6 Ways to Make Your Website Accessible for the Hearing Impaired

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When we think of website accessibility, we often think of visual impairments — after all, websites are a visual medium. However, doing this not only falls short of accessibility standard guidelines, but it also ignores the ever-changing nature of how we design and use websites.

Things like video and video content are increasingly common marketing tools, which can easily pose a barrier for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals when not dealt with correctly. In this article, we will explore the ways in which web designers and companies can make sure that their online content can be enjoyed by those with hearing impairments. 

Aim for All-Round Accessibility

The single easiest way to make sure that your website is accessible for deaf people is to make sure it is accessible by everyone. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, published by the Web Accessibility Initiative, outline the global standards to which all websites should adhere. 

Get to Know Your Captions

If your website or social media platforms feature video content, you need to make sure that it is properly captioned. First, it helps to understand the difference between closed captions and subtitles. Captions provide a description of the whole audio, including things like background music and noises; subtitles are a translation of the dialogue. When thinking of hearing-impaired accessibility, it’s closed captions you want to provide. 

You need to start with a transcript of your audio. While you can write it out yourself, this is a time-consuming task, especially for longer content. There are automated transcription services you can hire for a reasonable fee to do the job for you, and many have quick turnaround times and will provide caption files for you in minutes.

If you have content on YouTube, you may assume that their own automated captions will do the trick. However, YouTube’s captions aren’t always accurate, so you should check and edit them if needed; thankfully, Google provides documentation on how to do this.

Use Simple Language

According to Psychology Today, an aspect of deafness that is often overlooked is that, for many deaf people, English is their second language. ASL is what they primarily use to communicate, and it’s rules are completely different from any written language. When writing website content, keep things simple. Even if you’re not writing for a global audience, write as if you want to be understood by someone whose first language isn’t English. 

Offer Various Communication Channels

Many companies just list a phone number in their “Contact Us” section, which immediately prevents deaf people from contacting them. Offer a range of options, including written ones. According to Business Insider, consumers are moving away from traditional communication channels like the phone in favor of solutions such as chatbots and social media. 

Write Good Social Media Captions

Later.com outlines the keys to a good Instagram caption as a killer first line, a strong “Call to Action,” a consistent brand voice, and add-ons like hashtags, emojis, and line breaks. When it comes to any social media captions for videos, add “context” to that list. In order to be enjoyed by the hard-of-hearing, your caption should engage and entertain, but also provide information on what is actually happening in the video.  

Stay Away from Autoplay

Given the rage it generates in countless users, most companies and web designers should have phased out autoplay audio by now. In fact, major browsers even have defined policies to prevent it, such as Google Chrome blocking non-muted autoplay. However, if you need another reason to not have automatic sounds on your website, consider the deaf user who may not realize they are playing that sound in public. 

As you can see, many of the points above are actually the best practices for web design on the whole. The more accessible a website is, the easier it is to use for everyone. Take the time to make your website and social media accessible for people with hearing impairments, and you will be left with an overall better online presence. 

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