Inclusive Design: Making Your Site Accessible to the Hearing Impaired


Photo courtesy of Pixabay

By Marcus Lansky,


People who use websites come from a diverse range of backgrounds and perspectives. When it comes to designing a website for your business, it’s crucial to ensure your site works for all potential clients and customers. That includes individuals with different abilities, such as people living with hearing impairments. 
Designing a site that accommodates all types of customers, including those with hearing impairments, doesn’t just give you a competitive edge. More importantly, it builds trust, communication, and rapport with potential customers, showing them you’re an ethical, compassionate business. If anyone can access your site content, regardless of ability or impairment, you’ll reach more customers and, hopefully, make more sales. 
Here’s how to design a site that’s accessible for people with hearing impairments:
Why Accommodate Hearing Impairments?
Before changing your website, it helps to understand why you should make your site accessible to individuals with hearing impairments. First, there’s a good chance that many of your prospective clients and customers are hearing impaired. According to statistics, 36 million Americans have a hearing impairment. Hearing loss can range from tinnitusto disabling hearing impairments, such as deafness, so it’s important to design your website to meet every type of hearing impairment. 
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that at least 900 million individuals “will have disabling hearing loss” by the year 2050. As your business grows, the number of people with hearing impairments who use your website will probably increase, too. It’s essential to prepare in advance so you can accommodate them.
Understanding Inclusive Design
Websites that cater to all people, regardless of ability or impairment, provide a more respectful, delightful experience. The strategy of building these websites is called inclusive design
Believing inclusive design is “universally” beneficial, Microsoft offers recommendations and downloadable files to help you make your site more inclusive. Because features like video captions help everyone, designing for the hearing impaired can benefit many of your visitors.
Creating Inclusion

Here are three ways to make your site accessible and inclusive: 
  • Captions, subtitles, and transcripts. Many businesses ranging from education to healthcare to the arts are legally required to provide written versions of any audio or video content on their website. Captions, subtitles, and transcripts help hearing-impaired visitors access your content.

    Rather than hand typing every word, especially for large sites with hundreds or thousands of pages, it may be easier to hire a service to create a transcript of your audio or video content. There are services that provide affordable transcription and subtitle services with a 24-hour turnaround and 99 percent accuracy.
  • Online chat. Customers who are deaf or hard of hearing may not be able to call you for assistance. Online chat services provide them with the same real-time responses they’d experience if they were talking to you on the phone. Research chat services to find one that offers the specific features and price range your business needs.
  • Contact options.In addition to a phone number, your Contact page should provide alternative methods for getting in touch with you. Consider offering a contact form, email address, physical address, or links to social profiles.
You might be legally required to accommodate hearing impairments. For instance, several laws require online videos to include accessibility features like captions. 
Many companies break online laws without even realizing it. To stay legal, familiarize yourself with FCC legal requirements like the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act. Update your site to comply with these requirements.
It’s your responsibility as a business owner to ensure your site works for anyone who uses it. Ensure your online presence is responsive, accessible, and welcoming of people with various disabilities and hearing impairments. Captions, subtitles, and transcripts are simple steps to help demonstrate that you value all prospective clients and customers -- regardless of their backgrounds or abilities.


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