This year we commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This important document includes 30 articles describing a variety of rights that apply to all people across the world.
One key section—article 19—especially applies to audiology and speech-language pathology :
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
Article 19 is frequently cited to promote freedom of speech, such as in the media, but the rights described in this article extend further to ensuring access to communication for all people.
People with communication disorders are often restricted from realizing their communication right to “seek, receive and impart information and ideas.” As a result, people with communication disorders often cannot fully access their other rights because of their restricted communication. For example, they might not be able to access the right to work, marry or own property.
Audiologists and speech-language pathologists play important roles in enabling people with communication disorders to realize their communication rights. To celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, here are five ways you can raise awareness about these issues and about #SpeakUp4CommRights.
Promote communication rights every day by encouraging everyone to use these steps:
- Acknowledge the person, and remember that everyone has the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas.
- Adjust your communication to accommodate your communication partner. To encourage more equal contributions to the conversation you may need to slow down, reduce open-ended questions, consider the use of an interpreter, or consider whether you need an alternative mode of communication, such as drawings, symbols or signs.
- Take time to listen. Think about what the person said. Do you need clarification or to adjust your communication level further? Listen carefully.
Think about communication rights when working with people with communication disorders, undertaking assessments and providing intervention. What goals support the right to communicate? Consider working toward person-centered functional goals.
Learn about communication rights by reading open-access (free) papers from the special issue of the International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology (IJSLP) published to commemorate Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The 31 papers in the special issue describe communication rights for four groups: all people, people with communication disabilities, children, and people who do not speak the dominant language of their community.
Visit the Speak Up for Communication Rights website to find out about activities to promote communication rights. Disseminate the importance of communication rights and Article 19 through media, social media and speaking opportunities, and use the hashtag #SpeakUp4CommRights.
Sign the Universal Declaration of Communication Rights developed by the International Communication Project. To date, more than 10,000 people—and growing—from around the world have signed the declaration.
Join activities to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Add your voice to the United Nations campaign. Promote the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights via social media by using the hashtag #StandUp4HumanRights.
As the introduction to the special IJSLP issue indicates, “The right to freedom of expression and opinion is like air, food or water: we take it for granted until it is denied to us.” So let’s take up the challenge to let the world know that communication is a fundamental human right for all.
Sharynne McLeod, PhD, CPSP, Life member of Speech Pathology Australia, International Affiliate of ASHA, is professor of speech and language acquisition at Charles Sturt University, Australia. She also writes a blog on multilingual children and is the vice president of the International Clinical Phonetics and Linguistics Association. firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter @SharynneMcLeod