Any meeting you attend may have neurodivergent participants. Please be mindful of neurodivergent needs by adopting the following recommendations.
The role of the chair is paramount. The chair should:
- Send an agenda in advance of the meeting where possible.
- Explain what the meeting is for and make sure everyone has the agenda.
- Avoid changing the timing or schedule at the last minute (a week’s notice is preferable where possible).
- Debrief every attendee of the recommended rules of the meeting at the start of the meeting/webinar.
- Give audible cues to manage speakers during the meeting, to avoid people talking over each other.
- Ensure meetings start and end at the advertised times.
- Consider assigning a co-chair to manage the meeting/webinar, verbalise who is co-chairing and explain their role.
- Add a break of at least 10 minutes for long meeting/webinars. One break for every hour.
- As well as audible cues, to use the chat function to give instructions of who speaks next or notify people to follow rules.
- Use the chat to relay complex instructions and verbalise them too. For example, if attendees are asked to choose between options A, B and C, make sure these options are defined in the chat.
- Remind attendees to not overwhelm the chat with parallel conversations. These are distracting (see below) and can mean important instructions get lost.
- It is the host and chair responsibility to resolve audio issues that are directly related to controllable settings in the remote meeting/webinar interface. For instance, in Microsoft Teams, the host/chair can reduce background noise following the advice in this website: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/office/reduce-background-noise-in-teams-meetings-1a9c6819-137d-4b3b-a1c8-4ab20b234c0d . And in Zoom, the host/chair can manage background noise by following the advice in this website: https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/360025379211-Zoom-Rooms-Audio-Guidelines
- It is the host/chair responsibility to enable captioning always. In Microsoft Teams this is not necessary as the attendee can turn them on/off during meetings. However, during a webinar in Microsoft Teams, host/chair must enable captions. In Zoom, host/chair must enable captions in advance by enabling captions in the settings of their Zoom account. Do not wait for attendees to ask for captions, this is unfair and may not be possible once the meeting has started.
Recommended rules for all attendees, including the chair
- In Microsoft Teams you can turn off all incoming video if you find it distracting. This will only affect you and not the meeting.
- When speaking, be mindful that some attendees may need to read your lips while you speak, thus we recommend that you turn on your camera when you speak, then you can turn it off when you do not speak.
- Be kind by choosing your non-multicoloured and non-heavily geometrical clothing and personalized backgrounds when having your video ON.
- No chat use unless necessary. Avoid having parallel conversations in the chat as it is distracting and makes it very difficult to follow what the speaker is saying.
- Use chat only to share documents or links or ask turn to speak if you cannot verbalize it. Unless you are having a meeting with known colleagues, and you have agreed to use the chat in parallel with other sources of information (audio, video).
Sound & Talk
- Mute your microphone when not speaking.
- Turn the sound OFF from your Microsoft Teams notifications when in a meeting/webinar and specially when taking a turn to speak.
- Speak slowly and clearly, repeating as needed.
- Give people time to respond when asking a question.
- Verbalise when you have finished talking.
- Verbalise when the call is finished.
- Verbalise when you cannot hear others.
- Remember that you can share your screen in Microsoft Teams to show documents to attendees.
- When the chair is neurodivergent, please be mindful that switching tasks will take time. Be patient and respectful.
- Neurodivergent colleagues tend to be direct and honest. Please do not take things personally.
- Neurodivergent colleagues tend to have high empathy and it can be difficult to hide our emotions. Please give us time to process information.
Additional considerations for attendees with hearing impairments
- Some people need to lip-read. Turn on video when speaking. Chair of meeting/webinar to follow this same rule.
- Make sure to test your camera in advance and make sure that attendees will be able to see your lips when you are speaking.
- Blur the background while having the video ON, to minimize distractions due in the background (decoration, pets, other people).
Why do we need these accommodations?
- An overload of information (video, chat and audio) makes it difficult to understand what people are saying, leading to overwhelm and fatigue.
- Lack of an agenda or a chair not enforcing rules means that we do not know when to talk.
- We need time to process changes to meeting times.
- We need time to process information.
- Any attempt by neurodivergent people to hide information overload, uncertainty, or insufficient processing time can lead to mental health problems (e.g. anxiety, depression, harmful stimming).
- Some neurodivergent individuals find heavily geometrical and multicoloured pattern painful and/or distracting.