Changing practice: implications of the World Report on Disability for responding to communication disability in under-served populations

Int J Speech Lang Pathol. 2013 Feb;15(1):1-13. doi: 10.3109/17549507.2012.745164.


The World Report on Disability provides a major challenge to the conceptualization and delivery of services for people with communication disabilities around the world. Many people, in both Majority and Minority World countries, receive limited or no support in relation to their communication disability. In this paper the prevalence of communication disability across the world (and the challenges to obtaining these data) are discussed, particularly in relation to disability more broadly. Populations that are under-served by speech-language pathology services in both Majority and Minority World countries are described. The paper describes organizational change theory and the potential it has, together with a biopsychosocial model of disability, to assist in understanding and influencing development of relevant services for people with communication disabilities (PWCD), particularly those who are under-served. Aspects of, and influences on, service delivery for PWCD are described. The need for novel ways of conceptualizing development of services, including population-based approaches, is highlighted. Finally, the challenges and opportunities for PWCD and for speech-language pathologists which arise from the nine recommendations of the World Report on Disability are considered and readers are encouraged to consider new and novel ways of developing equitable services for people with communication disabilities, in both majority and minority world settings.

MeSH terms

  • Communication Disorders / epidemiology
  • Communication Disorders / therapy*
  • Global Health*
  • Health Services Accessibility / trends*
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Humans
  • Prevalence
  • Speech-Language Pathology / methods
  • Vulnerable Populations*