Communication & Inclusion

| Communication is a Basic Human Right | Benefits of Communication | How to promote Communication for Inclusion


Communication is a Basic Human Right

About the "Communication Bill of Rights"

According to the National Joint Committee for the Communication Needs of Persons with Severe Disabilities (NJC), communication is a basic human right. The National Joint Committee was an interdisciplinary group with members from:
  • American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
  • American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
  • American Occupational Therapy Association
  • American Physical Therapy Association
  • Association of Assistive Technology Act Programs
  • Council for Exceptional Children Division for Communicative Disabilities and Deafness
  • TASH
  • United States Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication

Their meeting in 1992 resulted in a "Communication Bill of Rights", which asserts that:
  • All people with a disability of any extent or severity have a basic right to affect, through communication, the conditions of their existence.

This means that EVERY person with a disability, no matter how "severe," has the right to express herself and make choices about her life.

This poster summarizes the communication rights of individuals with disabilities. It is available for downloading at:
For more information about the National Joint Committee, or their findings, visit:

Benefits of Communication

Effective communication supports many of the self-determination and personal empowerment skills that enhance quality of life for persons with disabilities.

What is "Effective" Communication?

  • BOTH partners can send and receive messages
  • These ideas can be understood
  • Information can be transferred to the other person

Goals of Communication

Effective communication allows the person to:
  • Express wants, needs, choices, opinions, and MORE
  • Have control in conversations
    • For example: “I want to talk about my weekend plans now.”
  • Have control over her environment
  • Take part in conversations
    • For example: “It’s cold bring me a blanket” "I don't like this music, please change it"
  • Establish and maintain friendships and other meaningful relationships
  • Reduce frustration, fear and anxiety
    • Self-injurious behavior is communicative. Effective communication can reshape behaviors to find more appropriate ways of self-expression. This can reduce behaviors by providing a better substitute.

Provide a way for the person to express himself. This supports:
  • Personal empowerment. Successful communication builds confidence.
  • Self-determination. She can do more than just passively agree – she can share her real opinions and goals
  • Participate in home and community activities!

How to promote Communication for Inclusion

Communication supports inclusion - in education, in home life, and in community. Participation in activities requires the back-and-forth of shared communication. For tips on enhancing communication and being a more effective communication partner, see the presentation (below):

For the handout version (to save paper), click here.

Action Steps

Try these steps to increase your knowledge of communication, and enhance your skills in supporting others! Download or print the list here (PDF file). Share your successes or challenges on the Discussion Board.

1. Spread the word:

2. Learn more:
  • Go to the "Office of Developmental Programs" page of to read ODP’s Communication Bulletin. Download and distribute copies of the brochure, Everyone Communicates.
  • Ask your agency about the course “Everyone Can Communicate” in the College of Direct Support. Find out how you can take this course. Note: Families who are interested can take the course at no cost; contact
  • Download informational leaflets from the e-library at In particular, Speaking with Someone who Uses AAC provides many helpful pointers on being a good communication partner.

3. Test yourself:

For more ideas, see the Calendar for upcoming or web-based training events, or look at the Information Resources.

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This virtual community is funded by the Office of Developmental Programs, Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare and implemented by the Institute on Disabilities at Temple University.