Anne McD - the right to communicate

Anne McDonald

For people without speech, talking is often dependent on the generosity of others, either in providing interpretation or facilitation or in giving up time to listen. While this is inevitable, there needs to be an irreducible right to make one's opinions known on issues concerning your future well-being.

At the moment social conversation and medical consent are equal in the sight of the law, both depending on the accidental availability of communication partners with the necessary skills and commitment.

There is no right to be heard. There is no right to an interpreter. There is no obligation to listen.

While social interactions are always dependent on the politeness and tolerance of individuals, it should be possible to legislate for a right to communicate

in formal situations such as courts, hospitals and schools. Without such legally enforceable rights, people without speech will be at the mercy of decision-makers who can arbitrarily decide to disallow communication.

I also support the right to literacy, as set out here:

The Right to Literacy

All persons, regardless of the extent or severity of their disabilities, have a basic right to use print. Beyond this general right, there are certain literacy rights that should be assured for all persons. These basic rights are the following:

  1. The right to an opportunity to learn to read and write. Opportunity involves engagement in active participation in tasks performed with high success.
  2. The right to have accessible, clear, meaningful, culturally and linguistically appropriate texts at all times. Texts, broadly defined, range from picture books to newspapers to novels, cereal boxes, and electronic documents.
  3. The right to interact with others while reading, writing, or listening to a text. Interaction involves questions, comments, discussions, and other communications about or related to the text.
  4. The right to life choices made available through reading and writing competencies. Life choices include, but are not limited to, employment and employment changes, independence, community participation, and self-advocacy.
  5. The right to lifelong educational opportunities incorporating literacy instruction and use. Literacy educational opportunities, regardless of when they are provided, have potential to provide power that cannot be taken away.
  6. The right to have teachers and other service providers who are knowledgeable about literacy instruction methods and principles. Methods include, but are not limited to, instruction, assessment, and the technologies required to make literacy accessible to individuals with disabilities. Principles include, but are not limited to, the beliefs that literacy is learned across places and time, and no person is too disabled to benefit from literacy learning opportunities.
  7. The right to live and learn in environments that provide varied models of print use. Models are demonstrations of purposeful print use such as reading a recipe, paying bills, sharing a joke, or writing a letter.

A Literacy Bill Of Rights. (from Erickson, K., Koppenhaver, D., &Yoder, D. E. (2002), Waves of Words:

If you're interested in my other work, check these out....

If you want to know about my years in hell, try St. Nicholas Hospital.

If you want to know what it did to me, read My Frankenstein

If you want to know what I think of euthanasia, read this.  

If you want to know more about my story, read the book I wrote with Rosemary Crossley - Annie's Coming Out, Penguin Books.  It's out of print, but second-hand copies are available on Amazon and Alibris

If you want to know how I got out, look up Facilitated Communication Training.

If you want to know why communication is so important, read The Right to Communicate.  

And read about the people who are trying to stop it

And there's my work on The Terrible Triple C, another one of the ways in which professionals bastardize people with disability.  

If you want to know how I enjoy myself, watch this. 

Here are a few links to friends. 

I also work for DEAL and Communication Rights Australia, and speak on issues of disability.  For my most recent  articles on people without speech being bastardized see No Angel and Buried Alive.  

If you want to contribute something yourself, give some money to DEAL; they're working to see that nobody is left without a voice. 

Back to the home page and start again... 

Warning: there is quite a bit of overlap between these articles.  When you take as long as I do to spell a sentence you use it as often as you can, and the hell with repetition.  

Or you can email me at

Anne McDonald Centre. 538 Dandenong Road, Caulfield 3162 Victoria, Australia Ph: 03 9509 6324, Fax: 03 9509 6321
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