Web Accessibility for People Living with a Hearing Disability

Posted by Sue Ann Rodriquez on Mar 27, 2016

CTC, Kate Olson, holding a hearing amplification device, and smiling.

One might believe that people living with a hearing disability don’t really suffer from web accessibility problems since they can see the images, use a mouse, navigate the site, and read the content on the web page just fine, right?

Auditory disabilities range from mild or moderate hearing impairments in one or both ears (“hard of hearing”), to substantial and uncorrectable impairment of hearing in both ears (“deafness”). Some people with auditory disabilities can hear sounds but sometimes not sufficiently to understand all speech, especially when there is background noise. This includes people using hearing aids or other approaches to improve the sound. (W3C, 2013)

Kate, a WeCoCertified Test Consultant(CTC), lives with an 80 percent hearing deficit. Her hearing loss is a result of a genetic sensorineural hearing disorder that has challenged her family members for generations. Kate was fitted with her first hearing aids at the age of twenty-eight.

Despite having hearing aids, Kate must still work at understanding what is being communicated to her through words and sounds. With the constant effort that it takes Kate to understand words and sounds, it should be no surprise that she relies on visual elements to convey information. That is why video captioning is so important to Kate , and to many others who live with a hearing impairment. If movies, television, or websites offer no captioning for their audio features, the content is lost to a person living with a hearing disability. Good quality captioning allows these individuals to receive the information the rest of us hear.

Many developers don’t think about individuals living with a hearing disability when they think of web accessibility. For these developers, web accessibility consists of adhering to a few guidelines that ensure accessibility to screen readers for the blind. This is understandable as many websites contain visual features(content, images, etc.), but today’s websites have more than just visual aspects to them. Websites are increasingly consisting of video and multimedia content. Take a look at the homepage of most popular news sites, for example, and you’ll find numerous video clips.

Some people living with a hearing disability who are sign language users may not have highly developed reading skills as American Sign Language is a different language from the standard written English. Some people who use sign language therefore have a limited reading vocabulary. The use of simple, clear language will help to ensure that people who are sign language users can access the information on websites.

Whenever sound is present use closed captioning. It is the same technique that is used by televisions in which text of the spoken information is displayed. Web implementation of closed captioning, however, does not necessarily involve captioning within the video or other form of audio material but a transcription which can be accessed with a click on a link. In order to facilitate the access to closed captioning or transcription of the spoken information, the link should be clear and located as near as possible to the video or audio material. Very helpful are also additional visual aids which help the user understand the audio material.

Reproduced from http://theweco.com/web-accessibility-people-living-hearing-disability/