City Lit Blog

Tips on hosting accessible online meetings with deaf and hard of hearing people

Story added 14th Sep 2020


Most deafened and hard of hearing people rely on lipreading and any remaining hearing they may have through a hearing aid or a cochlear implant. Most of them do not use sign language so being able to hear and see you as clearly as possible is vital.

Now we have all moved into a digital world, lipreading has become much harder. Your face appears much smaller, just in 2 dimensions and possibly blurred or even offscreen at a particular moment. Lipreading you is going to be very difficult even for people who normally lipread well face to face.

So here are some tips for including deaf and hard of hearing people in an online meeting.

  • If you are the host, contact the person before the meeting and ask them if they need any support.

  • Provide as much information in advance as you can, for example an agenda or any documents to refer to.

  • If they are not using sign language through an interpreter, they will be relying on captions. Speak clearly and slow down a little so that the captions are more likely to be accurate. If you’re able to look at the captions yourself, you’ll see what you need to repeat if the captions have not made sense.

  • Allow a little time between sentences for the person to read the captions. These may take a few seconds to appear. They are not always accurate so the person is also having to backtrack and make sense of what appears while at the same time trying to listen to you.

  • If asking them to refer to another document, allow time for them to read it before anyone starts speaking again.

  • Ask people to mute their microphones. This reduces the background noise and also stops people speaking over each other.

  • Just as in a face-to-face meeting, it’s important for people to speak one at a time. Ask participants to raise their hand if they want to speak before unmuting their microphone so that it's clear who is speaking next. 

  • Ask everyone to use common signals, for example thumbs up if everybody can see you.

  • Using the chat facility for comments can be helpful.

  • Listening, lipreading and reading captions is very tiring for someone with a hearing loss. Try to keep meetings brief and to the point.

  • If you have any notes or minutes from the meeting, these will be really useful for the deaf person to refer to afterwards and fill in the gaps for anything they missed.


Lipreading & Managing Hearing Loss at City Lit

City Lit has provided support for deaf people at its heart right from our establishment, in 1919. Some of the first courses ever offered by City Lit were lipreading classes for deafened soldiers returning from World War I. Over the years, we have grown to become an internationally-renowned centre of a wide range of provision - it is the largest centre of its kind in Europe. Our staff is a mixed group of deaf and hearing professionals; all highly skilled in their own areas of specialist expertise.

Find out more about lipreading and managing hearing loss courses >

FInd out more about our lipreading campaign #HearMyLips >