Better Web Accessibility for Hearing/Vision Loss

Recently, Sarah wrote a blog post about small ways we emphasize accessibility when we build websites, including specific things we implemented for a client of ours. However, there’s so much more we can do. Our intern Ashley, who is deaf, recently discussed web accessibility and potential solutions with Deaf and DeafBlind community members. She provides a unique perspective into something many people might not think about on a day-to-day basis. 

Deaf and DeafBlind people face plenty of obstacles when it comes to accessing information on the Internet. For example, watching videos on YouTube can be unfulfilling for the Deaf if there are no captions. A DeafBlind person may struggle to understand the content of images on a website or on social media. Luckily, there are accommodations you can utilize that will improve the accessibility of your website.

There are varying degrees of hearing and vision loss across both Deaf and Blind communities, but people of all levels can benefit from accommodating technologies. For example, my brother and I are DeafBlind, but our levels of vision and hearing are both different. We go on the Internet all the time, and we always face challenges. Watching videos and listening to music on YouTube are two of our favorite activities, but not all videos have captions. That limits our understanding of what’s happening in a video or what a song is about.

Here are some accessibilities that people in our communities can benefit from as they navigate the Internet. 

For the Deaf:

  • Write in simple English. English may not be your customer’s primary language. In the Deaf and DeafBlind communities, their first language may be ASL. Some people may have developed language later in life. Writing in simple English helps us better understand your business.
  • Add captions/subtitles to your video. Always add captions/subtitles to your videos. Not all Deaf people can read lips or understand the words coming out of people’s mouths. When you add captions, make sure the event is more visual. Resist the temptation to use automatically generated captions! They can misinform Deaf users.
  • Provide multiple contact options. Many businesses only provide phone numbers for contacting them. It was suggested that websites should include email addresses and a mailing address. Not all Deaf people have a video relay service, a video telecommunication service that allows Deaf people to make phone calls through sign language interpreters. Many Deaf people like using email to contact businesses.
  • Include videos with ASL on your website. Some of us find it easier to understand American Sign Language than written language. Some might learn American Sign Language first and struggle to read and write English. If you work with a signer, the signer must wear a shirt that contrasts their skin tone.

For the DeafBlind:

  • Increase contrast between text and background. This will make it easier for everyone to read, not just people with vision loss. Most of the time, they have a program that will change the color of the screen and give them options to change the background and text.
  • Describe each image. Some people with vision loss struggle to see a picture clearly. If you add captions describing what the picture looks like, that will help them understand what the picture is about.
  • Use skip links. It can be time-consuming for the braille readers to get to the information they are looking for.
  • Add a transcript in the bottom of videos. For braille readers, they will not be able to hear or read what’s happening on the video. Make sure to use an accessible document format file, such as .docx.
  • Extend time to complete forms. For security reasons, some forms have time limits and must be submitted within a certain time period. It’s hard for braille readers to complete those forms before the time expires. It would be helpful if there were an option to save and return to complete the form later.

To better extend your reach in the Deaf and DeafBlind communities, consider these suggestions. All of these tips will make your website more accessible for these communities and others. If you need a hand with this, get in touch so we can help you connect with your audience even better than before.