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Considering The Deaf Perspective In Inclusive Design

taught by: Brent Shiver

co-presented by: Jenna King

Session Summary:

When designing and developing solutions, organizations may overlook the deaf perspective when ensuring accessibility. Simply adding captions to videos where appropriate and rubber-stamp the site as in compliance may not be enough. The presenters, both experienced deaf developers, have firsthand user experience with the challenges that deaf and hard of hearing users face. The class will explore the common quirks that fall short of the full accessibility expected for the users and the recent case examples that help resolve some of these challenges. We will also demonstrate how the power of deaf inclusion makes solutions more appealing and robust.


When designing and developing solutions, organizations may fail to examine and understand the deaf perspective to ensure accessibility. Simply adding captions to videos where appropriate and rubber-stamping the site complaint may not always cut it. Is it reasonable to expect the deaf users to enable closed captions (CC) every time the player loads? It is akin to the sound volume being reset to zero every time a new video is opened and expecting the user to adjust it back. What about requiring the viewing of non-captioned advertisements before the deaf user can view the video? What about CC settings to change the font size and colors? Are automatic captions the means to an end when adding captions?

We will provide a quick overview of the deaf and hard of hearing community and review of the diverse subgroups in which they encompass, so the participants have a better understanding of the varying needs that exist within that community. We will share results from our survey that examine the experience and challenges that the deaf and hard of hearing users have when using software and web products. This class will cover the common quirks that all deaf and hard of hearing users face when using websites - some of these may surprise you!

Deaf inclusion has resulted in benefits that are also enjoyed by those with the ability to hear. For example, did you ever wonder about the origin of baseball signals? Until the late 19th century, the umpires would only yell the decisions, but all that changed when William Hoy, a deaf major league baseball player, proposed signs for safe or out. How about the football huddles? Yes, Paul Hubbard, a deaf quarterback at Gallaudet, a deaf college in Washington, DC, came up with the solution as a way to prevent opponents from seeing the play discussions. Recently, Uber and Lyft both collaborated with the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and the deaf community to provide more accessible solutions to deaf drivers and riders alike, including visual alerts and determining destination during the request time. As you can see, these discoveries may have never happened if it wasn’t for deaf users. We will discuss the deaf centric design and how they benefit all users, not just those with hearing loss.

Additionally, resources on how to reach out to the deaf community when there is a need to test your site or app with deaf users will be shared. The goal is for the participants to become more empathetic and aware of the challenges the deaf and hard of hearing users may face when using their products and how to become better advocates for quality accessibility tools. We will also demonstrate the power of deaf inclusion in making solutions more appealing and robust.


  • Dummy Hoy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dummy_Hoy
  • Football huddle: https://www.gallaudet.edu/about/huddle
  • Uber Accessibility: https://accessibility.uber.com/
  • Lyft and NAD: https://associationsnow.com/2017/04/lyft-teams-national-association-deaf-help-drivers/

Practical Skills:

  • Learn about the challenges deaf and hard of hearing users may face when using software and websites
  • How to tap into the deaf community for user research studies
  • What to look for when researching online concerning accessibility for deaf users