Hearing Impairment Digital Accessibility Guide For Web/App Designers

By 2050, 2.5 billion people are predicted to have some degree of hearing loss. At least 700 million of these people will require rehabilitation. Hearing impairment is an extremely common issue that’s only growing.

Technology is essential in our everyday lives. We use it for almost everything, from keeping in contact with our loved ones to managing our finances. When technology is made inaccessible, millions of people are cut off from performing essential tasks.

Accessibility is not just a moral issue, but also often a legal one. Many companies have been sued over inaccessible content - and it’s rarely a battle they win. This can be costly, not only financially but also in terms of reputation. Simply speaking, inaccessibility is bad business. This article is not about the legal implications of inaccessible content, but it was something I thought was worth a mention. So, how do you avoid this?

Making an accessible website can seem overwhelming. Particularly because you cannot make a website that 100% suits everybody’s needs. Accessibility suggestions that work for one disability may contradict accessibility suggestions for another. That’s why we’ve decided to make it easier for you. We’ve made lists of accessibility suggestions, categorized by type of disability, so you can take things step by step.

Subtitles and Captions

Alongside alt-text, captioning your videos is the most common accessibility suggestion. For good reason, too.

Sometimes the phrase ‘captions’ and ‘subtitles’ are used interchangeably. However, they mean two different things. Subtitles refer to text descriptions of spoken content only, whereas captions refer to all sound content. This includes laughter, background noises, and additional music. Subtitles often lack important audio context; therefore, captions are always preferable to subtitles.

There are a few things to consider when creating accessible video content. It’s important that you position your captions correctly. They should not block any important visual elements. To prevent this, they are usually placed at the bottom center of the screen. You must also consider caption visibility. Using a solid color background with strong contrasting text will make your captions easier to read. Similarly, the CC button must visible and easy to turn on.

Users should be able to customize their captions. This includes both the caption size and color palette. Typically, captions are in black and white. However, for people with dyslexia, this can be difficult to read. Likewise, the typical caption size is often too small for people with visual impairments. Therefore, the user should always have the option to change the captions to meet their needs.

It’s vital that your captions are synchronized correctly. If the captions do not match up with the visuals on screen, then this can be very confusing. Some people with hearing impairment may still have some hearing, so out-of-sync captions can also be irritating and disorientating.

Use Visual Notifications and Prompts

One in 13 Americans over the age of 12 have hearing loss in both ears. In the UK, as many as 1 in 6 people have some degree of hearing loss. Hearing impairment is extremely common. So, why are most notifications auditory?

For many people with hearing impairment, audio notifications are unhelpful. If an app or a website uses audio notifications alone then they may miss the notification altogether. Not only is this poor business practice, but it’s also bad accessibility practice. Visual notifications provide an on-screen alternative, better suited to the needs of people with hearing impairments.

It must also be noted that some people with hearing impairment also have visual impairments. Using a combination of visual, auditory, and vibrate notifications together means that different disabilities have the best chance of receiving important information.

Multiple Communication Methods

One of the biggest accessibility mistakes companies make is failing to provide options. Different people with different disabilities will need to do things in different ways. For many people with hearing impairment, phone-based communication can cause difficulties. More so if it’s the only means of contacting a company. A lack of options is not just poor accessibility practice, it’s also poor business practice.

With technology becoming such a large part of our lives, it’s easier than ever to implement multiple communication methods. Non-phone communication can include email, social media, video calls, letter correspondence, and web chat. By providing people with a variety of options, you’re more likely to ensure smooth communication. As a result of this, issues will be resolved much faster. Good communication skills will help build customer trust, improving both your sales and reputation.


For some people, captions can be difficult to process. For others, it’s difficult to concentrate on two things at once. Some people are just not fans of them. Web accessibility is about providing options. That’s why providing transcriptions for any video or audio content is essential.

Transcriptions are written documents that describe what has occurred during audio or video content. However, they shouldn’t just include the spoken components. Like captions, they should contain any other important audio information from your clips. This includes laughter, background music, and sound effects. A transcription should give the reader a sense of atmosphere.

Self-transcription can be a long and difficult process. Especially if your video or audio content hits above the five-minute mark. Many people opt for the wide array of transcription services available online. AI-generated AI transcription tends to be cheaper but less accurate. However, human-based transcription services can quickly become pricey – especially if your content is long. Using AI-generated transcriptions with human editing is the most cost-effective way of getting accurate results.

Not only are transcriptions great accessibility practice, but they’re also great for SEO. In audio clips, search engines are unable to pick out words and phrases to categorize the content. By adding in a transcription, the search engine has a physical document full of keywords and phrases, allowing it to categorize the content appropriately. This means your content is more likely to be pushed to the top of the search engine.

Summarize Video/Audio Content

Even with captions, not everyone can, or will want to, watch your video and audio content. Particularly, for people that struggle to process text. Therefore, you should always provide a small text summary of any audio or video content.

To keep your text concise, consider using a bulleted list. You should use one bullet point per piece of information. This will organize your content nicely and allows the user to read it quickly.

Make sure that you only include important information. Try not to get bogged down with small details. The purpose of the summary is to give a simple overview, nothing more.

Good Audio Quality

All disabilities exist on a spectrum. Hearing impairment is no different. Some people with hearing impairment have some hearing left. Therefore, you must make your audio components as clear as possible.

Clarity is essential in web accessibility. Your speaker should be talking at a generous volume with little to no background noise. If you’re using background music, then it must be at least 20 decibels quieter than the speaker’s voice. The audio should be free of any crackles or interruptions. Be sure to use good-quality audio equipment. This will minimize the amount of editing needed to correct faulty sound.

Use Plain English

If someone has had a severe hearing impairment since birth, they have been raised speaking ASL (American Sign Language) or BSL (British Sign Language). In this case, they may not consider English to be their first language.

The sentence structure in sign language differs from spoken English. Many words are omitted to convey the intended meaning in as few signs as possible. For people who primarily use sign language, some sentences in written English may be confusing. Especially, if they’re overly wordy. To communicate more effectively, write in plain English.

Plain English is a way of writing that gets information across simply and concisely. We do this by using simple words, keeping sentences short, and using simple sentence structures. Using headings, lists, and summaries where appropriate can also help make things clearer.

Users who primarily use sign language may not be used to large blocks of text. Since sign language is so visual, chunks of text may seem disengaging or difficult to process. Make sure to break everything up and use accurate headings to indicate where useful information can be found.

For further guidance, use our How to Write in Plain English

Easy Navigation

Good web design will ensure that your website is easy to navigate.

Accessible web design means that everything on your blog should be well-placed and in a predictable spot. All text, buttons, and links should be clearly visible and function correctly.

Many individuals who primarily use sign language consider English to be their second language. Having to go through large amounts of text, or a complicated web layout can quickly become tiring. A good layout means that the user can find what they need easily and can judge what information should be read accordingly.