Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Online and Virtual Gatherings: Inclusion for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Members

Online and Virtual Gatherings: Inclusion for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Members

By Rev. Leo Yates, Jr.

With most churches across mainline denominations closing in-person gatherings and worship services, pastoral leaders and staff are being more creative as they toss aside the “Things They Didn’t Teach You in Seminary” book. Many churches are offering live streamed worship services, prerecorded videos, and conference calls to continue their community in a virtual way. 

Just about all churches have persons with hearing loss, a condition that is particularly true of seniors. In-person gatherings typically use public address systems as assistive technology, but online or live streamed worship services present challenges to ensure that persons with hearing loss can hear through computers, iPads, and laptops. We will look at several options to ensure that everyone can participate.

Sign Language Interpreters

Several United Methodist churches use sign language interpreters in their streamed services. Captioning is also a possibility, although fewer churches use this capability.

Rev. Stephanie Vader (preaching) and interpreter at Emmanuel UMC in Laurel, MD.
Click here to view this sample

Some use an overlay or insert – a picture of the interpreter inside the primary video (below) – while others place the interpreter next to the preacher or other speaker (above). When using the insert method, note that the image can easily become too small for comfortable viewing, so for best accessibility, choose a size carefully.