Written in May 2023
This is the last (for now) part of my deep dive into the experiences and realities of being a non-speaking autistic person, this time with a focus on the Autistic Radio project and how we can make our audio model more accessible for non-speakers and enable participation from more of the autistic community.
In the first part I mentioned how the topic had come about through our discussions of the Inside Our Autistic Minds documentary aired on the BBC earlier this year.
During the weekend's live broadcast discussion it became apparent that both Julian and I had been thinking along similar lines; how can we involve non-speaking autistic people in a radio broadcast? The radio format works for many reasons, and is more accessible than video in terms of participation, but it is hard for non-speaking or minimally verbal autistic people to get involved with, especially when the more vocal among us (ahem) get carried away.
So this is us thinking about how we can represent the insight of more autistic people, how we can make our format more accessible for people who don't speak, or who might need more time to think and process their thoughts than the audio format permits.
In the initial stages we'll be reaching out to some non-speaking autistic people to invite them to collaborate. We're very open to input from non-speaking people as to how we can best go about this but as a starting point we could send a list of questions, some about the non-speaking experience for an episode focused on that topic, and questions about topics we plan to cover in the future.
Non-speaking collaborators can then either send their answers in text format, or record themselves answering on video or through audio using the generated voice of their AAC method. If we get text responses we can read them out on the collaborators' behalf. We're open to suggestions of how else this could work, including a more dialogic format that could enable real-time participation.
If you want to learn more about the non-speaking experience, here's a list of links that are worth checking out:
Jordyn Zimmerman on Disability Rights
Amethyst Schaber's YouTube video: What is AAC?
Laura Hellfeld (ND Nurse) on Non-speaking and minimally speaking AAC users
Nicolaas Paulsen's blog
International Association for Spelling as Communication Mythbuster