Public perception

The social model of disability states that disability doesn’t stem from the person’s impairment but failure of the social / physical environment to take account of the person’s needs. Communication difficulties are often not widely recognised by others as a disability. They are often more hidden, than for example a physical weakness or subtle in their presentation. As we can see with Douglas’ challenges at work, in the restaurant and bridge club he experienced many barriers.

Let’s now review the 3 everyday situations which have been challenging for Douglas because of his communication difficulties. Look at the table below and notice the challenges Douglas faced in the HR meeting and eating out and the impact these had on him. Then, note how different his experience was at the bridge club when the environment was modified and communication strategies were put in place to enable him to participate.

Situation Environment Impact on Douglas: functional, psychological
HR meeting


Douglas’ employers had a lack of understanding on how his communication difficulties would impact on his job Could not return to work at present

Loss of role/status/earnings

Eating out

Non-aphasia friendly menu

Waiter assumed Douglas was drunk

Not enough time given to Douglas to choose food options

Douglas ate incorrect meal

Douglas did not enjoy meal experience

Douglas felt embarrassed and frustrated

Douglas felt excluded


Recognition of Douglas’ communication difficulties

Positive environmental changes: discussed worries with Freddie

Agreed strategies with Freddie and the wider group to improve bridge playing, given his communication difficulties

Improved social participation

Alleviated worries

Increased self esteem

Reduced social isolation

It is important to recognise that, with appropriate information and education to improve public perception, these barriers can be overcome. There is still some way to go in changing the attitudes and educating the wider public on how they perceive communication difficulties. Even making small changes can make a big difference to the success of a situation for someone with a communication difficulty.

Page last reviewed: 01 Apr 2020