International Week of the Deaf

This week is International Week of the Deaf with this years theme “With Sign Language, I am Equal”. The Irish Deaf Society is hosting an Irish Sign Language Awareness Week to bring attention to Irish Sign Language (ISL) and the Deaf community in Ireland, while also taking part in a global celebration of Deaf communities and sign languages around the world.

A few facts about Irish Sign Language and the Deaf community

  • ISL has yet to gain official status in Irish legislation. The Irish Deaf Society has been campaigning for more than thirty years to get ISL recognised so as to ensure equality for Deaf/Hard of Hearing people in Ireland.
  • ISL is used by 40,000 people - by Deaf/Hard of Hearing and generally these people communicate in ISL (family, friends, co-workers and so on) in Ireland.
  • Each country has their own sign language, e.g. Irish Sign Language, British Sign Language, American Sign Language and many more.
  • The Deaf Community is a group of people who share the same interests, experiences and have the same language - but anyone can always participate within the Deaf community by learning ISL.

This information is from the Irish Deaf Society - find out more at www.irishdeafsociety.ie.

My colleagues and I at Webfactory got involved with the Irish Sign Language Awareness Week by using the ISL alphabet to spell out ‘Webfactory’.

Webfactory


It is a nice way to celebrate awareness of ISL. I personally wanted to write down some vital points in relation to the digital age and how our industry can help to provide proper access and inclusion for all people so that almost all content can be enjoyed by all.

How do we make websites more enjoyable & accessible for Deaf / Hard of Hearing people?

The following points will focus on Deaf and Hard of Hearing (HOH) people - I’m not trying to exclude others, but I can write about this having personal experience. I will also make some main points around accessibility and digital usage.

Accessibility

There is no denying the amount of opportunities the world wide web has opened up for us all on an individual basis. However, we need to be mindful around accessibility with regard to websites. Two things spring to mind that would help improve accessibility for Deaf and Hard of Hearing people.

Sign Language

Have content translated and recorded as videos using Irish Sign Language presenters. This will make your content to being accessible and available for Deaf and Hard of Hearing people. You will need to get your scripts signed off before moving onto video production of spoken content. The following links below are good examples:

Captions

I strongly recommend including captions on videos when providing information about services or products. It is impossible for Deaf/HOH people to follow audio without visuals - so this would help!

I came across the really interesting fact about Facebook when watching a video. As you may or may not know there are over 8 billion users currently using Facebook; but a more interesting fact is that 85 percent of users on Facebook watch videos without sound. Facebook have introduced captions where you can upload a caption file and sync with the video where everyone can enjoy the content. However my point is that the assumption is being made that captions/subtitles are solely set to target Deaf/Hard of Hearing people, but really it’s not. We can all benefit from them!

The digital age...

The growth in the use of digital has increased dramatically and will continue to do so. It’s a primary form of communication in this 21st century. Now I will go back to the access thing! Let’s bring communication for all into the 21st Century. Websites with ISL translations are a vital source of information about services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing communities. Technologies are now available to produce Sign Language videos by translating content and adding captions to the videos. I get the time and cost argument with regard to production, but an expansion of vision here is required and remember it is vital to have information and content accessible to all, leading to everyone being in a better place.

Talk to us if you are interested in having your website audited for accessibility, improving content in order to open up audiences, or supporting your material being available to everyone. Contact us by emailing at hello@webfactory.ie and we would be very happy to assist.

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Ronan Lowry

Web Developer

The author

Ronan is a Web Developer at Webfactory, with over 10 years working within the digital media industry. Ronan has an interest in all areas of digital matters including a variety of threads on web design/development and digital marketing.

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