The simple things that you might take for granted are what makes Elizabeth the happiest.
She’s in a wheelchair and uses a device to help her speak. She loves being able to order Starbucks for her family and read recipes to her mom.
“I love talking to people and making new friends,” she said, “but sometimes, people ignore me because they don’t know what to say or do. Just say hi to me and take it from there.”
She’s not the only person with this frustration.
Elizabeth is a member of Lets Talk, an organization started by speech language pathologist Lori Gimelshteyn for people who use augmentative/alternative forms of communication.
“Last August, we were talking about the things that drive us the most crazy, and one of those things was when we’re out in the community, people aren’t sure what they should do when they see us,” Gimelshteyn said. “They’re not sure if they can come up to us and say ‘hello.’ They might look away, they might talk to the person that they’re with and not to us.”
And this is what inspired Colorado Speech, Language and Learning Professionals, Inc., Gimelshteyn and Lets Talk to do a short film aimed at educating people about their community – and more importantly, to make people feel more comfortable about striking up a conversation.
The film screened at a 101 seat theater at Southlands in Aurora, and Gimelshteyn says what began as a small project grew into something much bigger.
In fact, they got help from two film companies – and are now working on a live production of Snow Queen featuring people who use augmentative/alternative forms of communication.
The Lets Talk group teaches its participants how to do things like order coffee at a restaurant, chat with friends at school or spend time with their families.
It’s an idea Gimelshteyn says came from a conversation with a neighbor who has cerebral palsy.
Like what you’ve heard about communication in general, Gimelshteyn says this kind of education needs to go both ways.
“We’re determined that for communication access to be achieved, we have to educate our community, we have to help people understand what they do when they see someone with an augmentative communication device,” Gimelshteyn says.
Elizabeth says she loves the Lets Talk program because “I see other people using devices like me, and have made some good friends.”
“I think oftentimes there’s a misconception that people with disabilities aren’t able to meaningfully do anything or contribute, and that is so untrue,” Gimelshteyn said. “It is just a false perception, and we’re really here to conquer that.”
There’s more information about how to schedule a screening of their public service message on Colorado Speech, Language and Learning Professionals, Inc.’s website: http://www.coloradoslp.com/