UA Professor and Students Raise Aphasia Awareness by Creating Aphasia-Friendly Menus 

Desktop News | August 2023

TCBY dessert in front of a "Aphasia Friendly Menu Available Upon Request"

In June of 2023, Mary Ray-Allen, Associate Clinical Professor in the Department of Communicative Disorders, led an influential effort with 11 graduate students from her “Advanced Aphasia” course to commemorate Aphasia Awareness Month. Their primary goal was to bring attention to this language disorder within the community.  

Ray-Allen emphasized the significance of the Aphasia Awareness Campaign, stating, “There are two million people in the United States that have aphasia. My goal is to empower students in our program to recognize the importance of advocating for the clients and families we serve. I hope this class project shows our students that they can make a difference.”   

On June 26, 2023, Speech-Language Pathology graduate students were split into two groups and began their Aphasia Awareness Campaign. The teams went to the Chick-fil-A and TCBY branches in Northport to promote their cause.   

During their visits, they educated managers and employees about aphasia and distributed the aphasia-friendly menus and resources they had meticulously created. These menus were designed to assist people with aphasia in the ordering process and enhance their comprehension of written or spoken information.   

 ”There are very specific guidelines when creating aphasia-friendly resources. People with aphasia benefit from specific fonts, real picture supports, and simple text. These resources help persons with aphasia access information, comprehend information, and communicate their everyday needs with the ultimate goal of life participation,” said Ray-Allen.   

The Chick-Fil-A Aphasia Awareness Group shared details about how they created their resource, stating, “When making our menu, we used pictures identical to Chick-fil-A’s so that people with aphasia could recognize menu items and point to what they wanted to order, if needed. Additional communicative options such as Yes/No icons and communicating with choices about meal sizes and the number of sauces, etc. were added to the menu.”   

The TCBY Aphasia Awareness Group focused on incorporating dessert options in the menu, enabling individuals with aphasia to select what they desired rather than settling for generic choices, such as vanilla or chocolate. Their menu used TCBY pictures as well with various topping options, serving styles, size options, and a number of ice cream flavor options.  

The students described two aspects of the Aphasia Awareness Campaign. “Within our groups, some students were assigned to focus on aphasia education/awareness while the other students presented the aphasia-friendly menu. Additionally, we provided each establishment with a small picture frame stand that stated, ‘Aphasia-Friendly Menu Available Upon Request.’  We hope that this will alert patrons with aphasia to request access to the menu and realize that these restaurants are ready to support their communication.”  

Reflecting on the impact of the Aphasia Awareness Campaign and their journey to becoming Speech-Language Pathologists, one student expressed, “This experience makes me think of more creative ways to use aphasia or disorder-friendly resources. The things that we learned in class opened my mind to different ways to do therapy, like the therapy groups we offer and the Aphasia Bama Perks Coffee Shop at the UA Speech and Hearing Center.”  

Students with Aphasia Friendly Menu

In addition, Ray-Allen and her students are hopeful that the aphasia-friendly menus they created will reach the corporate headquarters of Chick-fil-A and TCBY, with the potential of being shared across all franchise stores.   

Developing aphasia-friendly menus aligns with other programs coordinated by the Department of Communicative Disorders. Ray-Allen explained, “At the Speech and Hearing Center, we offer an adult communication support group called The Crimson Circle. I plan to share our aphasia awareness endeavors with them so they know these resources are available in the community. The support group’s motto is Together, We Will Not Be Silent. This awareness campaign of bringing aphasia-friendly menus to the community is us living out this motto and supporting our amazing clients and families.”