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People with Speech or Language Disabilities

Cerebral palsy, stroke, hearing loss or other conditions may make it difficult for a person to pronounce words or express themselves. Some people who have severe difficulties may use a communication board or other assistive devices.


  • Don’t assume that a person who has difficulty speaking doesn’t understand you.
  • Speak directly to the customer and not to their companion or support person.
  • Whenever possible, ask questions that can be answered “yes” or “no.”
  • If the person uses a communication device, take a moment to read visible instructions for communicating with them.
  • Be patient. Don’t interrupt or finish your customer’s sentences.
  • Confirm what the person has said by summarizing or repeating what you’ve understood and allow the person to respond – don’t pretend if you’re not sure.
  • If necessary, provide other ways for the customer to contact you, such as email.
Used as a way of communicating to supplement or replace spoken language. The board may be manual or electronic, and usually contains a combination of letters of the alphabet, common words or phrases and pictures of common items or actions. For example, using a manual board, an individual will point to the letters to spell words or to a picture to express themselves.

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