October, 2007 – International AAC Awareness Month
October 4, 2007 – International AAC Awareness Day:
October 4 was a big day for CAYA and for people who use augmentative/ alternative communication in BC, Canada and the world. It was on this day that the government of BC announced the provision of an additional 4.2 million dollars in funding for a further three years of CAYA services to people with complex communication disabilities. An official ceremony was held at the SET-BC/CAYA Provincial Centre, where a cheque was presented by the Honourable Claude Richmond, Minister of Employment and Income Assistance. In addition, the Honourable Carol Taylor, Minister of Finance, presented a declaration on behalf of Attorney General, the Honourable Wally Opel, declaring October 4, 2007 as the International Awareness Day for Augmentative and Alternative Communication. For complete information, please see the official news release from the Province of British Columbia. View pictures above.
Simon Cox, Executive Director of BCITS, delivered his thanks on behalf of his organization. BCITS has served adults with communication disabilities for many years and is now an important partner and friend of CAYA. Two people who use AAC devices to communicate, Melinda Rundle and Ashleigh Dukoff, replied to the Minister’s welcomed announcement. Melinda, a Canadian Representative on the international board of ISAAC, replied on behalf of her ISAAC colleagues, who were instrumental in the development of CAYA. Ashleigh Dukoff, a young adult who lives in Victoria, replied on behalf of CAYA clients and families.
Good morning Minister Richmond, Minister Taylor, and supporters of CAYA. My name is Ashleigh Dukoff. I was asked come to talk to you about why CAYA is so important to me, and other people like myself who use augmentative communication devices. In my presentation I am going to talk to you about how CAYA has helped me in my life.
Before I had my communication device I felt very frustrated. I couldn’t communicate with my friends by myself, I could only talk to them with my caregiver being right beside me interpreting my thoughts. I used sign language and I only had three people who understood it, my Mom, a caregiver and my educational assistant. Before my communication device I couldn’t talk on the phone at all, or write emails by myself. My communication device gave me my voice.
I got my first minspeak device, which was a DeltaTalker, when I was 16. When I got this voice I felt free. I could now go out with my friends for get togethers and I could talk without help. I love it because I can communicate with people and they can understand me. My device has given me independence and made me believe that I can do anything I want! In grade 12 I upgraded to my current minspeak device the Pathfinder.
I met CAYA when I was around 22. I couldn’t find anyone before CAYA to help me with my Pathfinder. They opened up a whole new world to me. It made me feel joyful and it was so exciting for me to meet new people through CAYA at the Victoria chapter of Cool Communicators. Cool Communicators are groups of people in Nanaimo and Victoria who use augmentative communication. They come together to talk about different things in our community that impact us, to learn to use our devices, and to support each other.
CAYA has given me SO much. For example, I met my best friend through CAYA. One day when I was getting some help a CAYA staff told me about a girl my age who uses a communication device just like me. We arranged to meet and we met it wasn’t before long that we became best friends. I can’t thank CAYA enough for that!
CAYA treats everyone with respect and encourages everyone to be the best they can be in their life. They never make you feel bad for asking for help. I have so much more confidence now to thanks to CAYA.
CAYA has also gone out of their way for my caregivers. They have trained my caregivers to help them to understand my Pathfinder better. I can’t thank CAYA enough for the help they have given to my caregivers.
My career goal is to do presentations to schools, and organizations within my community to talk about what I have experienced in my life. I also want to continue learning and assisting other non-traditional communicators, like myself, to use their communication devices, to dream big, and to have their voice heard in the world. Through my motivational speaking, I hope to create awareness about people who use augmentative communication. I am working towards this goal by being a part of the Toastmasters to improve my presentations.
I want to spread my message to many people as I can because I think it is good for people to hear my story about how I got my voice. I think it is important for people to see someone who has a communication device.
With CAYA’s help I am here today working on achieving my goals. Thank you so much, on behalf of myself, my fellow communicators, and their families, for continuing to fund CAYA for more years. This will allow CAYA to help people like myself who use augmentative communication devices to achieve their dreams.
Thank-you Ashleigh. And thank-you to Minister Richmond, Minister Taylor, Simon Cox, and Melinda Rundle.
In conclusion, I would like to give my heartfelt thanks to the many people in this room that helped make Communication Assistance for Young Adults a reality. In the beginning many of us in this room gathered to see what we could do to address the needs of young adults with severe communication disabilities; young adults we had come to know through their childhood years in the educational and health systems; young adults we knew could communicate and lead productive lives, if only they had the all important tool of communication.
I recall meetings with my colleagues at ISAAC-Canada, at SET- BC, at Technology for Independent Living, at GF Strong Rehab Centre, at Sunny Hill Health Centre, at the offices our local device vendors, and many others in the education and health community. We spent many hours planning how to address this challenge faced by these young adults. We then presented our thoughts and ideas to the government of BC, and as my ISAAC colleague Melinda Rundle stated – you listened!
In 2005 we began CAYA and began delivering devices and services to enable young adults across BC to continue communicating, enabling them to organize and plan their new lives as adults, to participate in their homes, and communities. Freedom of speech and the freedom to speak are highly prized rights in our democratic society. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the government of BC for recognizing the importance of communication in our lives. With the funding provided today, CAYA along with our clients and our community partners, will work to ensure that British Columbians keep talking and communicating, no matter what their disability.
Good afternoon, Minister Richmond, Minister Taylor and assembled guests. I’m Melinda Rundle and I am representing the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication, better known as ISAAC. I’m honoured to talk to you on behalf of our Canadian chapter.
ISAAC is an organization of people who have speech impairments such as myself, family members, and professionals who work with people who use AAC. We have advocated for people who need AAC and we are thrilled that you have listened.
The generous grant you are announcing this afternoon will provide this vital equipment to my fellow AAC users who range from ages 19 to 27. It will also provide the training and support services that people need to learn how to use their equipment.
Although I’m no longer in this age group, I remember how important it was for me to have a communication device at that age. Not only did I make the transition from living at home with my parents and my sibilings to living in a group home and having care attendants, but I made the transition from high school to college at the same time. Having a device allowed me to communicate my needs to my attendants at my new group home as well as to participate both academically and socially in college! I don’t know how I could have done any of those things without a communication system.
I’m currently using a device that was funded through the adult program of Technology for Independent living. Devices like mine cost much as a small car.
Now suppose a 19 year-old AAC user just started college and just moved into an assisted living group home and urgently needed a reliable communication system like I did at their age. Nowadays, it’s very difficult for parents to afford to send their children to college without putting the cost of an adequate communication device like mine on their shoulders.
But you have lifted that big burden off their shoulders! In fact, you will be giving the AAC user a voice!
On that note, my fellow members of ISAAC Canada and I would like to thank you and your government for giving CAYA the grant of $4,200,000.00! It will put sunshine into the hearts of many young adults who use AAC!
October 26, 2007 – Nanaimo: AAC Awareness Day
May 9, 2007 – CAYA Book Launch
Speaking Out: Easier Said Than Done
Rosemary is a highly recognized Speech Language Pathologist who has specialized in the field of Augmentative/Alternative Communication for over 30 years. She has distilled her many years of experience into this book and provided us with the innovative and creative ideas that she uses in her practice.
Rosemary has graciously allowed this book to be published and distributed free of charge to specialists working in the field of AAC in the public education and health systems of British Columbia. Response to the publication of this book has been overwhelmingly positive, exhausting the first publication run. We are planning a second printing with wider distribution in early 2008.
Building Community for Young Adults Using AAC
October 4, 2007 – Funding