Accessibility and Technology: What it means for Deaf and ASL users

William Woods ASL

In a previous post, Look into ASL Studies highlighted the Americans with Disabilities Act and how it affects American Sign Language Interpreters and others working closely to the Deaf community.

Another piece of the ADA includes standards for websites as well. More and more people in the web design world are looking deeper into what it means to provide information on the internet for everyone.

According to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), “the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognizes access to information and communications technologies, including the Web, as a basic human right.”

This is a concept known as web accessibility.

“People with disabilities face significant barriers to access in the online world, but it doesn’t have to be that way. We have standards and guidelines for technology that, if applied thoughtfully, remove barriers to access. Accessibility is about inclusion,” said Robert Jolly, a digital project manager who specializes in accessibility.

“The Internet and digital life are, for many people (possibly most people) inseparable from conducting personal and professional business. It’s in the fabric of how we communicate, share, and grow as a society.”

Here are a few examples of considerations for Deaf and hard of hearing people specifically when it comes to technology:

Every minute, 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube. More and more, services, companies and government organizations are utilizing video for information, training and news. The incorporation of closed captioning in online video serves both Deaf and hard of hearing, as well as provides video in alternative languages.

A video on William Woods University YouTube channel with closed captioning (CC) turned on.

Similarly, transcripts for audio stories are becoming more available. NPR transcripts once cost $3.95 to purchase, but they now provide downloadable transcripts for all of their stories 4-6 hours after their broadcast.

Another example of web accessibility for the Deaf is a live chat option for real-time help instead of a phone number to call.

And these availabilities benefit both Deaf and hearing people. Just as designer Elise Roy explained in last week’s post, making project choices with accessibility in mind creates solutions that benefit everyone.

More and more, companies and organizations are working to help grow empathy in their websites to ensure all web users can benefit and use their websites to their fullest.

Students at William Woods University studying for a bachelor’s degree in ASL Studies are often double majors in other fields. A student interested in a technology degree could add an additional major in ASL Studies to learn American Sign Language, grow their understanding of Deaf culture and gain an expanded view toward accessibility.