The British Red Cross and Widgit Software have collaborated to produce a Communication Book which will be in every single Red Cross ambulance in the UK. The book, based on Widgit’s First Response Communication book, uses Widgit’s 40,000+ symbol vocabulary to help first responders give aid when verbal communication is impaired because of an injury, cognitive challenges or because a client does not speak English.
A localized version of the First Response Communication Book is available in Canada through Bridges. According to the Canadian Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists, one in ten Canadians have a speech, language or hearing impairment that can interfere with communication and 12% of Canadian seniors experiencing speech or language difficulties.
Rob Nichols is a senior volunteer at the Red Cross. In his day job he is a web developer working with Widgit. Nichols knew that symbols would make a real difference to the level of service that first responders could offer to clients. Nichols spoke to his immediate managers at Widgit and at the British Red Cross and they were just as excited by the possibilities. Widgit had already developed health resources covering a range of topics including day surgery and diabetes. These were being used in hospitals and outpatient clinics.
“The British Red Cross are leading the way in providing communication support for patients. Feedback through The British Red Cross will enable us to develop and improve essential resources.”
The British Red Cross Communication Book mirrors the process most responders work through from first contact through diagnosis to initial treatment. It will help professionals gather information about symptoms and pain levels which will help with diagnosis and could save lives. Hankins thinks the book will make volunteers more confident and help them to reassure clients who in addition to their medical emergency are frustrated and stressed by not being understood: