We are living in a time where more and more people are making video calls. But how do you video call someone who is deaf/hard of hearing? Is that even possible?
There are so many tools and platforms out there you can use for video calls. But for all their fancy gadgets and quirky features, there are still some best practices that you need to follow to make it easier for the rest of us.
Bear in mind that it will vary for everyone and is dependent on many factors, such as whether it’s someone who is mild or profoundly deaf, whether it’s via sign language or oral spoken language, etc.
But this post can clarify it for you.
You can watch the video…
…listen to the podcast…
…or you can read the transcript below instead.
How do you take and make video calls with people who are deaf or hard of hearing?
So many people are doing that now, video calls and conference calls, and it’s a great thing to have, it’s a great tool, we all love it.
But of course, there are challenges when it comes to communicating with those who are deaf or hard of hearing. I’ve talked about how I do it and how I make it easy for me, but I want to share some general tips about doing this kind of thing.
It’s not going to be video conferencing etiquette, like, don’t pick your nose when you’re in a call or don’t wear your pyjamas wear, but you normally wear to your client, or don’t take it with you to the toilet, because people have done that.
Instead, I want to focus on just the tips focusing on those who are deaf and hard of hearing, how you can make it easy for them.
And of course, everyone is different, those who are mildly/profoundly different level. They will have their own experiences and they will have their own preferences too.
1. Ask and don’t assume
So even before you make the call if you know the person is deaf or hard of hearing, ask: How can you make it easy for them?
How can you make it easier for them?
Can you make it possible?
Yes, because there are all ways of making it possible, you just have to communicate and work with each together to find out.
2. Inform the attendees of your requirements
Of course, if you are the deaf person in question, then make sure you inform them because I’ve been guilty of not telling people either because I didn’t want to, or I forgot.
Make sure you tell them and then from there, get into the discussion of what can you do to make it easier, and also get into the discussion of what platform should you use, what tools work best.
For example, if you do want those auto-caption/subtitles, then tools like Skype and Google Meet , they do a great job.
But if you want something that is more stable and reliable and works very well and has other features, maybe something like Zoom is better for you.
It just depends, you have to talk to each other and ask that question to make it easy, to make it work for everyone.
Find out if a sign language interpreter is needed, because that, of course, it’s so doable.
So make sure you also communicate with the sign language interpreter, on what’s going on, what’s going to happen, and how you’d like to make sure that it’s going to go smoothly, just a brief conversation, it’s very, very easy.
That’s all you need to do, just make sure you communicate between each other.
3. Video calls are exhausting
One thing you should be aware of before you get into the call is that even for someone like me, video calls, and even calls in general, are exhausting.
That’s because of the amount of concentration that you have to do, which eventually tires you out. There’s a lot of focusing and listening and staring at people’s lips or facial expressions and concentrating, it’s exhausting.
Make sure you’re aware that, maybe if you want to make multiple calls in a day or make it long, it might not be the best thing to do.
So discuss that as well and make sure that you have the right setup, and then you get into the call.
4. Create basic agendas
What would also help before the call is to put together a basic agenda, to go over the thing that you want to go over, just to give someone like myself, to give an idea of what you want to talk about, and you don’t have to really focus as hard to locate the topic, the theme.
You’re almost immediately ready for that topic and it gives you (us) a headstart of what to expect.
So, if possible, provide just a basic agenda or even just a heads up what I want to talk about, and that don’t make a difference as well.
5. Turn on the video
During the call, turn on the video.
I know not a lot of people like it but the key word in video calls is video.
So turn it on, not just to see your pretty face, but it’s also to see everything around it, the lip reading, facial expression, it just makes it easier to follow the conversation when you can see the person’s face.
Otherwise, if a video is off, then it’s like a normal phone call, and that makes it very challenging.
6. Make the light face you
Make the light facing you not behind you. If the light is behind you, then you will create like a dark feature, and you will not be able to see, you create like a shadow of the person that you’re trying to see.
This means it’s almost like having a video off and you can’t see that person’s face, expression, and it’s just not a good experience for anybody.
So make sure that the light is facing directly on your face so that you can see everything and that is part of a process of when you’re communicating with deaf people, as well as many other things I’m going to talk about, that’s part of the process of making sure that it’s a well-lit environment.
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7. Use (external) microphones
Use microphones where possible. I’m not talking about those fancy microphones that people have, not even mine as well, I’m not saying that you have to have a microphone that I use.
But even if you use those in headphone kit that you get with your phone that has a microphone on the wire, even they do a good job as well, not the best but it’s good because the idea is that you want the sound to go into the microphone, and then out in the ear.
But if the sound goes through a personal speaker and then comes out of a speaker and then goes into the microphone there, it creates kind of distortion and an echo. The sound quality is not good.
So make sure you wear a microphone on top of it.
8. Use headphones
Same idea, make sure you have headphones because, as just said before, the sound if it comes out of a speaker and then goes into the microphone in the same place like on a laptop, it just makes the sound quality terrible.
So if you have the headphone plugged in, then the sound will come out to your headphones and it doesn’t go into the microphone, and that makes the sound quality better.
9. Face the camera
Face the camera. Quite self explanatory, it’s a good thing to do, face to face, which also mean don’t walk away, don’t look elsewhere, don’t just go off away from a camera.
I need to see you, I need to see those pretty face but like I said, it’s just to make sure that it’s easy to lipread and everything else that comes with it, just don’t walk away.
Face straight on, look at the camera. People forget that you should look at the camera and not look at yourself.
You need to remind yourself to do that, but it makes a big difference for everybody, not just for those who are deaf and hard of hearing, everybody.
10. Don’t cover your mouth
While you’re talking or like anytime, not just during the video calls, don’t cover your mouth, because it doesn’t make it easy for us to lipread.
It’s something that people forget, you get relaxed, you get comfortable, and just going to chill out for a bit and then you end up talking almost like just naturally, you cover your mouth without even knowing that, but that’s not good.
So don’t cover your mouth, it’s as simple as that.
11. Limit any background noise
Limit any background noise that you may have around you, and just do as well as you can. Because if you have children, stuff like that, I get it, it’s tricky, you can only do your best.
But I’m talking like for example if you have a TV on or music on, these kind of things which are in your control, you can turn them off. If you are somewhere where there is a noisy environment, in a café or stuff like that, then you have to really try to find a better environment to have the calls.
It’s just not easy to separate the background noise and what you are saying, and that makes a big difference, again, not just in the video calls, in general as well. Background noise are a pain to deal with.
12. Use the mute button
If there is a group of you and there is some kind of background noise, but you only want to listen, or maybe you’re fidgeting with something in your hand and it makes noise and it just creates all the distortion in the sound, then click on the mute button.
If it’s there for a reason, and if you are just going to listen is even better, you may as well mute it anyway, it makes a clean, simple, easy way to figure out what you’re saying.
So make sure you use the mute button if you need to; there’s no harm in that.
13. Use the chat tool
Use the chat function if you need to, especially for those hard to pronounce words or complicated jargon, or you want to share, for example, the address of a website instead of saying it out, just write it down.
It does make a big difference when those time in the conversation, you just don’t know what that person is saying because of something like that, then just type in in the chat, and then that’s it, it’s also easy for everyone as well.
So use it when you need to use it.
14. Keep the background simple
Don’t mess with the background. People are having a good time with it at the moment using those virtual backgrounds or even using those backgrounds which are very distracting and again, it makes it difficult to see a person sometimes for certain people.
It’s just very hard to separate that especially those, I’m assuming who are visually impaired, then it’s not nice experience.
So don’t mess with it, you can have a simple clean background, I guess it’s okay, but if it’s, especially those moving one and annoying one, then no.
You don’t need to use it really, I know you want to have fun but video call is for a video call, not for stuff like that.
15. Don’t focus only on interpreter
If there is a sign language interpreter on the call, you still want to make sure that you’re talking to that deaf person. So for example, you don’t want to say, can you tell this person, and say what I want to say.
So for example, if your interpreter’s name is David and the deaf person’s name is Mary, then you don’t say, “David, can you tell Mary?” No, you don’t say like that. Just say, “So Mary, how about this…”, and you get into the conversation, the interpreter will do their job, and that’s it.
Just like in-person as well, when outside of video call, if you’re talking to a deaf person, and there’s an interpreter beside that person, you face and talk to the deaf person. You don’t talk to the sign language interpreter.
Yes, you can acknowledge, the person is there, great. But really, you’re talking to the deaf person.
This also applies online and offline as well. Just be aware of that.
16. Thank the interpreter
Then at the end of all that, you can still and should say thank you to the interpreter for being there for helping, it’s just a nice thing to do.
But apart from that, like I said before, you don’t have to (and shouldn’t) focus all your attention on the interpreter.
Follow-up after the call
After the call, do what you need to do, follow up if necessary, send the notes and the minutes and the memos, do all of that, and that’s basically it.
You can continue doing that, go over the tip over and over again, and it should make the process a whole lot easier.
Just remember, as I said, at the end of the calls, I tend to get so tired mentally, because of the sheer amount of concentration that you have to do.
This is why I don’t tend to have too many phone calls in one day, I have my own limit, different people have their own limit.
Just be aware that everyone is different.
I have provided you a general overview and I would love to have more tips and advice from other people, let me know in the comments.
If you share it with me that’d be great, but this is a general overview of what to expect and how to make it easier for a lot of people, and I hope that makes sense. I hope you’ve learned a lot from the video.
Let me know what you think in the comment below, make sure you subscribe and like.
Do what you think is necessary and is still important that people understand how to make the most out of video calls, whatever the situation because it’s a useful technology.
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Thank you very much for producing this Ahmed. It was very clear and helpful to learn and also share with my team, one of whom asked if I had any advice ahead of a call they are having this week.
Ahmed Khalifa says
No problem at all Veronica. 😊