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ICP Highlights the Impact of Communication Disabilities on Work and Employment

Raising the profile of communication disabilities at the United Nations (UN) is an important goal of the International Communication Project (ICP).

The ICP recently provided a submission to the 24th session of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to highlight the impact of communication disabilities on work and employment ahead of the general discussion in March 2021 on the right of persons with disabilities to work. By contributing to the Committee’s general discussion, the ICP had a valuable opportunity to influence guidance to State parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on the measures they should adopt to ensure full compliance with their obligations to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of persons with disabilities with regard to article 27 of the Convention.

The ICP submission addressed barriers to employment experienced by people with communication disabilities, the intergenerational impact of communication disabilities and the need for access to appropriate support such as inclusive communication approaches, speech and language therapy and audiological interventions. It drew from a review of evidence developed by ICP in 2018 to support the implementation of UN sustainable development goals for poverty, health and education with regard to communication disabilities.

The ICP submission highlighted:

  • Individuals with communication disabilities and their families are often placed at an economic disadvantage since many employment opportunities are impacted by communication disabilities.
  • Children with communication disabilities risk low levels of literacy and poor academic achievement at school as well as in higher education. They are more likely to leave school early.
  • For older people, acquired communication disabilities often affects return to work.
    • People with aphasia after stroke are less likely to return to work than those who don’t have aphasia.
    • For adults with traumatic brain injury, social communication difficulties have been found to be an important source of employment vulnerability.
  • Communication disabilities not only limit employment opportunities for individuals, but also for their caregivers.
    • Communication difficulties in older adults have been associated with caregivers reducing their hours in paid employment.
    • Families of children with intellectual disabilities fare worse than other families when compared on a variety of economic measures.
  • The links between communication disabilities, poverty and high levels of unemployment are significant and intergenerational.
  • Quality inclusive communication approaches must be integrated into all services which aim to provide access to welfare (in and out of work), support people into work, back in to the work place and/or retain people in the workforce.
  • Early intervention for communication disabilities must be available to reduce negative outcomes such as limited access to education.
  • Speech-language pathologists and audiologists have a crucial role in assisting both children and adults with communication disabilities to access employment and education through culturally and linguistically appropriate interventions.

It is clear that there are high levels of unemployment and a lack of adequate qualifications among persons with communication disabilities and their families.  Specific, targeted measures are needed to address and mitigate these barriers, to allow the people with communication disabilities full access and inclusion in the labour market, and enjoyment of the right to work.   

A detailed discussion about the impact of communication disabilities on poverty, education and health is available in the ICP report, The Importance of Speech, Language and Communication to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: A Summary of Evidence.

Meredith Wright
Director of Speech-Language Pathology and Communication Health Assistants
Speech-Language & Audiology Canada

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