People in the Western Isles who have difficulty in communicating using speech or handwriting can now borrow Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) equipment from a new lending library.
Funded by the Scottish Government, the three year project to develop a consistent local AAC service is being led locally by Speech and Language Therapist Barbara Bates.
The Scottish Government published a paper called 'A Right to Speak' in April 2012 which made a series of recommendations about the way services are provided to people who use AAC, and made a commitment to providing £4 million nationally over three years to support these recommendations.
A total of £15,200 has been allocated directly to the Western Isles to spend on developing services in a partnership between the Health Board, Education, Social Care and the Voluntary Sector.
Barbara explained: "We are in the early stages of developing this partnership through a series of local meetings.
"We have bought AAC equipment for a 'lending library' which can be used to help anyone who is referred to Speech and Language Therapy. We are intending to build on this equipment supply over the next two years. Users of the equipment might be anyone from children or young people who have difficulty in developing language, to adults with neurological diseases whose speech has become hard to understand."
She added: "We now want to make sure that support services, as well as equipment, are available to anyone who needs to use AAC when they need them. The next steps will be to begin to define how a service which delivers AAC consistently throughout the Western Isles will work, and to expand our lending library using our government funding."
The local partnership hopes to access further funding to provide training in a simple, low-tech communication aid called Talking Mats. This has the potential to be useful for all of the partner agencies, and will be an opportunity to develop a wider community of people with knowledge about communication impairment.