As a deaf person, I find my iPhone (or any smartphone in general) an amazing universal gadget that benefits everyone regardless of abilities. I would like to share the top 3 things about a smartphone that puts me on a level playing field with my hearing peers. It is especially important when it comes to Christmas and holidays in general because many deaf and hard of hearing people often feel left out due to the lack of communication and information access to media and at social gatherings.
You can use the tips below to make your communication and information more inclusive to deaf and hard of hearing people.
Example 1 – Telecommunications
Gone are days of old wired rotary phones for hearing people and bulky and expensive wired text phones for deaf people. Hearing and deaf people could communicate with each other only via a third party relay service operator. Now smartphones allow both hearing and deaf people to communicate with each other directly via texts, emails, instant messaging, online chats, video calls, and so on. You can send holiday greetings via email or text. You can get notifications via email or text after you buy gifts or when you need to track shipments.
Learn about why making voice phone calls mandatory is not good for UX.
Example 2 – Captions
I had no captioning access to TV until I was a teenager. Technology has evolved to the point that a captioning feature is now part of smartphones. It’s amazing to be able to watch movies and videos with captions or to listen to songs with lyrics on such a small device like a smartphone! Captions can also be used in real time to follow breaking news, live events, classes, work meetings, and so on. Captions can be enabled in accessibility settings, but they will work only if producers provide high quality captions to their media and events. Captions benefit everyone and increase the bottom line for businesses as I explain in my TEDx talk.
Example 3 – Personal Communication
When growing up, I had to carry a paper and pen with me in order to communicate with people if I had difficulties understanding them. It was a slow process because you needed to wait for the other person to write on a notepad to respond. Now almost everyone has a smartphone and can type on their own devices without me waiting for them to be done typing on my phone. Smartphones have a notepad app that anyone can open and use to type what they want to say. You can also use a speech technology on a phone that translates speech to text. It is not accurate and still cannot replace human captioners, but it is great for informal communications.
If you are an organization or a business owner new to deafness, you can get a free “Communication Tips” PDF by subscribing to Audio Accessibility newsletter.