Deaf Online: Considering Hearing Impaired Internet Users

After our Blind Online: Considering Visually Impaired Internet Users, we thought we’d look at the experience of hearing impaired internet users. Whilst visual accessibility is not a problem for the hearing impaired, there are some interesting insights into their experience which make for better, inclusive design.

Captions, CAPTCHA and capturing attention


The first difficulty for hearing impaired internet users is whether videos have captions or not. Whilst the technology for auto-generation has improved vastly, there are still huge blank spots. Good quality captions or transcripts of podcasts, livestreams, social media and tutorials can be very hit-or-miss for the hearing impaired. Provide captions or transcripts opens up the content to a wide range of internet users. They is obviously essential to those who are hearing impaired, but captions and transcripts are also handy for people who are in a situation where they can’t watch a video with sound, or who want a transcript to refer to. Depending on the type of footage you are captioning, speech alone doesn’t cut it. Ambient sounds such as explosions, laughter, sinister noises and applause carry as much of the presentation as words spoken.


CAPTCHA is annoying enough by itself, but could you imagine just how frustrating it would be to be denied access to content because you simply couldn’t pass the test that’s being set? Anyone who has trouble with the visual side of CAPTCHA has the option to have the letters or numbers displayed read out, but this is obviously not an option for hearing impaired internet users. Other audio-based tests on platforms such as online surveys are a huge barrier to inclusivity.

Accessibility site Even Grounds has a list of alternatives to CAPTCHA.

Capturing Attention

Another big consideration for hearing impaired internet users is whether there are any audio-only alerts or cues that would impede their user experience. Chat and messaging applications that only alert users to updates via audio means there’s a high chance of missing out on a new message. This also applies to people who have their devices on mute. In terms of web design, making cues or interactions audio-only may sound like an interesting idea, but will act like a barrier to access to a wide range of users.

You can read about some of the frustrations of being a hearing impaired internet user here [via Time]

This helpful guide to Inclusive Design has recently been published online, and is an incredibly handy reference tool [via Hobo Internet Marketing]



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