How many of us have participated on Zoom calls and been distracted by background noise coming through another participant’s connection? Or have been trying to speak to an issue and have lost track of what you are saying because of a conversation taking place in the background?
As Zoom calls appear to be here to stay, and in fact, are a very efficient and effective way for the blind community to stay connected, perhaps it’s time for a refresher on Zoom etiquette. Here are four basic practices which, if followed by everyone, will help Zoom calls go smoothly.
1. Be prepared and on time
Have the Zoom link available well before the meeting is to start and plan to join the Zoom call 5 to 10 minutes early. This way there is time for the meeting host to admit you from the waiting room and also time to trouble shoot if the technology does not work properly on your end. There’s nothing more annoying than a frantic phone call or text from someone who cannot find the Zoom link or is having trouble connecting, right when the host is trying to start the meeting. It’s also not appropriate to expect the meeting to be put on hold while you resolve your technology issues. By connecting a few minutes prior to the meeting start, then you can resolve any issues before the meeting begins and those who were on time are not left waiting. It is also important to remember that every time someone joins or leaves the meeting, this is announced by screen readers and can be quite distracting for a blind Zoom host and other blind participants once the meeting has already started.
2. Mute yourself when you are not speaking
It is your responsibility to ensure that background noise in your environment does not distract the Zoom host, Zoom presenters or other participants who are listening to the host or presenter. We all know how annoying it can be when people are having a side conversation during a live meeting or at the theatre and the same is true for Zoom calls. Whenever possible, join the Zoom call in a quiet place. If this is not possible, then you must mute yourself whenever you are not speaking. People talking in the background distract others on the Zoom call, especially those who are speaking. Anticipate possible distractions and try to avoid them. Ask others in your home not to disturb you. If you are not using your land line or cell phone, put it in another room. Close doors and windows and shut off other sources of noise.
If someone else is listening to the Zoom call on your device, avoid speaking to one another unless you both know that the device has been muted. Ideally, everyone should join the meeting on a separate device, located in different rooms, but again, if this is not possible, then mute the device unless one of you needs to speak at the meeting.
Make sure you know how to mute and unmute your device and practice doing so outside of the meeting. Your screen reader will announce when you are muted, but this announcement may be delayed so be patient and wait until you hear the announcement. This is another reason to join early when you can test out the mute command.
The Zoom host can mute participants, but for a blind host, this requires them stopping the proceedings to scroll through the participant list, determine where the background noise is coming from and then find the mute button for that participant, using their screen reader. Not an easy task and very disruptive.
3. Use earbuds or a headset
It is also important to wear earbuds or a head set so others cannot hear your screen reader. If you are referring to a document such as an agenda or just tabbing through the Zoom page others can hear your device. They can also hear it announcing when other participants join or leave the meeting.
4. Use the raised hand command
Unless the Zoom host says otherwise, you should use the raise hand command to indicate when you wish to speak. There are times when it may be appropriate to jump in or interrupt, but these are rare and usually indicating your desire to speak by raising your virtual hand is best. Again, familiarize yourself with how to do this and practice while you are waiting for the meeting to start. Your screen reader will indicate when you have successfully raised or lowered your hand.
Happy and distraction-free Zooming!!
mute/unmute - command+shift+A
raise/lower hand - option+Y
mute/unmute - Alt+A
raise/lower hand - Alt+Y