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Keywords:

  • ICF;
  • environmental factors;
  • communication disability;
  • hospital

The importance of effective healthcare communication between healthcare providers and people needing healthcare is well established. People with communication disabilities are at risk of not being able to communicate effectively with their healthcare providers and this might directly compromise their health, healthcare and their right to participate actively in decisions about their healthcare. This paper reviews the literature on the environmental factors that influence communication between adults with communication disabilities and their healthcare providers in the acute hospital setting within the framework of the World Health Organization's International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) (2001). It focuses in particular on the environmental factors that facilitate or create barriers for people with communication disabilities because environmental factors can be modified so that acute care hospitals can become more accessible communicative environments for all people. The paper describes the particular environmental factors that have been identified in acute hospitals that influence the ability of people with specific types of communication disabilities and their healthcare providers to communicate. It then goes on to describe the common environmental factors that have been identified across people with different types of communication disabilities when they are communicating with their healthcare providers. This paper concludes with suggestions for directions of future research.