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Working from home during the coronavirus outbreak

You may be working from home due to the coronavirus outbreak. If you are Deaf or have hearing loss, there is technology and software available that may be able to help. You might also find it useful to share tips with your colleagues to help you better communicate and work during this time. 

Useful video and voice calling software

If you are working from home, you may have to hold or attend meetings remotely over phone or video. You may find it helpful to use video and phone conferencing technology that can provide accessibility features such as captions.

Zoom

  • Call type: Zoom can be used for video and voice calls. 
  • Devices: You can use it on your smartphone, tablet, laptop and desktop.
  • Price: It’s free for one to one calls and for group calls that last up to 40 minutes with up to 100 participants. There is a paid subscription service for longer meetings and more participants. 
  • Accessibility: Zoom allows someone on the call to type live captions during a meeting. You can also choose to use another service to do this for you if you prefer. The captions can be streamed into the meeting or you can choose to view them on a separate screen. Find out how to set this up here.

Skype

  • Call type: Skype can be used for voice and video calls. 
  • Devices: You can use it on your smartphone, tablet, laptop and desktop.
  • Price: It’s free to use if all participants are using Skype. There is a max of 50 participants. You only need to pay if you want to use features such as voice mail, SMS texts or making calls to a landline or mobile outside of Skype. 
  • Accessibility: Automatic captioning is available for video and audio calls for Skype version 8 or higher. The accuracy can vary depending on the sound quality of the call and the background noise. Find out how to set it up here.

Google Hangouts

  • Call type: Google Hangouts can be used for video and voice calls. 
  • Devices: You can use it on your smartphone, tablet, laptop and desktop. 
  • Price: It’s free to have a video call with up to 25 participants, or a voice call with up to 150 people. There is a paid service for calls with more participants. 
  • Accessibility: Automatic captions are available only with Google Hangouts Meet, which is one of the paid versions of Google Hangouts. You can still join a meeting with Hangout Meets if you have the free version as only the host needs the paid version activated. Find out more about captioning here.

Speech to text software

If you are using voice calls to speak to colleagues or hold meetings, you may find speech to text apps or software helpful. They allow you to read a transcription of everything that is said in a conversation.

Speech to text apps include: 

Last year we asked 40 people who have hearing loss to help us test some speech to text apps. You can read the review of these apps here.

You may also find it useful to use Relay UK for work purposes. Relay UK uses a live relay assistant to help people who are Deaf, have hearing loss or who are speech-impaired communicate over the phone. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, they are experiencing higher than normal call volumes. You may have to wait longer than usual for an advisor to join your call.

Communication tips for video and voice calls

You might find it useful to talk to your colleagues about how they can best communicate with you over video and voice calls while working from home. It may be helpful to share these tips:

  • If on a video call, make sure you are in a well lit area but don’t sit with a source of light behind you. This can put your face into shadow and make it harder for someone to lipread.
  • Face the camera and don’t cover your mouth while speaking.
  • Make sure that only one person is speaking at a time. This can also help make sure captions are more accurate, if they are used. 
  • Mute your microphone when you are not speaking to reduce background noise. 
  • Make use of chat functions that might exist when using video or voice software. They can help to clarify details, especially with numbers. 
  • Use an agenda and stick to the order to provide context for what is being said.

We have more general communication tips that you might also find helpful to share.

Other advice and information

You may be able to find more helpful advice and information from the following places:

  • The Big Hack have reviewed the best video conferencing apps and software for accessibility.
  • The Limping Chicken has a blog with useful tips for working remotely. 
  • AbilityNet can assist with IT support at home, digital accessibility and workplace services.