Other communication support tools

There are many different documents and other items eg. cards / badges / wrist bands available to help people communicate non-verbally. I’ve covered those specifically intended for use when using public transport in another blog post as there are rather a lot of them. It’s quite difficult to create an overarching structure to describe what’s broadly available, as what exists comes from different sources made for different and often overlapping purposes. To keep this post to a manageable length, I haven’t covered Apple or Android Applications that do the same or a similar job to these physical objects. At an overarching level there seem to be:

  • Items which prove something about the individual to someone else
  • Items which assert an entitlement to a discount / concession
  • Items that assist communication specifically with public services or other officialdom
  • Items that generally assist communication – whether because someone cannot (always) use spoken English, the information is too lengthy/detailed to be spoken and needs to be put in writing, the information is important and has to be communicated repeatedly or because it’s designed for an emergency situation where someone who would otherwise speak is prevented from doing so.

In more detail there are:

  • Typical symbols of disability that are reasonably well known: Blue badges, Disabled Persons Railcard, Bus Pass under the English National Concessionary Travel Scheme (includes Freedom Passes for London), Disabled Coachcard
  • Correspondence from the DWP eg. award letters for DLA/PIP/AA and in some circumstances ESA or about the limited capable for work (and work related activity) elements of Universal Credit. This is a prerequisite to obtaining some of the other items listed here. A4 letters are much less convenient for carrying in a purse or wallet than something credit card sized. They also contain a lot of personal information that is often irrelevant.
  • Correspondence from Children’s Services or Adult Social Care eg. an assessment of your needs, details of the services they’re providing.
  • Correspondence in respect of NHS Continuing Care.
  • EHCPs and Annual Review documentation.
  • very occasionally, documents providing written proof of registration with a Local Authority as disabled, eg. Hampshire’s yellow card
  • also occasionally, letters from a doctor, usually on an NHS letterhead, confirming something about you – that you can’t stand, queue, need a telephone, need a carer (or more than one), need someone to travel with you to hospital appointments, can’t use a telephone directory etc and things like Certificates of Visual Impairment.
  • Medical Exemption Certificates for presciptions
  • cards and other identifying items to help you show you entitlement to a discount or other concession eg. Nimbus Access Card, CEA Card, DID card – usually for these sorts of cards, to obtain the card you need to show the issuing organisation some evidence of your need for it.
  • organisation specific cards showing an entitlement / concession eg. the National Trust’s Essential Companion card, Ride Access Passes / Carer Passes for Merlin theme parks.
  • cards intended to help people deal with the police and other authority figures – some Autism Alert Cards are like this. As these sorts of cards are often created together with police forces, they are usually only issued on receipt of proof of a particular disability or condition. There are other initiatives aimed at helping people with communication problems interact with the police eg. some areas’ implementations of the Safe Places Scheme (but not all of them), Pegasus Card Scheme
  • Specifics to do with toileting – RADAR keys to open accessible toilets that are kept locked using a standard key format. Can’t Wait cards which seem to sit in an odd place – they are intended for use by people who are usually verbal to reinforce or replace a verbal request to use a toilet – with part of the theatre of the request coming from the card appearing to be official (though they’re not).
  • cards and other items to explain in simple terms that you have a particular disability or illness eg. Autism Alert cards, that are often created by the well known charities and are reasonably easy to obtain on request. Here’s another by the Bladder and Bowel Foundation
  • tools that originate from disabled adults making the things that work for them see eg. Stickman Communications, the Curly Hair Project, Codeword Pineapple, Cancer on Board badges, Doodlepeople, Sootmegs
  • tools that originate from work developed by Speech and Language Therapists, see eg. products produced by the Play Doctors, like communication fans, communication passports
  • medical alert bracelets, necklaces and other items intended for emergency communication eg. Medic Alert, ICE Communication Cards, some carers emergency card schemes, message in a bottle schemes
  • situation specific tools eg. hospital passports, Disability/About Me Passport for assisting in person communication with Job Centre Plus staff, Reasonable Adjustment Passports and Wellness Action Plans for use in the workplace – many of these tools are designed for communicating information that has to be communicated repeatedly in an efficient way.