Digital accessibility for the deaf and hard of hearing

Man communiceert met gebarentaal via een laptop verbinding.

There are approximately 1.5 million deaf and hard of hearing people in the Netherlands alone. 

Digital marketing Digital Accessibility
November 10, 2022
Marc Gutlich

Digital accessibility (digital inclusion) is no longer just an aspiration; it is a fundamental right. Everyone should be able to make optimal use of digital and online services or products. This is especially crucial for public organizations such as hospitals, schools, cultural institutions, or government agencies. This includes people who are deaf or hard of hearing. We often assume that these individuals can easily understand a website or app because they can read and are not blind. However, there are significant pitfalls for them as well.

We provide you with 3 tips on how to make your website more digitally accessible for deaf and hard of hearing individuals.

1. Provide an alternative for phone contact

Even if you offer a web form, email link, or a digital webshop, many organizations and businesses include phone contact as a step in their follow-up processes. This could be related to lead generation, where a call center follows up on a request. It is evident that a phone call is not preferable or may not work at all for someone who is deaf or hard of hearing. Be mindful of this and try to provide an alternative in all processes. Consider options such as email, chat, or platforms like WhatsApp. 

If phone contact is the only form of communication in your internal process, consider implementing digital support software on your website. An excellent example of this is the support provided by KPN Teletolk. Through "Klik voor Teletolk," you offer website visitors a clear choice to mediate a phone conversation via video or text. This aligns with what they are accustomed to and visibly lowers the barrier for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. This implementation is similar to well-known assistive technologies like Readspeaker for text-to-speech support. 

2. Use understandable language and keep texts short

Not all deaf individuals were born hearing. Many have grown up using sign language as their primary language. The grammar of sign language differs from spoken or written Dutch, which essentially means that texts on your website may be read as a second language. Always consider a reading level of B1. This reading level often provides a better connection with the majority of the Dutch population. However, it is crucial for the deaf or hard of hearing audience to help them understand topics more quickly and easily. 

3. Subtitles and descriptions for videos

Video content is highly popular, especially with platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube making it a powerful way to reach your audience. Sound or speech poses an obvious challenge for this audience. Therefore, consider subtitles or even a sign language interpreter. These are commonly applied for social media platforms for mobile use, but they are also indispensable for product videos on your website for the deaf and hard of hearing. Creating subtitles can be time-consuming, but there are several services, such as Uitgetypt or Happyscribe, that can quickly and easily generate subtitles for your videos. 

Need assistance with digital accessibility?

We are more than happy to help you make your website or online platform accessible. Please contact me at or call my colleagues at 085 - 00 20 678

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