The diverse needs of our clients and of those they provide supports to is something that I am intimately aware of. With many of my colleagues having supported vulnerable people, they recognise the basic human right to be heard and to access services that are clear and supportive of their needs. Coming from operational backgrounds in disability support, law enforcement and private investigation sectors their personal and professional experiences assist in making our processes clear and accessible to all.
In my role, I am often reminded of my own privileges and strive to live treating everyone equally, voicing any inequality I see. Still, I believe we all take so much that is normal to us for granted, whether it be our health, relationships, privilege or the environment in which we live. This week in particular I am reminded of my own privilege, of access to communication, and how for a brief moment this was taken away from me.
It was during an overseas trip. I was in a foreign speaking country with a few friends, exploring by day and night when I caught a bad cold. Instead of resting, as I should have, I continued pushing myself everyday seeing as much as possible, experiencing as much as possible.
One morning I woke up my throat aching but thinking nothing of it I messaged my friends, who were staying in a hostel across town, and made my way to our meeting point.
When I tried to say good morning to my friends I found I could barely whisper a ‘hello!’. We joked saying I’d talked to much the day before and for the rest of the day I was careful and spoke sparingly. The following day I had no voice. It was more than two weeks later until I could whisper again.
Now this experience is inconsequential, of my own folly and should not be compared to those of people who struggle with access to communication on a daily basis but for me, someone who has no barriers to communication in my everyday life, it was a massive wake up call.
Once realising my situation, I went to a pharmacy for anything that may help and heal my throat. Being in a foreign country there was limited to no English on the packaging in the store. The pharmacists tried to help me, but I couldn’t speak, I didn’t know any signs and I didn’t know how to write the language as I had been relying on a few spoken phrases whilst travelling. It was only with the help of my friends that I was able to succeed in finding the correct medicine.
The experience over these weeks was not only frustrating but anxiety inducing. When I was in the presence of my friends I felt relaxed, I could write notes using my phone to communicate but if I was separated my mind was constantly filled with questions. How would I communicate if someone asked me a question? If I got lost? Or if I got hurt?
It is all these questions and feelings that are rising in my memory this Speech Pathology Week. My experience was but a brief moment in my life and it opened up a series of questions and challenges to problems I had never faced. Unfortunately, many people deal with such challenges on a daily basis and if not for the intervention of our brilliant speech pathologists these challenges would continue, and their voices may not be heard.
It is this week I am grateful to be working in a space where these challenges are considered. If someone is hurt, if someone is scared; how will we ensure their voices are heard? Our talented investigators adopt various investigative techniques to interview people with limited verbal capacity or cognitive impairments to ensure their voices, whether verbal or otherwise, are heard.
To learn more about Speech Pathology Week visit https://www.speechpathologyaustralia.org.au and learn how you can get involved and promote communication rights.