Video conferencing for the deaf and hard of hearing

Janaina Santos, 05 October 2020

video conferencing


According to The Economist, there could be over 1billion remote workers by 2035. COVID-19 accelerated the telecommuting trend making the point of Digital Accessibility even more pressing. Companies need to guarantee that the workforce of users with hearing disabilities do not encounter another barrier with the implementation of the remote environment.

When organizing a team meeting, be mindful of the elements that can make the event accessible.

Before the meeting: Provide slides and an agenda

Providing slides and an agenda for a meeting in advance is a powerful productivity tip but it’s even more relevant when it comes to users with hearing impairments. Knowing the context facilitates the understanding of the words.

This benefits everyone attending the meeting, including those who are working from home with children or in a noisy environment.

During the meeting: use a video conferencing software with accessibility features

Learn more about the digital accessibility functionalities of your video conference tool:

Google meet
Microsoft Teams

Turn on live captions and leverage the chat feature

Most of the most popular video conferencing software will provide a live caption feature, although it’s only available in English and it doesn’t provide the highest accuracy.

To support that, ensure you have the speaker on camera for lip-reading or a clear slide with the topics that are being discussed.

Leverage the features of the chat to ask and answer questions and check if the audience is following the meeting.

Use proper devices – the quality of the audio is important!

The quality of the audio impacts the understanding of the live meeting but also the possibility of transcribing the recording.

Ask all participants to use adequate speakers and microphones to guarantee the audio is clear.

How to improve audio quality

Record and transcribe the meeting

Even for users without hearing impairments, the amount of information exchanged in a video conference can be overwhelming. Adopt video conference recording as a practice to avoid losing precious information from your meetings.

How to Record Video Calls on Zoom, Skype, Hangouts or with your Computer

With the video files in hand, you add easily add subtitles and generate transcripts to follow up with the attendants and ensure that even those with hearing impairments will have access to the information and can retrieve it when needed.

Adding subtitles to the recording will also make up for any misunderstanding that the (sometimes inaccurate) live captions could have created.

How to create subtitles – a Step by Step Guide

Additional tips

  • Meetings with a sign language interpreter. If you are planning a virtual event or meeting with sign language interpreters, there are additional recommendations for interpreters and audio setup.
  • Try to keep the group small and avoid mixing remote with same-room groups.
  • Ask everyone else who not the speaker, to mute their microphones so attendants do not get distracted.
  • Lastly – ask for feedback! The best way to ensure these measures are effective in promoting an inclusive meeting is asking those with disabilities to evaluate what worked and what didn’t. Digital accessibility is an evolving process that requires participation!

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