Communicating and being heard


We often take for granted that we can make ourselves understood to others and that what we say is heard and listened to. Some disabled people face barriers to communication which can mean that they can be ignored or overlooked.

Some individuals may have different ways of communicating e.g. sign language, a communication book or a communication device which, sometimes, makes it difficult to be understood.

It is important to be patient and allow time for people to talk to you. This may be particularly important for those using communication tools which take time to use. Do not be embarrassed by the time delay in communication – individuals are used to this pace and we must be aware not to try to rush. If you are seeking information it may be useful to send questions ahead of time.

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Activity 1 – No words

Write a simple sentence on a piece of paper, for example, “I would like a glass of orange juice.’’
Show this sentence to one of your class mates. This student must let the rest of the class know the sentence without writing, speaking or using any letters of the alphabet.



  • Was it difficult to communicate using this method?
  • What would have helped?
  • How can we communicate with someone who can’t communicate in the way you would expect?

The Seen but Seldom Heard project

The Seen but Seldom Heard project has supported young disabled people with a range of communication difficulties to be heard.

One of the young participants reflecting on the project said:

I learned how to send a message through poetry. I’m misunderstood, and poetry was a good way to put that message across and a way to express myself. I was hoping to move people.

Film can be used both to capture interactions, and also as a powerful tool to disseminate ideas. The Seen but Seldom Heard project has used both live performance of poetry and song, as well as film to raise awareness of disability issues through the words and voices of young disabled people themselves.

Further details of the Seen but Seldom Heard project are available from the web-blog by following this link: Seen But Seldom Heard

Watch some of the footage from this film of Seen But Seldom Heard Poet, Jagdev, who became disabled at the age of 11 years old. Think about how his disability creates barriers to communication for him.

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Activity 2 – Watch the film

Watch the short taster film for the Seen but Seldom Heard project (also available on YouTube).

Q1: What does it tell you about disabled young people and how their voices can be heard and represented in wider society?

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Activity 3 – Find out about communication methods

In the following video, Philippa discusses different communication methods used by disabled people.


Seek out information available about different forms of communication such as British Sign Language, Makaton and Communication Books. Use the following link to help you in your search:

Further information about communication can be found here:

Useful Contacts and Resources