Ideas Factory

The Ideas Factory is an online community seeking to build credible evidence about how technology can enhance the lives of people with lifelong disability. This knowledge and information will come from sharing lived experience, practice-based evidence and research.

The types of technologies include assistive technologies and medical devices, software, processes as well as enabling environments that can assist people with their rehabilitation and to live well in the community. We are interested in off-the-shelf technology that is not yet fit for purpose, as well as the creation of bespoke technology to meet individual needs. 

Join our collaborative forum, where diverse people come together in a supportive and accepting community to increase awareness, knowledge and opportunities to be involved in the design, development and production of technology to meet the needs of people with disability.

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Hey HabITec, I've got a question

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Arran King
Active Member Admin
Topic starter

I am a clinician who has a number of Deaf and hard-of-hearing patients.  We are required to wear Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) including facemasks in the workplace, particularly when dealing face to face with clients. I am able to remove my facemask during telehealth online consultations. What is the best practice for accessible communication whilst still adhering to COVID safe practices? 

Posted : 23/09/2020 7:56 am
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Arran King
Active Member Admin
Topic starter

Hey HabITec, 

The use of opaque facemasks is mandatory in enclosed areas in most medical practices to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. Medical personnel wearing personal protection equipment (PPE) means that patients who are Deaf or hard-of-hearing are unable to lipread at an important time, and as such, will be unable understand vital information conveyed to them about their condition, treatment and/or rehabilitation. 


To support patients with deafness it is important to have a have a dedicated plan in place, to ensure Deaf and hard-of-hearing people feel safe and included, and to guarantee they understand important information conveyed to them.  


The following accessible practices are recommended as best practice: 


  • Facemasks: If possible, obtain clear face masks for help with lip-reading.  The clear panel over the mouth section is vital for those with hearing loss.  Whist this are not widely available as yet, they are available at select medical retailers online. 
  • Translator/Interpreter: Most larger medical centres and hospitals have access to a qualified professional for translation/interpreting, and in most cases these personnel will also have Auslan experience. Most medical related practices ask if an interpreter is required at the time of making an appointment. Where this is not an option, but the clinician or treating doctor must wear a face mask, have a nurse or assistant stand at a safe distance (without a facemask) to safely convey or translate information to the patient.  Speak clearly and at a regular tone and pitch. Always ask the patient to repeat important instructions conveyed, to gauge understanding. 


  • Speech to text app: Use a speech-to-text free auto captioning application on a mobile device to live-transcribe dialogue. There are several recommended and high-quality applications, such as the Microsoft Translator App (Android/Apple Devices) and Google Live Transcribe (Android only).  


  • Written notes: It is possible to convey information in writing. This can be done by typing onto a mobile phone, tablet device, using a small handheld whiteboard or with pen and paper.   


  • Provide information in writing:  Provide a copy of ALL information in writing for the patient to take away with them.  This might include information pertaining to their health and/or treatment. 


  • Telehealth: Video conferencing or video calls are essential for patients who are Deaf or hard-of-hearing.  There are a number of platforms which may be used, this will also depend on privacy or any other requirements in your practice.  Recommended online platforms include Microsoft Teams (has built in closed captions) and chat window feature; Zoom Video Communications (does not have built in closed captions, is an option to have live-interpreting for example via the 1CapApp), Google Meet (has live captions but only available on Android Devices).


Hope this answers your question.

Posted : 23/09/2020 7:58 am

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