Twelve million people across the UK have some form of hearing loss. Many people who are Deaf, have hearing loss or work in noisy environments rely on lipreading to communicate, and face coverings make this impossible.
Here are some tips for communicating with a face mask:
- Write it down – If speech isn’t working, write what you want to communicate down or send a text message.
- Use an app – There are mobile apps that can translate speech into text, or you could use the built-in dictate feature on iPhone notes (no need to download an app for this).
- Keep it clear – If you can, use a face mask with a clear panel or a clear face visor so your face is visible to lip-readers. You could make your own or purchase one online. There are plenty available on Etsy (such as here and here).
- Find a quiet place – This will make it easier for people to hear, especially if they are using technology to support their hearing.
- Use Microsoft Teams for video calls -Use Microsoft Teams for video calls – If you don’t need to meet face-to-face, a video call with captions or British Sign Language interpretation may work just as well and you won’t need to wear a mask to it. Remember that visual cues are lost when the camera is off, and for those that lip-read, being able to see the speaker makes a big difference. So, if you are happy to, put your camera on when you are speaking where possible. We recommend using Microsoft Teams, which comes with in-built live captions (other platforms, such as Zoom, do not have this feature as standard). Highlight this feature at the start of the meeting so that everyone is aware. Don’t make assumptions – hearing loss is invisible, and you don’t know who this might benefit! Find out more about choosing and using video conferencing platforms.
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This list has been adapted from the National Deaf Children’s Society recommendations, with input from the IoPPN Disability Inclusion Working Group.
Abbie Russell is the Administrative Support Officer for the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s, working in communications and health and safety. She is the Disability Equality Champion at the IoPPN and chairs the Disability Inclusion Working Group. She is also the co-chair (community) for Access King’s, the staff disability inclusion network.
The IoPPN Disability Inclusion Working Group have collated these top tips for ensuring your online meeting or event is accessible. The list is non-exhaustive and we note that with accessibility should come flexibility, and that some of these tips will work for some people and not for others. Reach out to your audience and find out what works best for them!
Here we go…
- Provide as much information about the event beforehand (as you normally would) e.g. how to sign up/join the meeting; what meeting platform will be used
- The format of the meeting/event and who will be speaking. This helps to manage expectations and allow for any preparation beforehand.
- Check with presenters that they are confident in using chosen platform. Offer a short tutorial or test run ahead of the meeting.
- Share slides ahead of time to allow processing time and to allow for technical issues (e.g. if the slides don’t load properly, participants can still access the slides, and use their own software to take in the information.)
- Manage expectations and respect personal preferences (e.g. using video or microphone). For larger meetings, participants might be asked to join the meeting without video to improve the quality of the call. Alternatively, for a small team, participants may be invited to share their video if possible, to encourage participation.
- Ask participants to join on mute, especially if there are lots of people joining, to prevent noise and make it easier to hear the speaker.
- At the start of the meeting, outline the format of the event. E.g. what will happen and who will be speaking
- Ask participants to post comments and questions using chat function (or ‘raise hand’ to notify the chair on Zoom).
- Ask participants to introduce themselves before speaking, so that others know who is speaking.
- Highlight features such as chat functions and live captions at the start of the meeting
- Use live captions – this is good for people in loud environments or those with hearing impairment . MS Teams has an auto captions feature https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Use-live-captions-in-a-Teams-meeting-4be2d304-f675-4b57-8347-cbd000a21260 and Zoom provides closed captioning https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/115002522006-Closed-Captioning-With-Zoom-Rooms.
- Blur background if you have a busy environment – this makes it easier for participants to focus on the speaker. However, be mindful that this feature is not available to all machines and a presenter may prefer not to.
- Make sure any materials shared before/after are accessible – use Microsoft Accessibility Checker https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Improve-accessibility-with-the-Accessibility-Checker-a16f6de0-2f39-4a2b-8bd8-5ad801426c7f
You can find more content like this on the Access King’s Yammer. Click here to read about the Access King’s community network and to get involved.