Statistics show that about 20% of people in the United States are hearing-impaired to some degree. Let that sink in for a moment-you could be losing one out of every five of your potential customers if your business website user experience is not optimized to engage persons who are deaf or otherwise are experiencing hearing loss.
In today’s tech-driven reality, it’s basically essential that businesses of all types have a solid web presence. Depending on where you gather statistics, up to 90% of consumers visit a business’ website before making a buying decision. Running a small business is a big job; that’s why many entrepreneurs turn to easy-to-use business website creation tools to boost efficiency and lower costs. And while many of these tools make building a professional looking website a snap, entrepreneurs often overlook hearing-impaired persons when considering their website user experience.
No matter what kind of business you’re in, it’s essential to think about the user experience of your potential customers and taking steps to meet the engagement needs of all your prospects. Since there are many different kinds of customers out there and given that 20% of your potential customers are hearing-impaired to some degree, you’ll need to think outside the box a bit to ensure everyone is happy with their website user experience.
When it comes to engaging customers who have special needs or disabilities, including those who are hearing-impaired, it’s important that your website embrace inclusive design principles. Inclusive design is a methodology that enables and draws on the full range of human diversity and emphasizes learning from people with a range of perspectives. For hearing-impaired customers, you’ll need to take a look at your site from the point-of-view of someone who might not benefit from videos or audio ads. You can then utilize inclusive design principles to make sure your website caters to the needs of hearing-impaired prospects. This is important from a ‘good business’ perspective and it also helps in complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements.
Here are a few tips on how to help hearing-impaired customers get the best user experience from your business website.
Transcribe Content for Hearing-Impaired Persons
The audio and video content on your company’s website is always an added bonus, but what many site owners inadvertently overlook is that hearing-impaired customers many not have full access to it. By adding subtitles (or captions) to your audio and video content, you open up access to all of your content and improve the user experience for all visitors, including those who have hearing loss or simply don’t like that type of content. The hurdle in doing so becomes the cost and time this process can take. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be done by hand; there are services where you can outsource this task. Just be careful when vetting companies: expect fast turnaround time and very high accuracy. As one example, Rev.com offers 24-hour turnaround time and 99% accuracy (cost is $1/video min). Once you’ve decided on the service to enlist, you can be sure your content will successfully reach a larger audience.
Offer Multiple Contact Options
Many websites only offer one or two options for contacting the business, and for a hearing-impaired customer, this can mean exclusion in the worst way. Rather than only providing a phone number, make sure your website has a clear contact section that offers an email address, Skype handle, webchat, social media links, and/or an online contact form that will allow the customer to give feedback or ask questions. This will help to make your site much more accessible no matter what an individual’s needs are. Keep in mind, as well, that many hearing-impaired individuals utilize a video-relay system when they need to place a call to a business.
Use Visual Context
For some hearing-impaired individuals, processing information is a lot easier when there are visuals to go along with the text. Make sure your website has clear, concise information punctuated by colorful, meaningful images that drive home what your business is about, keeping in mind that language means something very different to a hearing-impaired individual. There are many photo options available online if you have none of your own; search for a royalty-free service for stock photos that will help you build up your site. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are a great resource for improving the web user experience for all persons.
Pay Attention to Feedback
By giving your customers a place on your website to offer feedback, you are opening up the door to communication that could drastically improve the user experience for your website visitors, including those who are hearing-impaired. Pay attention to the suggestions, questions, and comments you receive from hearing-impaired customers, and make changes based on that feedback. It also helps to stay up to date on posts made to your social media pages. Taking that extra step to make your business accommodating and accessible will mean the world to your customers.
Helping your hearing-impaired customers make the most of their time on your business’s website is essential, as they will remember the accessibility you provided and come back to your services again. Inclusivity is easier than ever these days due to the technology we have, so make good use of it to keep your clients happy.
A big thank you to Patrick Young, founder of ableusa.info for today’s guest post.