How To Make Your Website Accessible For People With Hearing Disabilities

Published January 18, 2024

Approximately 15% of American adults report some trouble with hearing. Hearing difficulties range from tinnitus to partial hearing loss to total deafness. Given those numbers, it is highly likely that some visitors to your website may have some degree of hearing loss. Regardless of your company’s industry, ensuring accessibility on your website for all customers is essential.

Audio captioning

Captions are a very common accessible alternative available on several video streaming sites. 50% of Americans routinely watch videos, movies, and TV with captions on, regardless of hearing ability. When half the population uses captions, it’s a good idea to include them in any videos you may have. Not only is it a common courtesy to extend to all visitors, it will also specifically show that you are accommodating to many disabilities, including hearing loss or difficulties. 

There are many options when it comes to captions. If your budget allows, you may add captions to your video before uploading it to your website or any video streaming service you use by hiring a caption writer. Doing so will ensure your captions are accurate and complete. It also allows you to double-check the captions before uploading, ensuring you provide the best, most accurate content. 

Many audio programs and websites offer automated captions. Youtube has an automatic caption feature that doesn’t require you to provide captions beforehand, though you still can. Vimeo can also automatically generate captions. The downside to this option is that the subtitles aren’t perfect, and the technology behind it can misunderstand words, especially depending on the range of accents it can interpret. Though this option is accessible, it limits the ability of a person using captions to completely understand your video. 

Transcripts

Captions are useful for videos but are not always an option for plain audio. Media such as podcasts and radio programs often do not include video, so how do you ensure accessibility in those cases? The answer is transcripts. Providing a detailed and accurate transcript of your audio is the best way to ensure it is accessible to people with hearing difficulties. 

Like captions, there are many ways to achieve this. The first is to have a real person transcribe what is being said. This must include verbal speech and may also include other significant vocalizations and moments of silence. It must be clear who is speaking each line of dialogue. Having a detailed and accurate transcript of your audio gives a person with hearing difficulties as close to the same experience as possible as someone without hearing difficulties who listens to the audio. 

There are also automatic transcription options. Otter.ai is a transcription service that uses AI to transcribe audio as you play it. It works in real-time, meaning you can run the software while you record your audio, and it will transcribe it on the spot. Zoom, a video conferencing tool, also offers immediate transcription of recorded meetings. The downside to these options is the possibility of errors or mistakes, and while you can edit things after the fact, that creates extra work for yourself or your employees. 

Provide multiple contact options

Though a phone call is still the preferred method of contact for many businesses, this may not be an accessible option for people with hearing loss. Software to assist them can be prohibitively expensive, leaving them with little to no help making a phone call. It’s possible for you as a company to provide some of this accessible technology, but even then, it’s very difficult to provide the same experience a person without hearing loss has. 

Email, online chat, and texting are all options a person with hearing difficulties can utilize to get the same service they’d get over the phone. It doesn’t necessarily mean you must hire new employees, either: it may be possible to reallocate some of your phone agents to monitor chat, texting, and email services. 

Having open lines of communication with customers is crucial to a company’s success, regardless of size. Failing to provide that to customers who are D/deaf or hard of hearing limits their access to services and may be illegal under the ADA. 

Conclusion

There are many ways to make your website accessible to customers with hearing loss or hearing disabilities. In many cases, there is software that can help you achieve accessibility. Accessibility is crucial in providing customer service and ensuring you accommodate people with disabilities. 

 

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