be willing to use their alternative methods of communicating.

Watch a video in Auslan from Scope that explains communication accessibility.


Speech pathologist, talks about communication accessibility

‘If you can't get that message across then you can sometimes be treated as a person who is less than you are. We start looking at shops as 'Is this shop a communication accessible shop?' in the same way as we would look at 'Are there ramps or are there wheelchairs spots for a person with a physical disability?' So, 'What has this shop got in place for a person who comes in with a communication disability or communication difference?’

Communication happens everywhere

Communication can happen anywhere! The place where communication happens can be called the communication environment.

Sometimes communication happens in a quiet place, where it's easy to hear and see. But, often communication happens in busy or noisy places. Noise, harsh lights, and distractions can be a barrier to communication.

Changing the communication environment to reduce these barriers can make communication more accessible.

Checking and changing the communication environment is an important skill for communication partners to learn about. See more strategies at Tips for communication partners.

Universal design for communication access

Another important idea in communication accessibility is Universal Design. 'Universal' means 'for everyone'.

Universal design started with a focus on physical access in buildings. Inside and outdoor spaces can be designed so they work for everyone, including people who use wheelchairs.

The idea of universal design now covers all areas of life, including communication access. Options that support people with communication difficulties include quiet carriages on trains and low-noise, low-distraction shopping hours.

Universal design has also transformed mainstream devices and technology. Multiple ways to access the same content are now built into their design. This means information can be accessed by more people, including people with communication difficulties, people with diverse languages and cultures, and people who use alternative ways to communicate.

The Communication Access Symbol

The Communication Hub joins the many individuals and organisations promoting the Communication Access Symbol.

We hope that it will achieve the same status as the Wheelchair Access symbol in terms of respect, recognition, support, design and legal obligation.

The internationally recognised Communication Access Symbol was developed by Scope’s Communication and Inclusion Resource Centre in 2011. The aim is to create a world where people who have communication difficulties are able to communicate successfully with everyone.

The Communication Access Symbol is awarded to businesses that undergo an accreditation process to recognise communication access as part of their access and inclusion plans.

An environment or service is 'communication accessible' when people are respectful and responsive to individuals with communication difficulties, and when strategies and resources are used to support successful communication. Communication Access is fundamental to creating services that are fully accessible to all customers.

When businesses and services display the Communication Access Symbol, it means they are communication accessible:

  • Staff are welcoming and treat everyone with dignity and respect
  • Staff are able to communicate successfully with people with communication difficulties
  • Communication tools are available to help people get their message across and understand what people are telling them.

Over 200 Australian businesses have been accredited with the Communication Access Symbol including public transport providers, justice services, local government and community organisations. Watch this short video to see the impact of the Communication Access Symbol accreditation.

Scope provides tools and resources to help businesses and services providers work toward achieving the Communication Access symbol. Scope’s experienced team of consultants work in collaboration with the business to develop customised communication tools, provide practical training and complete an audit to ensure goods and services adhere to a set of communication access standards. Scope services are led by an experiences team of trainers, assessors and consumer testers with lived experience of communication disability.

For more information about the Communication Access Symbol please contact Scope’s communication access team at [email protected]

Learn more

Scope's resources on communication access. Scope is a Victorian-based disability services provider offering services to over 6000 clients and their families. Scope provide access and inclusion services nationally, supporting organisations across transport, utilities, finance, government and retail to become fully inclusive of customers with physical and communication disability.

Communication Access for All: Introducing the Communication Access Symbol A booklet in pdf format, published by Scope Australia in 2015, outlining the history and application of the Communication Access Symbol in Australia. This resource includes stories of lived experience, and outlines the importance of communication access. It includes the iconic ‘Final Piece Of The Puzzle’ image (see page 4).

Communication Access Literature Review Commissioned by Speech Pathology Australia on behalf of the Communication Access Alliance. The Communication Access Alliance aims to create national standards for communication access, and foster communication accessible communities. Executive summary available in Easy English and Plain English formats.