Supporting Attendees with Hearing Loss

According to UK government, 11 million people in the UK suffer from hearing loss. With the recent pandemic these individuals need to rely on technology more than ever. Joining online training sessions on platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom can be difficult as accessibility requirements are usually an afterthought. Sometimes these tools have features available such as captions, but these can be difficult to follow or require the host to set something up they don’t fully understand. It’s our responsibility as meeting hosts to meet the needs of our attendees, whether we’re running a class at a school or a board meeting at a fortune 500 company.

How do we achieve this? The best option is to understand the needs and the requirements of the individuals attending the session. Sometimes it’s best to have a pre-catchup beforehand or even to discuss via email. That way, rather than guessing what the attendee needs we can be sure to make our presentation easier to understand. In my experience, I’ve found the following tips and tricks are useful and a good starting point.

Ensure that your camera is enabled and your facing it. This ensures eye contact is maintained and the attendee can see your facial features. You may not think this is important but it’s common practice to read facial expressions, lip movement and other methods of nonverbal communication. To ensure your face is viewable, make sure you don’t have a strong light behind you, you’re away from a window and your face isn’t in a shadow.

Where possible ensure captions are enabled. Microsoft Teams has an inbuilt captioning service that although may not be perfect, provides additional information. Adding to this, Microsoft PowerPoint has inbuilt captioning that’s quite accurate. However, please don’t assume this is the only option. Some attendees may value an independent organisation join the call to write down captions for them to ensure they are 100% accurate.

Slow your speech. In normal everyday conversation points can be conveyed quickly without a second thought. Before the pandemic, speaking to someone in person alongside nonverbal communication made it easy to pass a message. Through an online medium, this becomes more difficult. By speaking slowly and revisiting topics attendees are more likely to pick up on subject your discussing.

Use visual aids. This is easier when presenting content through PowerPoint but can be more difficult when presenting without supporting material. I’ve found it’s best to use whiteboarding to write down ideas and topics as they come up. Alternatively, information can be shared after a meeting covering the topics that were discussed.

Using the above tips and tricks will ensure your meetings are easier to follow and that you accommodate the needs of all attendees. The key points to take away are that the attendee knows what is best for them, and we as hosts can accommodate most of these needs.

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