Let’s say you’ve had a stroke or you’ve been in a serious car accident. You are full of feelings, thoughts and questions, but you have no way to communicate. You want to tell your loved ones you’re the same person you’ve always been; it’s just you can’t move or speak in the same way. People assume you don’t understand anything they say, and you have no way to tell them you understand everything. Imagine the isolation.
Or imagine this: You can communicate with a computerized speech generating device, but it’s exponentially slower than typical speech. It takes extraordinary effort, but before you've had a chance to finish saying what's on your mind with your communication device, the people around you get impatient, and walk away. You know they don’t intend to hurt your feelings, but when they walk away, you are left alone and hurting.
Or perhaps you’re a child, with an active, inquiring mind. You don’t speak, and you’re placed in a classroom with others who are unable to speak, and no one seems to know how to help any of you communicate. They have no idea about your abilities and capabilities. Can you imagine your despair? What do you do? Scream? Withdraw? Go to sleep?
There are an estimated 375,000 Canadians with limited or no speech. Many have conditions like cerebral palsy, MS or ALS, which prevent them from moving the muscles in their mouths which enable speech. Others have had strokes, or serious car accidents. Or they have autism, aphasia, throat or thyroid cancer, Alzheimer’s, dementia, or other medical conditions.
Each one is a human being who needs to speak and be heard, love and be loved, to belong, contribute and participate—just like anyone else. That means having access to Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) services, supports and technology, as well as having education, community and employment opportunities. The situations above are real, and all too common. They are the stories which have inspired Kilometres for Communication, a national public education, awareness and fundraising campaign. Our goal is to empower the voices and lives of people who have limited or no speech, and to make accessibility and inclusion--for the more than 3 million Canadians with disabilities--a national priority.
Go to the Route and Timeline page.
A project of ISAAC Canada
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