Research shows a gap between people with disabilities and wider public, Castlemaine's Nateace Norden says

Communication: Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan listens to Nateace Norden speak via her iPad at an event last year. Picture: JASON WALLS
Communication: Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan listens to Nateace Norden speak via her iPad at an event last year. Picture: JASON WALLS

New research has found Australians feel too self-conscious and anxious to talk to people who use alternate methods of communication.

Disability support service Scope conducted over 100 in-depth interviews with people with disabilities and surveyed 1000 people about communication difficulties.

They found four in five Australians believed it was best to direct their conversations to a support person and many were reluctant to converse with those with disabilities. Two in five were worried they might offend and 39.4 per cent “just did not know how” to communicate.

One in seven Australians experienced a communication difficulty in their lifetime and many relied on tools like electronic speech devices, word boards and picture boards.

Castlemaine’s Nateace Norden used an iPad app, pointing to and pressing images to create sentences. The app could also generate speech to give her a ‘voice’.

“The research results are surprising, but I think it does show the gap between people with disabilities and Australian people,” she said.

Of study participants who had a disability, 46 per cent felt frustrated when people addressed their carers instead of them, 41 per cent felt worried and 30 per cent felt lonely.

When I speak with you, please be patient and let me get my message across before you butt in or roll your eyes. It takes me a little longer to get what I am saying across.

Nateace Norden

“When someone talks to my support person it feels like they don’t want to give me the time of day. It feels wrong but it happens all the time,” Ms Norden said.

She did not always have time to write her messages slowly and clearly. It could make it tricky to get her point across.

“When people don’t wait for you to type your message out; and don’t wait for you to finish writing what you are going to say, it’s bad. You know when they aren’t (waiting) because they act rude and start talking to other people,” she said.

Ms Norden said there were a few things more people should do when communicating with her.

“When I speak with you, please be patient and let me get my message across before you butt in or roll your eyes. It takes me a little longer to get what I am saying across,” she said.

Ms Norden shared a positive example of communication.

“I was on a plane and I needed help with my food. One of the flight attendants was very nice and didn’t mind helping me, due to my disability,” Ms Norden said.

Scope called on organisations to undertake disability awareness education as well as get accredited in communication accessibility to ensure their businesses are ready to welcome people with a communication disability.