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Accommodating Users With Multiple Disabilities

Braille display in front of laptop computer

Often times when we think of accessibility, we may think of the blind, the deaf, or those with other physical disabilities. Occasionally, we will think about those with cognitive disabilities. But accessibility means making something accessible to all, and there is a group that often gets overlooked: those who have multiple disabilities.

An example that perfectly illustrates this point is the deafblind. These users are both deaf and blind, and rely on Braille displays to receive electronic information, as they can neither see the screen or hear the speech of traditional screen readers. When a video is made “traditionally” accessible, it is often given both captions and audio descriptions, to accommodate the deaf and the blind, respectively.

Audio descriptions are audio that is injected into the soundtrack to explain what is happening on the screen. Captioning is visual information added to explain the audio being played. But if you can’t receive either… you have a problem.

The solution is to add textual transcripts alongside the video. Although these are not time synced to the video, they do provide a way for deafblind users to absorb the content. In this way, you have provided four mediums. The first is an unedited video for those who can both see and hear. Second, you have a video with captions for those who cannot hear but can see, The third is an audio description track for those who can hear but not see. Finally, you have a transcript that can be used to accommodate those who can neither see nor hear, using a Braille display.

This is only one such example that could be used to demonstrate that to ensure that something is accessible to the greatest number of users, it is important to provide content in as many mediums as possible, and think through things from as many points of view as possible.

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