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How Do We Perform Accessibility Testing for the Impact of Auditory Disabilities?

Feb 22, 2019

This five-part series is dedicated to sharing what we look for when testing websites and apps to identify the accessibility barriers people with certain disability types may experience.

Part 1: Accessibility testing for people with visual disabilities.

Part 2: Accessibility testing for people with auditory disabilities

Auditory disabilities range from slight hearing loss in one or both ears to total deafness. They also include the ability to hear sounds but possibly not understand speech, sometimes worsened when there is significant background noise, and can include include people using hearing aids.

When we test for accessibility impacts on people with auditory disabilities, here is what we look for:

Captions or transcripts with audio content, including multimedia like videos

Audio can provide an enriched content experience, including when paired with synchronized video, but without closed captions (CC) or transcripts, people with audio disabilities can be excluded from the full experience or all the information. Closed captions are important because they convey more than just the dialogue on the screen — they should also identify the speaker, include sound effects and music, and any other auditory information. They must also be in sync with the spoken and auditory content in real-time.

Tip: Automated captions are a good start and are better than nothing, but they should be edited because they usually are not completely accurate. For example, although YouTube has an auto-generated captions option, they still need to be reviewed and edited for accuracy. YouTube has a CC button that indicates whether or not a video has captions available — and the platform rewards content-uploaders for providing closed captions by increasing the video’s rank in search queries.

Text transcripts should be easy to locate, near the audio or video and any links to the audio or video. Transcripts should be thorough and descriptive with the speakers clearly identified, important sounds (like footsteps or glass shattering) included, and on-screen information captured. Ideally, a transcript should provide all of the visual and audio information, to the point that it could stand on its own and make sense as its own document.

Closed captions and transcripts are most-often associated with hearing and visual disabilities, but they're importance expands to all groups. For example, people with dyslexia or cognitive impairments might prefer to read the information, on its own or along with the media as it plays.  Or, consider that an estimated 85% of Facebook videos are watched on mute. So, who benefits from these tools? In short, everyone.

Visible and functional caption and volume controls in media players

Media players for audio or video files should include volume controls and caption controls. To be used they need to be perceived, so these controls should be visible both in terms of color contrast and visual focus indication for keyboard navigation. They also, of course, need to work, but that doesn't mean with only a mouse — they must also be functional with a keyboard, keyboard emulator, screen reader, or other assistive technology.

Read: Give Yourself an Accessibility Test: Don't Use a Mouse

Adjustable text size and colors for captions

It's important to remember that disabilities are rarely necessarily tied to or excluded from other abilities. Keeping that in mind, it can be important to allow the user the option to change the text and color of captions.

Voice is not the only interaction or control method

As voice-activation and interaction continue to pop up in more places and devices everyday, this may grow in importance. People who cannot or choose not to speak should still have a way to use a website or app. One example is trying to make sure a website doesn't only offer a telephone number as the only method of contact.


We believe our four-point hybrid testing provides the best path to achieving, maintaining, and proving digital compliance. Our comprehensive testing combines the best of human and artificial intelligence. Learn more about our testing methodology.


Contact us to learn all the ways we can put our testing and support strategies to work for you. Or, get started with a free and confidential website accessibility scan.

Use our free Website Accessibility Checker to scan your site for ADA and WCAG compliance.

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