Getting it right for hearing
Getting it right for hearing

Pippa Highfield looks very fed up as she sits at a table with her laptop in front of her

It’s been a frustrating few weeks. Failing technology, difficult communication and generally the feeling that I’m swimming against the tide.

My brief love affair with video calling has sadly ended, and I’ve wasted countless hours trying to find the mythical captioning facility on Microsoft Teams, and set up a Google Meet account.

Even my own workarounds for captions on Zoom failed me. My speech-to-text app simply decided it wasn’t going to work – mid-call! Whilst my colleagues were understanding, the whole experience left me feeling embarrassed, upset and exhausted.

I expect that many people, with hearing loss or otherwise, have encountered difficulties adjusting to new ways of working and living. The lack seamless and straightforward solutions to the communication issues those of us with hearing loss face on a daily basis feels, and I don’t use the word lightly, disabling. Does it have to be this hard?

We are told to be positive and to ask for help, but this means admitting to, and  ‘announcing’, our  struggle. I still find it tough admitting to my  hearing loss and so tend to seek solutions for myself. It’s hard to navigate things alone though and to stay motivated in the process.

In times like these we all need a ‘safe’ place to vent, be heard and then to move on. I’m lucky that I have such a place in the form of the work I do for Ideas for Ears and my colleague, Sally Shaw. And, indeed, after a video call, things began to look brighter.

Here’s what made the difference:

Progress on captioning video calls

Skype, probably the easiest option for subtitles on a  video call, have improved their captioning capability. Google Meet now has a widely available and free captioning facility and I’ve, finally, discovered how to caption a Microsoft Teams meeting. I’ve updated  my original blog post with all the details.

The emergence of a new video call captioning app

This new app to app video calling facility has been on our radar for some time. It is good to see that the developer has made a test version available on iphone. It’s called HearClear, and, whilst there is some way to go to get it working perfectly, it certainly would provide the simple and straightforward option for video call captioning that we seek.

A petition to encourage providers to offer free captioning for people with hearing loss

The petition, which has been set up by a prominent blogger in the USA, includes an open letter to Microsoft, Zoom and the like, to explain why people with hearing loss should have captioning on video calls for free. The petition seems to be gaining some traction and, what I found particularly encouraging in an update post by the author, is the notion that hearing accessibility is just as important as physical accessibility. The authors headline ‘ Captions are our ramps’, though slightly cryptic,  says it all . At Ideas for Ears we have mooted this point time and time again but it seems, until now, few were brave enough to join us in this bold statement.

New service to help support people with hearing loss

The issues I’ve just described are the tip of the iceberg for the things people with hearing loss have to deal with day in and day out.  If you are reading this post then you likely know this all too well.

To help people with hearing loss navigate the minefield of subtitles and other hearing access issues, Ideas for Ears has launched a new service.  It is called ‘Talk It Through’ and is purely about you.

This new service puts Sally, me and the rest of the Ideas for Ears team at your disposal to talk about whatever it is that is making life harder for you and how it can be resolved or improved.

We don’t pretend to have all the answers but we have accumulated a lot of experience, knowledge and insight.  We will listen and try to guide you.

If you have any thoughts or comments about the service, do let us know.  And please pass on the details to people you know (friends, family, colleagues) who might benefit.

Send us an email

Learn more about Talk It Through

4 responses to “Pippa’s fallen out of love with video calling – here’s why”

  1. Thank you for this Update and for all the work you are doing. I am visually impaired as well as deaf and aged 93 my brain seems to work more slowly, I find Zoom events almost impossible because so few people speak sufficiently clearly, and always too fast for me to pick up their subject. Sub-titles could be really helpful, particularly if the speakers could be persuaded to speak more slowly, it is rarely a question of volume, just clarity that I wish for!

    • Hello Margaret, lovely to get your message. We so agree about clarity! The speaking style and manner of the person talking has a huge affect on how easy it is to hear and follow what’s said. We are extremely keen to see service providers adopt clear speaking practices, and to advertise and promote the fact they are doing so. It would make a world of difference to a lot of us. We would have more confidence to pick up the phone to use their service and would have a less stressful and frustrating experience when we do. If ever there was a time for phone and video calls to be more accessible, it is now!! All good wishes, Sally, Pippa & team

  2. Dear Pippa

    Thank you for your informative article about video calling. I also found the article about masks very interesting and relevant. I hope you are well – I was in the last lip-reading class with you.

    Jennifer Alexander

  3. Lovely to hear from you!

    I’m so pleased that you found the articles useful. We are trying to cover subjects that are particularly relevant at the moment, so if there’s anything else you’d like to hear about then do get in touch.

    All the best
    Pippa

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