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The Royal College Speech and Language Therapists and the Fermanagh Trust have launched the tour of the ‘My Journey, My Voice’ multimedia portraits and stories exhibition to raise awareness of communication disability.
Having debuted at Stormont last November, Fermanagh House was the first stop on it's tour. It will now move on to a range of locations throughout Northern Ireland finishing at Westminster at the end of the year.
The exhibition, which features nine portraits by photographer Laurence Gibson, is a collaborative project. It has been commissioned by The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) as part of its Giving Voice campaign and is supported by Disability Action and the Northern Ireland Health and Social Care Board.
Each participant featured in the exhibition has a communication disability. Visitors will be able to view their portraits and listen to their voices as they each recount a memorable journey they have taken. Their stories will resonate with many: they include a once in a lifetime holiday, the first day of a new job; and a sunny day at the beach with an ice cream.
Due to their disability, many of those participating have voices and speech that will sound different to listeners. Some use vocalisations which may be unintelligible to anyone other than close family. Others use alternative or augmentative forms of communication (AAC) such as signs and or symbols and others use communication devices that produce electronic speech. Viewing the portraits and listening to the voice recordings will enable anyone who experiences the exhibition to have a greater insight into the nature and impact of communication disabilities.
Alison McCullough MBE, RCSLT Head of Northern Ireland Office spoke about the challenges for those with a communication difficulty. She said "It is important that society develops a better understanding of communication difficulties and recognises the individual and not just the disability. Through education and empowerment initiatives such as this, RCSLT is working alongside people with communication disabilities to challenge stigma and enable society to become better equipped to understand their communication support needs."
Lauri McCusker, Director of the Fermanagh Trust said "My Journey, My Voice is a very clever way of increasing the understanding and awareness of the needs of persons with a disability which is why we are delighted to offer to host this exhibition. It's terrific that Fermanagh was the first as it starts it's tour around the country, especially as one of the participants Christine Birney is from Fermanagh. Every effort must be made to create a culture which accepts, understands and makes the necessary adjustments for people with communication challenges."
Lauri added "We had a huge amount of interest in the exhibition with a large number of visitors to Fermanagh House. For those who missed out, the stories can heard on www.myjourneymyvoice.org"