Communication works 2016 review

I just finished the first draft of my write-up of yesterday’s event for school. I think I might as well pop it on here too:

Communication Works 2016 was a great success. Around thirty exhibitors came to the annual conference at Charlton Park Academy, displaying the latest in communication equipment and technology. The special guest this year was Lee Ridley, aka Lost Voice Guy, a comic who performs using his Lightwriter. Ridley gave an opening address and then stayed throughout the day. He is fast becoming an ambassador for communication aid users, having been on Radio Four and increasingly appearing on television. Speaking personally as a communication aid user, having him there and getting to meet him felt quite an honour. This afternoon I watched a video of his opening speech, having arrived too late to watch it yesterday: His address was a thorough and well-informed discussion of his life as a communication aid user, how he got his first VOCA, the efforts he has to go to to communicate how he wants, and peoples’ reactions to him as a comic with cerebral palsy.

There were also several seminars throughout the day. One was about making a video, to be played on inset days, where students could tell teachers what they liked and did not like about school, and how to improve things from their point of view. Another seminar was by Paul Richards. Richards runs Stay up Late, a charity which enables people with disabilities – particularly learning difficulties – to have fuller social lives by ‘buddying’ them with able-bodied volunteers. Too often, he noticed, disabled people were being taken home early from shows, clubs and music venues because their personal assistant’s shift ended. I know from personal experience that this has caused many nights out to be cut short. Stay up Late introduces people with disabilities to volunteers who are prepared to stay out longer, even into the early hours, so that people with disabilities can enjoy the type of social lives everyone else has.

Another highlight was [insert name] who helped people visualise what was being said by drawing pictorial representations of it on large sheets of paper. She was constantly adding to her pictures throughout the day, creating images which were both expressive, fascinating an quite amusing. It was like a constant commentary in image form. The way that she was able to keep up with everything going on in the hall, translating it into such stunning imagery, was truly remarkable.

Communication Works 2016 was, then, a triumph. I think all who attended would have found it richly rewarding. It was good to see everyone discussing communication, something so essential to life yet something so often overlooked and taken for granted. This event brought the subject into focus, bringing together a diverse community of people, and getting them talking.

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