Over one-third of stroke survivors have aphasia, a language and communication disorder that affects a person’s ability to understand, speak, read, write and use numbers – but not their intelligence.
Mark Chappell, 52 from Yorkshire, has lived with aphasia since having a stroke in 2012.
“Social situations are very difficult and tiring,” he says. “Most conversations are so fast that it’s often easier to keep quiet in company as I can’t keep up.
"In restaurants and cafés, I can’t understand menus with their small print and there are too many choices. I rely on my wife, Caroline, to read them for me. And in shops, there's too much information and too many signs for my brain to process.”
Going to shops and businesses can be even more stressful if you’re not confident about how you’ll be treated. In some places, staff have completely ignored Mark.
“Everyone wants to be treated as human, even when you can’t get the words out,” he says.
Now, a scheme led by the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, and supported by the Stroke Association, aims to make it easier for people like Mark to use businesses and services with confidence.
The Communication Access UK initiative offers free training for organisations and individuals to support people with communication difficulties like aphasia. Organisations can be accredited as ‘Communications Accessible’ and display the new Communication Access Symbol in their premises. Wherever you see the symbol displayed, you’ll know that staff have the skills to engage with people with communication difficulties.
“The Communication Access Symbol is really important for me and so many other people,” explains Mark.
“Going out to the shops or any service provider when you have aphasia can be a massive thing, especially after being isolated during the lockdown. But knowing that the staff have been trained and would take time to talk to me would put me at ease.”
As the pandemic recedes, Mark plans to gain extra confidence from spreading the word about the initiative to his local businesses.
“We each have the power to make a difference and do something good in our community by encouraging more people to sign up.”
Stroke News magazine
This article is featured in the winter 2021 edition of our magazine, Stroke News. Subscribe to our future editions available in print, on audio CD, or via email.