On March 16, 2022, our Vice-President, Cynde, invited our President, Kathleen, to speak at Metro’s Public Safety Advisory Committee on the topic of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices. It was felt as essential to educate the PSAC on the fact that some individuals with disabilities communicate in non-traditional methods, i.e. with AAC devices or other methods.
My focus was not only on various types of augmentative communication, but also on how best to accommodate individuals who use these methods of communication in the case of an emergency. I was asked to explain what augmentative communication is and to share the different methods of augmentative communication that individuals use. I was also asked to share my experience of how others react to my alternative mode of communication. Due to mostly being in louder environments, I use my iPhone as my AAC, typing my message in the notepad app, then showing the other person my message; I have had good success, although a few people think I am hearing impaired because of the typed message, and insist on typing or writing their response back to me.
In regards to emergency situations, I stressed that it is important to take a moment to allow the individual to communicate via their device or by voice. They might be trying to explain an emergency situation they are in, an injury they just sustained, or specific instructions on how to move them and their mobility device. I concluded by emphasizing that only in extreme emergencies should another person/personnel take control, and that should only be until the individual with the disability is out of danger.