Barrier Free Communication #communicateawareness

Written by Monique Les

The month of May is generally dedicated to speech and hearing awareness, with organizations  such as the Speech-Language & Audiology Canada (SAC), the Canadian Academy of Audiology (CAA), and the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA) actively participating.

Many of these campaigns often focus on creating barrier free communication, a wonderful opportunity to talk about how you (the parent, the student, the young adult, the teachers of the deaf/hard of hearing) can enhance that experience. A few suggestions are provided by ASHA, adapted to fit the Canadian hard of hearing student’s profile:

  • Know Your Child’s RightsCanada supports the protection and promotion of rights for people with disabilities (ratified in 2010) in relationship with the United Nations(. This means that Canada must submit a report every 4 years to the UN. Article 7  highlights the rights for children. All children in Canada are to be given equal opportunities (even with a hearing loss).
  • Maximize Achievement—When it comes to managing hearing loss in schools, the use of an individualized education program (IEP) maximizes a child’s success in the educational setting. The IEP may specify audiology services, speech-language pathology services, and services of teachers of the deaf or hard of hearing. Parents have a right to participate in these meetings and are a vital part of the process. I actually have NEVER seen my own IEP. However, I’m sure my parents have. I would say that the key to my success was my parents constantly advocating for me in the early years – they were my first role models in advocacy.
  • Champion Classroom Technology—Technology, such as remote Hearing Assistive Technology (HAT; formerly referred to as FM), can make it easier for a child using a hearing aid or cochlear implant to hear and understand speech in a noisy classroom. Other technology solutions, such as a sound-field system, can benefit all kids in the classroom. Your IEP team should consider the specific and unique technology needs of your child. A tip: get the classroom involved! Kids are really curious and I would often let them look at my hearing aids/DM system/cochlear implant/other assistive tech. This not only fosters hearing clarity, but also to educate your peers. I’ll never forget the look on my friends’ faces when they realized that my hearing aids are super LOUD.
  • Encourage Effective Teaching Strategies—Talk to your child’s teacher about easy ways for them to help your child. Basic strategies—such as seating a child near the front, not turning one’s back while speaking, giving both verbal and written instructions on assignments, and using visual aids—can go a long way. I remember when I was growing up, my mother and itinerant teacher would schedule a meeting in the beginning of the school year (usually the second week of classes) to have a conversation with my teachers about my needs. It was really helpful, and such a great way to learn how to advocate for myself later on as an adult! 
  • Educate About Noisy Classrooms—Noise makes it more difficult for children with hearing loss to hear classroom instruction, and it is actually a distraction for many children. Inform school personnel about ways they can make classrooms quieter. Easy techniques include placing rugs or carpets over bare floors, turning off noisy classroom equipment when not in use, and placing latex-free caps on chair legs. In North America, we have hushhups for those noisy chair legs. Hushhups look like blue tennis balls – but they really aren’t! Seriously, go check it out.

If you’re like me, I’m a bit of a hashtag addict. Which is why I was over the moon to learn that the Speech-Language & Audiology Canada has adopted the following as part of their campaign:


What communication strategies do you like?

What communication strategies do you wish to see?

What communication strategies do you want others to know about?

Let’s have that conversation! Right here.