Exploring communication assistants as an option for increasing communication access to communities for people who use augmentative communication.

This paper describes the results of a one-year intervention project that aimed to (a) learn about the communication supports required by people who use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) when accessing their communities, (b) develop and implement a funded communication assistant service as an accessibility support option for people who use AAC when communicating in their communities, (c) evaluate the impact of the communication assistant service on community access for people who use AAC, and (d) make recommendations relating to the role of communication assistants as an option for increasing communication access for people who use AAC in their communities. Nine people who use AAC participated in this project. The findings suggest that the majority of participants experienced a range of communication barriers when communicating with people in their communities, and that the provision of trained communication assistants significantly increased (a) their ability to communicate and participate in their communities; (b) their feelings of dignity, empowerment, autonomy, and privacy, and (d) the quality of their community services. Unfamiliar communication partners reported increased satisfaction communicating with people who used AAC when a communication assistant was present. Implications and recommendations are made for the development of communication assistant services and further research.