Meetings can be very involved and fast paced. Everyone in an organisation should feel like their participation is valued. Making sure an employee who is deaf or hard of hearing feels comfortable participating in meetings and in the workplace is very important. So check out these tips on how to make your work meetings accessible to your deaf and hard-of-hearing colleagues.
Conduct the meeting in a suitable area
Make sure that the room you are conducting the meeting in is well lit and away from distracting background noise. Ensuring the room is well lit will help your colleague see the expressions and lip movements of other attendees. Background noises can interfere with sound amplification for someone who wears hearing aids - plus it's a distraction for everyone else in the meeting too!
Provide Live Captioning or Interpreting
Providing live captioning or a sign language interpreter for deaf and hard-of-hearing employees, based on their preference, is often the best way of ensuring full access to meetings and equal opportunity for participation. With live captioning, the employee will also receive a transcript of the meeting for their notes afterwards. This transcript can also be passed on to the rest of the attendees in the meeting. There is often government funding available for employers to provide accessibility services such as these.
Ask the employee to choose their preferred seat for communicating
If there is one main speaker in the meeting, the employee may like to sit nearer to them or facing them. This also applies to conference calls and ensuring that the phone is close to the employee. If multiple people will be talking during the meeting, then it is useful for everyone to sit in a circle so that they can read everyone's expressions and lip patterns. It's also important to make sure that meeting attendees speak one at a time. This will greatly help someone who is deaf or hard of hearing be able to discern what is being said, and is good meeting etiquette!
Provide an agenda
Providing an agenda of the meeting's proceedings and all relevant documents will help the employee be able to follow along with the meeting and not become confused with quick topic changes. Having an agenda will also help to run the meeting more effectively and benefit everyone.
Speak to them about their preferences ahead of time
The most important step to making meetings accessible for deaf and hard-of-hearing employees is to open a comfortable line of communication. Simply asking the employee what access they want and need will make your job significantly easier. There's no point guessing what accessibility options would be best for your colleague. Someone may prefer written communication or live captions, others may be happy to read lips, and some prefer to communicate with a sign language interpreter. There are many options to making a meeting accessible and there's no single solution for every employee.