The World Health Organization reports that there is over 350 million people who are deaf or living with some type of hearing loss. This means that more and more people will need to rely on ways to interact or communicate by the use of assistive technology. There are many assistive technology hardware and software products available today that allow deaf or hearing impaired individuals to productively use computers as well as Internet-based websites.
Hearing aids and cochlear implants are adaptable devices for someone that is deaf or hard of hearing. Most people are familiar with hearing aids which are just tiny devices that are placed inside the ear that helps to amplify sound. A cochlear implant, however, is an electronic hearing device that consists of two main components. The external worm microphone sound processor and a transmitter system. The implanted receiver and electrode system contains the electronic circuits to receive signals from the external system. These signals and electrical currents are sent to the inner ear.
Another device that is becoming popular is the Phonic Comp Pilot with Bluetooth. This device has the capability to connect wirelessly to most external devices, such as a laptop, mobile tablet and smart phone. When someone sinks the comp pilot with an external device, the Comp Pilot relays the sound back to their cochlear implants. View the Phonic Comp Pilot with Bluetooth video to see a demonstration of this device.
American Sign Language is a way for the deaf or hearing impaired to communicate. Even though it is difficult at times, to get a sign language interpreter to a lot of the locations that an individual may prefer or require, there are assistive technologies available to help with this issue. This service is now more accessible due to such products like video remote interpreters. Also with today’s technology, there is opportunity to provide an off-site interpreter with the use of video conferencing technology. Video conferencing shows the interpreter on a separate screen, in a small portion of the computer screen, or other mobile devices by webinars.
Challenges for the Deaf and Hearing Impaired
- Issue: Users of sign language such as American Sign Language can’t read the text on a site well or at all if they’ve been deaf since birth, and have learned sign language as their first language. This is because sometimes learning to read and write Standard English can be difficult for some users of ASL, since English and ASL have different systems of grammar and structure, and complex rules, which apply to English, but do not apply to American Sign Language. Also, for some, not being able to hear spoken English can lead to difficulties while learning to read.
Solution: Adhere to the Plain Language Initiative guidelines. The use of simple, clear language will help to ensure that people who are sign language users can access the information on websites.
- Issue: Individuals can’t hear the audio on audio based media platforms (e.g., videos, webinars).
Solution: Whenever sound is present use closed captioning. Proofread the close captioning text to ensure that no grammar or punctuation errors are present. Proofread to also ensure that the intended words are displayed within the text. Very helpful are also additional visual aids which help the user understand the audio material.
For more articles on digital accessibility and people living with disabilities, view WeCo’s IT Accessibility Information Blog.