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Police Services

Audience: Police
Runtime: 3.34
Focus: Krystine Donato talks about communicating with a police officer.

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 to Police Services

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 our speech and language disability. These barriers may include:

  • Not being able to call or text 911 in an emergency
  • Police and 911 operators not understanding information we are providing to them
  • Police assuming we are drunk or cognitively unable to give evidence or testify
  • Not being able to give information or ask questions in ways we can understand and/or answer
  • Not understanding the difference between cognitive capacity and communication skills
  • Not using strategies and communication supports to ensure we can effectively communicate
  • Not knowing when and how to engage an arms-length communication assistant or intermediary
  • Lack of trained communication intermediaries to assist us communicating with police
  • Police assuming the person with us is the person we want to assist us with communication

Suggestions for Police Services

In addition to generic communication access accommodations, police services should:

  • Develop clear accessibility policies that are consistent across services
  • Provide training for all police on how to communicate with people who have SLDs
  • Establish a specialized team with additional training and connections with communication disability sector, to respond to people who have SLDs
  • Know when and how to access communication intermediary services
  • Work with the communication disability community to develop more local communication intermediaries to assist police communicating with us

Resources for Police Services

Suggestions for People with SLDs

  • Carry an “In Case of Emergency Card” that includes a list of people who we trust and who can be contacted in an emergency situation (See resources)
  • Be prepared to tell police officers how we communicate and what they can do to make communication go smoothly (See Communication Access Card in resources)
  • We can tell police if we need someone to assist us communicating with them. If we have someone we trust, we can ask the legal professional to call that person. We can also ask him or her to get a communication intermediary to assist us. Communication intermediaries are speech language pathologists with addition training from CDAC who assist people communicating with police and in legal and justice situations.

Resources for people with SLDs