People living with a disability face various web accessibility challenges when accessing websites. But ask yourself this: What if you had, not one, but two disabilities? Without vision and the ability to hear, you would think one who was deaf-blind would be unable to browse the Internet, let alone use a computer.
Deaf-blind is defined as a person that has a combination of both vision and hearing loss. There are approximately 45,000 to 50,000 individuals in the US who are deaf-blind. The largest group of people who are deaf-blind in the United States are of ages 55 and over.
Technology Deaf-Blind Use
The best way for a deaf-blind person to interact with technology is by touch. As a result, people who are deaf-blind use printed Brailleor some type of an refreshable Braille display device. A Braille display device works like a screen reader, in that it reads information from a website, displaying the textual information in Braille, rather than audibly reading it. An electronic Braille display device uses metal or nylon pins to display the website’s information in Braille. When the user moves to another line, the Braille display device automatically refreshes to display that line’s text.
Web Accessibility Challenges
No “skip to” option
There are various challenges for people who are deaf-blind when it comes to web accessibility. For example, when deaf-blind people use a Braille display to access a website, and there is a lot of content on the site, it can be tedious and time consuming to navigate. This is due to the fact that most deaf-blind people read with their fingers, and usually can feel two letters with one finger. For those individuals who have perfected Braille reading, they can typically read with four fingers. No matter the deaf-blind’s ability to read Braille, it can be extremely time consuming and frustrating to have to read through all of the content on a web page to get to the desired information.
Provide a “skip to” option at the top of web pages to allow deaf-blind people to skip down to certain parts of a page, rather than forcing them to wade through a lot of content on a website. Deaf-blind users will appreciate having a “skip to” navigation link as this function makes it easier for them to go to the content they would like to read.
Time Based Forms & Form Controls
Another challenge deaf-blind users face occurs when they are completing long forms. Often times they find that they are able to only get halfway through it, before the session times out. This occurs because for people using a Braille display it takes longer to complete forms due to the limited amount of information that a deaf-blind individual can read at a time because Braille display devices can only display a small amount of information at a time.
It is important to clearly state that there is a time limit for completing a form. Give deaf-blind people an option to extend the time limit, so that they don’t have to start over. Another option is to provide the ability for users to “save and resume” the completion of forms that are long in length and are complex. This feature will allow deaf-blind users to complete a form at their own pace. Also, forms, form fields and buttons should be labeled, clearly indicating what needs to be completed.
Visual and Audio Media
Audio and video is another challenge for deaf-blind people. This is due to their difficulty or inability to see or hear what is being played in a video. The best way to communicate audio and video information to deaf-blind individuals is with an audio or video transcript. Ensure the transcript is in an accessible document format, such as Word. This way the Braille displays or other assistive technology devices being used can access or read the document. It’s also important to alt tag images and graphics. Along with documents and PDF’s being properly marked and labeled as users will know what they are opening.
Want to learn more about accessibility? WeCo has a variety of free public and paid single-seat trainings available. Some examples of the training we offer:
- Getting Started in Accessibility
- Make Your Business Case for Accessibility (Webinar)
- Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 Jump Start
For a complete list of WeCo’s training events, visit our Events & Training page.
Further reading from WeCo’s Accessibility Blog about accessibility for the deaf and blind: