Participant protocols for online forums and meetings

Many Visionary members are using online platforms for advice and other service delivery, video calls, social group sessions, keeping in touch forums and even for yoga sessions for the visually impaired!

A variety of software is available, with the most popular being Zoom or GotoMeeting.

Whilst using such platforms has been a learning curve for local sight loss organisations it has also been a learning curve for visually impaired people accessing servcies/support/activities in such a way.

To help with this, Huntingdonshire Society for the Blind have kindly shared some protocols and guidance for online forums and meetings they have been using. They are intended to be shared with all who may be accessing activities delivered via online platforms.  Huntingdonshire Society report that these guidelines have really helped ensure service users have a smoother and more enjoyable experience when accessing online activities, many often for the first time.

The guidelines are below and can also be downloaded as a word document, for ease of distribution, via the link at the bottom of the page.

Participant protocols for online forums and meetings

It is great that we are able to “meet” together using the internet and it is good to bear in mind the following protocols.  We want everyone to feel included and part of their community.

Bear in mind that:

  • Not all of the participants are of equal experience in anything IT, we are all in it together and learning together.
  • Not all of us have an equal amount of vision, some only from the perimeters, some only one eye, some with tunnel only seeing central vision, some indeed with none at all and many with varying levels in-between
  • We may all be on different equipment, PC, Laptop, phones (I phones and android) kindle and some on mobile or landlines, they all work differently, please be patient and kind to each other. When people are struggling to connect please try and stay quiet enabling them to listen to instructions
  • We are all of a different temperament, some more timid and shy and others more confident, please ensure everyone has a chance to speak if they want and are able to make comments or add to the conversation – everyone is equal and valued.
  • Some will be on audio and others video, either by choice or by telephone call, either is fine
  • On being invited / or joining a Online video conference meeting, either by link, text or e-mail, we accept and are asked “do we want to use audio or video”. Please don’t assume people with different sight levels won’t want to use video.  We have received feedback that they are able to make out people’s faces more clearly using a video link. It is often encouraging for others to see you in the group.  If you need help ask the host or someone around you for help to set up. We have all held the camera upside down, or the wrong way – its all part of learning.
  • Some people may be using phones only, please remember those people and include them in to the conversation. The host will ensure each person is involved and encourage people to speak if they wish.
  • If possible please keep the background as neutral as possible, this makes it easier for those with some sight to pick you out. Find a place that is comfortable for you and where you can place your equipment without straining.
  • Try and sit in a quiet environment, you can use ear phones / headphones which allows for sharper sound and removes background noise.
  • Arrange the camera (on your equipment) to view your full face, with your face in the middle of the screen, as far as possible, so those who lip read can see you. Also please try and be in a lighted area
  • Please ensure there is nothing behind you which may give away your identity i.e. addresses.  Please ensure there are no pictures of children behind or in the shot.
  • Never give out personal information or share anyone else’s personal information – think GDPR!
  • Familiarise yourself with the buttons on Online video conference before joining, maybe practise a Online video conference call with a friend, so you can “join the gallery view” which allows you to see all the participants  at once.
  • Online video conference has a function allowing people to type in their questions / comments this is called “Chat” and you can select the “Chat Button” to do this.  However, for people with Screen reader this will read out this information for them – remember audio can be picked up!
  • Especially note the mute button! Remember the host is able to mute everyone except the speaker.
  • The host will allow you entry from the waiting room and after saying hello, mute yourself (not for those on telephones)
  • If you wish to speak either hold your hand up, even if you cannot see yourself doing it, the host can unmute you enabling you to speak. When you have finished either mute yourself again or the host will.
  • Telephone callers will have to pick a moment to say they wish to speak!
  • If anyone is having trouble connecting, ensure in your group you have someone who can be messaged separately to try and help people through their technical issues. Try and set this up prior to the meeting and let people know who it is and how they can contact that person.
  • These meetings can be most enjoyable, sharing our concerns and worries and applauding our successes and gains and with a little practice we will ensure that everyone is included and none feel excluded

To download these guidelines as an accessible word document please use the link below.

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