International policy

International policy

The International Communication Project

Launched in 2014, the International Communication Project (ICP) advocates for people with communication disabilities, as well as their families, caregivers and communication professionals. The ICP highlights the importance of human communication and how communication disabilities significantly impact all aspects of life.

The ICP is built on the premise that communication is vital to life, yet is largely ignored as a disability. The World Health Organization’s World Report on Disability estimates that roughly one billion people around the world are living with some form of disability.

However, the authors of this report acknowledge that people with communication disabilities may not be included in this estimate, despite the fact that they encounter difficulties that significantly impact their daily lives.

The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) is a founding member of the ICP.

Current Activities of the ICP

  • With support from colleagues from The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), RCSLT provides briefing notes to the International Association of Logopedists & Phoniatrists (IALP) – the global body for the profession – to support their engagement with the World Health Organisation (WHO).
  • RCSLT is now in correspondence with the WHO regional office in Europe.
  • Through a consortium of NGOs, RCSLT made a submission to the UN Committee on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD) Committee, ahead of the 2017 reporting period. RCSLT then made a separate submission to the committee ahead of the General Discussion for equality and non-discrimination under Art 5 of the Convention.
  • Speech Pathology Australia contributed to a submission to the Committee from Disabled People’s Organisations Australia and also made a submission to the UN Human Rights High Commission under Art 19 of the convention.
  • The ICP Evidence and Policy group have published a consolidation of evidence, presented as a narrative making the case for communication disability in the implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The RCSLT played a key role in the development of this narrative.

Read, The Importance of Speech, Language and Communication to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: A Summary of Evidence (PDF).

  • The ICP is also taking steps to engage international service user groups.
  • The ICP communications working group continues to work together for international campaigns, producing a regular newsletter and resources, as well as regular social media collaborations, for example the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, promoting communication as a human right.

For further information, please visit the ICP website.

Conference of State Parties to the CRPD

Non-government organisation accreditation and ECOSOC status

In June 2018, the RCSLT was accredited as a Non-government organisation (NGO), by the United Nations at the 11th Conference of State Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), by consensus. RCSLT was then granted special consultative status by the UN Economic and Social Council in November 2021 – the first and only speech and language therapy body to hold this status in the world.

The RCSLT’s accreditation at the UN will enable us to take forward our strategic aims to work with partners at an international level and to continue to influence for people with communication disabilities, in our endeavours to ensure that communication is recognised as a human right as part of the International Communication Project.

15th Conference of State Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

As part of our commitment to the International Communication Project, we were engaged at the 15th Conference of State Parties to the Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in June 2022.

The RCSLT was represented by the inspirational Abdi Omar, a service user advocate with Cerebral Palsy who relies on an AAC device to communicate.

Read more about the conference and watch Abdi’s statement.

Event at the 12th Conference of State Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

In June 2019, the RCSLT and Speech Pathology Australia, as part of the wider International Communication Project delivered a side event at the 12th Conference of State Parties to the CRPD in partnership with the international NGO Humanity and Inclusion (formerly known as Handicap International) and co-sponsored by the Government of Australia.

The event titled “People With Communication Disabilities Speak Up For Inclusion and Participation” was chaired by RCSLT Director of Policy and Public Affairs, Derek Munn.

Speakers included:

  • Gail Mulcair, Chief Executive Officer, Speech Pathology Australia.
  • Sharynne McLeod, Professor at Charles Sturt University, Australia, and Editor, special issue of the International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology (Communication is a Human Right: Celebrating the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights).
  • Meredith Allan, President, International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (ISAAC) and Augmentative Communication User.
  • Miles Forma, Disability Advocate and Augmentative Communication User, United States of America.
  • Julia McGeown, Global Inclusive Education Specialist, Humanity and Inclusion.

The event highlighted the lack of visibility and recognition of communication disability; exchanging knowledge about needs and barriers faced by people with communication disability to access and exercise human rights in the context of Article 19 (Universal Declaration of Human Rights) and Article 21 (Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities). It also formulated concrete proposals to strengthen effective transnational cooperation to promote participation in cultural life, recreation and leisure for people with communication disability.

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