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Emergency Medical Service (EMS)

Audience: Emergency Services
Runtime: 1 min.
Focus: Colin Phillips on communicating with EMS.

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Audience: Emergency Services
Runtime: 1:27 mins
Focus: Steven Wells on communicating with EMS.

This section includes information for responders in face-to-face emergency situations (e.g. accident, sudden onset illness) and disasters (e.g. flood, hurricane) as well as suggestions for people with SLDs.

The following information is intended to provide a starting point to improve access to services for people with speech and language disabilities (SLDs), not caused by hearing loss. It is by no means a full comprehensive list of barriers or accommodations. It presents some of the unique challenges that people with SLDs may experience within this situation.

Contact us for more information on making your services accessible.

Sample Communication Access Barriers in emergencies

Many of us who have Speech and Language Disabilities (SLDs), experience the same barriers as people who have mobility, sensory and other disabilities. In addition, we may experience unique communication barriers due to a pre-existing speech and language disability or an acquired communication disability related to the medical emergency. These barriers may include responders:

  • Not understanding what we are communicating
  • Not knowing if we understand their questions
  • Not knowing if we can give consent to treatment
  • Not having the time to problem solve about how we communicate
  • Not giving us a way to communicate critical information in a fast and effective way
  • Not being able to call 911 or access EMS

Sample suggestions for EMS responders

Conditions in EMS situations require fast, accurate and decisive communication that may compromise effective communication with people who have SLDs. EMS personnel should have training and information about:

  • Communicating in an emergency with those of us who have SLDs
  • Using a range of communication strategies
  • Having letter and picture communication boards
  • Getting information about our medical background, and consent to treatment
  • Evacuation plans for group / nursing homes where people who have SLDs may live

Resources for EMS Responders

Sample Suggestions for People with SLDs

Depending on the situation, we may want to consider:

  • Carrying “In case of Emergency” (ICE) card at all times in our wallet or purse. This card can contain about our name, date of birth, language, blood group, health card #, contact people (name, relationship, telephone); basic health information such as our doctor’s name, existing conditions, allergies and medication. We can purchase an ICE card with a basic picture display from Bridges Canada
  • Keep a copy of our ICE card on the door of the fridge
  • Wear a bracelet telling people we have difficulty speaking. The bracelet could also give a phone number of a contact person or tell someone that we have emergency information in our wallet.
  • Carry an emergency communication board with us at all times
  • Have ways to contact 911 in an emergency such as using text, alter calling systems and people you can contact.

Resources for people with SLDs