Communication disabilities (2)

29 June, 2018

Thanks to Julie Marshall for raising the issue of communication disabilities. In low resource settings, there are no speech and language therapists even in most of the smaller cities. In the rural areas, the situation is worse. One difficulty is the lack of simple and accessible learning materials for community workers and parents on this theme.

In late 1980s, a community-based rehabilitation (CBR) programme in Zimbabwe had prepared a simple manual for community workers on communication disabilities. During the 1990s this manual (Let's Communicate) was published by the Disability & Rehab team of WHO. As far as I know, this is the only learning material on this theme for community level workers. However, it is woefully inadequate since at that time the concepts of alternative and augumentative communication were not there.

A couple of years ago, while at the regional office of Mobility India, I had coordinated a training course on this theme in Guwahati (north-east of India) for community workers and parents. We had also produced a manual in Assamese language for this course.

At that time, we had looked at other existing materials on this theme. I found that YouTube had many videos related to this theme, made by professionals as well as by parents, that could have been useful for community workers and parents but there were language and technology barriers. There were also some mobile apps that had useful information (for example an app for parents of children with cerebral palsy) but these also had language barriers as well as, copyright barriers, while the mechanisms for getting users' feedback and improving/updating the apps were weak.

I believe that this is an area of great need for which the new technologies can play a significant role in reaching out to parents and families in rural areas and small towns in low-resource settings.

Dr Sunil Deepak

HIFA profile: Sunil Deepak is a medical doctor with a long experience at international level in the areas of leprosy control, community health, and disability and rehabilitation programmes, especially in research, training and evaluation. For about 3 decades he worked with an Italian NGO AIFO and collaborated with the Disability & Rehab team of WHO as well as, with International Federation of anti-leprosy associations (ILEP) and International Disability & Development Consortium (IDDC). Then for a couple of years he was based in the north-east of India as head of regional centre of Mobility India. Now he collaborates as a volunteer with humanitarian organisations. sunil.deepak AT