Communication access: Is there some common ground between the experiences of people with aphasia and speakers of English as an additional language?

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title





School of Medical and Health Sciences




Booth, S., Armstrong, E., Taylor, S. C., & Hersh, D. (2019). Communication access: Is there some common ground between the experiences of people with aphasia and speakers of English as an additional language?. Aphasiology, 33(8), 996-1018. Available here


Background: Creating communication accessible environments is an essential component to facilitating the social inclusion and well-being of people with communication support needs (CSN). However, in Australia, this has yet to translate into legislation, which may be partly due to the relatively small numbers of people if CSN only considers people with a communication disability. Including people from a culturally and linguistically diverse background, significantly increases the size of the cohort that may benefit from communication access legislation. Aims: This study explores whether the face to face experiences of service encounters of people with aphasia (PWA) were similar to speakers of English as an additional language (EAL) in an attempt to highlight the need for government policy to address the needs of a larger cohort of people with a wide range of CSN. Methods & Procedures: Using a qualitative description approach, semi-structured, in-depth interviews were conducted with five PWA and five EAL speakers about their experiences within service interactions. Using this approach, the study explored the key features which were perceived as enabling or constraining communication access. Results are explored against the backdrop of a sociological theoretical conceptual model, drawing from the theories of Pierre Bourdieu and Erving Goffman, to consider a deeper nuanced understanding of the connections between communication access, social capital and social inclusion. Outcome and results: This study suggests that there are shared experiences for PWA and speakers of EAL within service interactions. Although both groups describe many positive experiences, findings indicate that even subtle negative reactions by service providers, in particular non-verbal behaviours, are conceptualised as having a considerable impact on their negotiation of social capital and ultimately social inclusion. This study highlights that a sociological framework, underpinned by the theories of Bourdieu and Goffman appears to be a useful template for researchers to consider when studying the interactions of people with CSN. Conclusion: A wider cohort of people could benefit significantly from policy development which promotes communication access in everyday service encounters. People with disability are being encouraged to have a voice and people from different cultures are being encouraged to settle into Australian society, so it is essential to understand the everyday experience of communication access. This study has facilitated a more in–depth theoretical understanding of the multidimensional concept of communication access and the significant implications for well-being, social integration and social inclusion currently under recognised within government legislation.