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News > Charity issues rallying call to create 'Aphasia Aware' high streets

Charity issues rallying call to create 'Aphasia Aware' high streets

Calls for better awareness of the needs of the 46,000 Scots living with aphasia

Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland is calling on high street businesses and service providers to join them in their efforts to improve support for people with the serious communication difficulty, aphasia and raise awareness of this condition. 

Scotland’s biggest health charity caring for stroke survivors says this Aphasia Awareness Month (1-30 June) it wants to raise awareness of the challenges people with the condition face doing everyday things such as shopping in the supermarket, taking public transport or visiting local services like libraries and sports centres.

Aphasia is a form of brain damage which affects the ability to understand or produce words. The condition rose in prominence last year after it was announced actor Bruce Willis has it.

People with aphasia may find that they have difficulty thinking of the right words, put words in the wrong order, spell incorrectly or mix up words, or struggle to understand what people are saying. They may also find that they slur or mumble, and in extreme cases, people with aphasia may be unable to speak at all.

Aphasia is a common symptom following a stroke and affects 1 in 3 stroke survivors. Around 2,400 people are diagnosed with aphasia every year.

People with aphasia have told CHSS they are frustrated that more people don’t understand the condition and they often feel anxious about going about their daily lives.

I think it’s really important that people working in public facing roles have an understanding of what aphasia is and how they can understand the signs and take the time to make it easier for people living with it.

Living with aphasia

Scott Gardner, 51, had a stroke in 2021 that resulted in physical disability and aphasia.  Scott has participated in the iCAP program run by Strathclyde University for people with aphasia and has been involved in virtual support groups with CHSS over the last year.  

He recently started attending in person sessions with CHSS Community Support Services Co-ordinator for Lothian, Diane Borthwick, which brings together people from the local area who are living with aphasia.  Scott has such a positive outlook regarding his journey and is happy to share this to help others.  He is currently considering exploring volunteering opportunities within the charity.

Scott said: “Before I had a stroke I had never heard of aphasia.  It came out of the blue for me, and I imagine most people don’t know about it.

“When I am out and about, dealing with my aphasia can be restrictive and I definitely have good and bad days.  I have trouble saying what I want to say, especially in long conversations, but people are generally patient.

“I manage pretty well when in shops or on public transport because I am quite a forthright and confident person. I do get frustrated with myself when I struggle to explain myself or get my words out in public, and sometimes feel under pressure to hurry up, but I tend to meet difficult situations full on - I don’t let people talk over me!  However, I know that not everyone with aphasia has that confidence, which can make it harder for them.

“I think it’s really important that people working in public facing roles have an understanding of what aphasia is and how they can understand the signs and take the time to make it easier for people living with it. I think knowing more businesses were aware would make it easier for people with aphasia to feel more confident going out and about into shops, cafes and on public transport.”

Leading the way

The CHSS chain of 40 charity shops across Scotland is committed to leading the way. Throughout Aphasia Awareness Month all staff are taking part in a bespoke programme of training to develop their skills further on how to meet the needs of people with aphasia when they are out shopping. And they will be improving the shopping experience by turning off background music at key times, an easy action all businesses can take.

Jane-Claire Judson, Chief Executive Officer of Chest, Heart & Stroke Scotland said: “Communication difficulties brought on by stroke can be one of the most challenging and frustrating issues.

“One of the greatest challenges facing people with aphasia is lack of awareness of the condition, which means they often avoid going out in public or interacting with people other than close friends and family. This just isn’t fair – this condition affects around 46,000 Scots who just want to be able to get on with everyday activities like everyone else.”

CHSS is launching a film later this month that highlights the challenges facing people living with aphasia, particularly when communicating in busy locations such as cafes and restaurants.

Find out more about aphasia including tips for helping people with the condition.

Businesses wishing to join CHSS in their efforts to make our high streets aphasia aware are encouraged to email:  

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