Communication Matters is a small charity that represents the interests of people who have complex communication disabilities, across all ages and conditions, who use other ways of speaking. ‘Augmentative and Alternative Communication’ (AAC for short) may be high-tech equipment, tablet apps, communication boards and books, symbols, or sign language.
We desperately need funds to be able to run a series of virtual events for our members.
The primary beneficiaries of our work are AAC users and their family members and carers, but also a range of professionals associated with AAC, such as teachers, speech and language therapists, clinical scientists and researchers.
Oral communication can be compromised across all ages and a range of conditions such as cerebral palsy, motor neurone disease, Parkinson’s disease, those who have had a brain injury, cognitive impairments or autism.
We support all of these people. We do this by providing information, advice, support groups, training, events, and signposting to NHS Specialised AAC Services for assessments, and company suppliers of AAC equipment for trials and loans. Without this, it is difficult to know what support is available and from where.
Our vision is: a world where all individuals have a right to a voice through the provision of communication solutions and ongoing support services.
Our mission is: to promote an individual’s right to participate in all aspects of life by using their most appropriate means of communication to express their thoughts, feelings, needs and desires.
Our main aims are to: increase awareness of AAC, involve AAC users, improve service standards and encourage research.
Our current situation
We normally hold Study Days and AAC Information Days to support our beneficiaries across the year, but the main focus goes on our International AAC Conference which is the UK’s leading annual AAC event. Over the course of two and a half days, participants enjoy a diverse programme of keynotes, plenaries, presentations, posters and a supplier exhibition.
Last year’s conference attracted attendees from 19 countries and had the largest ever attendance at 450 attendees. Of these there were 23 AAC users and 67 parents / carers, the majority of whom were given heavily subsidised places, to facilitate the engagement of AAC users to share best practice and personal experiences.
What is the impact?
Cancelling all events this year has had a significant impact on our income and affected many of our families who will miss out on much needed opportunities to meet up and share experiences with others in a similar situation.
In response to COVID-19 we have hosted online AAC users’ meetings to support individuals to meet and chat together in a safe space about their current experiences. This has been greeted with huge enthusiasm by those that take part. Everyone said they were missing their friends and family. We hope to develop this group further to become an AAC user consultation group who we will be able to go to for feedback on certain issues as we develop new services or resources. One comment made during the meeting was "We will really miss the Conference as it is like meeting up with family”. We really want to provide an alternative to try to replicate this and an online event is our only option this year.
During lockdown, many of our AAC users and their families have had to shield and may have lost much of the care and support they usually receive. We have been contacted by members who are feeling isolated by the experience and are looking for online events to meet friends and colleagues and learning vital information about AAC in these changing times.
Please help us to run an online event which will bring our CM family together at a time when we need it most.