Approximately 466 million people (over 5% of the world’s population) worldwide have disabling hearing loss. This includes about 432 million adults and 34 million children.
Disabling hearing loss is different for adults and children. An adult is considered to have disabling hearing loss if they have hearing loss greater than 40 decibels in their better hearing ear. A child is considered to have disabling hearing loss if they have hearing loss greater than 30 dB in their better hearing ear.
For content creators and developers, it is essential to understand how people who are deaf use the web and how we can create web content that they can easily perceive and understand.
Design Considerations for People Who Are Deaf
Most web content is accessible to deaf people because most web content is presented visually. However, it is becoming increasingly common to include videos or audio-only clips on web pages, blogs, and web apps.
There are not very many forms of assistive technology for deaf people like those for people who are legally blind or have low vision. However, certain design considerations make a person with low vision’s web user experience much more accessible. These include:
In almost all instances, videos that are included on websites are there to provide valuable information that allows users to better understand the content presented to them. Videos can provide valuable information that helps people to understand the features of a product.
Without video captions, deaf web users may miss out on important information. Video captions must include any information conveyed through narration, dialogue, and sounds or sound effects.
It is essential that you either write your own captions or outsource the job to a professional because auto-generated captions are much less reliable. There have been a number of lawsuits against companies and organizations that posted videos on their website or YouTube channels with only auto-generated captions. One recent notable example is the Harvard settlement with the National Association of the Deaf where Harvard agreed to fix videos with missing captions and to include corrected captions on videos with automatically-generated captions.
Automatically-generated captions must be reviewed because the audio needs to be synchronized with the text. This will ensure that the sound referenced in the captions is actually being spoken.
If you’re looking for advice on how to create captions the right way, check out this WordPress Accessibility Meetup presentation on captioning best practices with Meryl Evans, a deaf writer, speaker, and accessibility consultant.
Any audio or video clips need to have transcripts. Transcripts present all of the information from the audio clip, including speaker names, dialogue, narration, sounds or sound effects, and music or musical cues. It is important to note that transcripts can be used for video, but they also need to be supplemented with synchronized captions. Without synchronized captions, a deaf web user will not know exactly where the transcript lines up with the video.
Transcripts make it possible for people who are Deaf-Blind to interact with your content and make it easier for all people to search your content or reference back to something they heard in the video or audio. For this reason, adding transcripts to your website can be great for search engine optimization. Read more about the benefits of transcripts in this article from podcaster, Joe Casabona.
When it comes to transcripts, you have a variety of options.
- Write the transcripts by yourself or in-house. This can take a lot of time for someone who’s not an expert. However, it tends to be the more budget-friendly option.
- Use auto-generated transcribing software, such as Otter.ai. You will need to read it over and ensure that the text matches up with the video or audio, as it may not be completely reliable.
- Outsource the transcriptions to experts who will give you corrected captions, such as Empire Caption Solutions.
Sign Language Video Supplements
Some deaf people use sign language as their primary means of communication. It may be helpful for people in this group to see a sign language interpretation of a video instead of a video with closed captions or a transcript. This can add costs to video production, but keep in mind that you may be losing website visitors or new customers if you do not work to make your web content accessible.
We recommend reaching out to government-approved organizations to assist with ASL translations, as they have been thoroughly vetted and will be able to provide quality translations.
Example Scenario: How Accessibility Helps Deaf Web Users
This is Jennifer. She is deaf. Jennifer owns a small boutique, and she’s just partnered with a new PR firm that is going to help her build a website.
Jennifer works from home and often takes part in video conferences with the PR firm that’s building her new website. The PR firm knows that Jennifer is deaf, so they use the chat features in their video conferencing software to ask her questions and relay information. They have also invested in transcript software to provide Jennifer with a text version of the videos they want to use for her new website. This also includes training videos that will teach Jennifer about how to edit her new website.
With the PR company’s accessibility efforts, Jennifer is able to effectively communicate with them and build the website she’s always dreamed of.
Now let’s consider what would have happened if the PR firm that Jennifer works with didn’t consider accessibility in their processes. If the PR firm didn’t use a video conference software with a chat feature, Jennifer could have missed out on very important information with the PR team. Without the transcript software that the PR firm uses, Jennifer might have to go out of her way to find a transcript or auto-generated captions for videos, which are not always reliable. This could cost Jennifer a lot of time and energy and may cause her to find another PR firm to work with.
Keeping Accessibility In Mind
In our scenario with Jennifer, we saw how accessible considerations made her website-building experience more simple and more successful. We also saw how inaccessible actions could be frustrating and how they could cost you clients. This highlights the importance of accessibility and taking steps toward web accessibility.
WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) helps content authors, designers, and developers create accessible content by laying out a framework for success. WCAG uses a system that starts with four overall principles, also known as POUR. This acronym stands for perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. For your content to be considered accessible under WCAG, it should be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust enough for users with all types of ability levels to access it.
In addition to the four overall principles, WCAG also uses success criteria and levels of conformance to help content creators make sure they are meeting the necessary requirements. The success criteria ensure that the guidelines laid out are testable and pose a real problem for people with disabilities. The levels of conformance are required for each success criterion, depending on a number of factors, such as the importance of the criterion and how easily achieved it is.
Take a Step Towards Accessibility
If you’re ready to start making the web a more accessible place, Equalize Digital can help you. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have questions about web accessibility or how to make your website accessible for people who are deaf or have other hearing impairments. If you have a WordPress website and would like to scan it for accessibility problems, check out our free WordPress Accessibility Checker plugin.