Secondary Research

People with hearing impairment have to rely on visual and senses other than sound to get by in life, due to their lack of ability to hear in a ‘normal’ sense. For example, Most deaf people seem to prefer text-based forms of communication such as SMS or e-mail. BSL Zone’s ‘Research into the deaf audience’ paper published in January 2016 tells me that “There is evidence to suggest that email is the most widely preferred, however SMS is more common among younger Deaf people”. Most Deaf-born people also seem to have a speech impairment as they are unable to learn speech through sound, The BSL research paper tells me that ” Fellinger et al. (2012), in their global review of the mental health of deaf people, identified similar studies in the US with findings that deaf students aged 18 to 19 years read at a level similar to that of the average 8 to 9-year-old hearing student”. The research also states that “There is evidence from the literature to suggest that Deaf people are excluded from society and are subject to social isolation. “, as it is very difficult for Deaf people to interact with people.

The same research paper also tells me that “In 2010 there were 56,400 people registered as being deaf in England, and in 2014 there were at least 48,125 deaf children aged 0 to 19 across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales”, and Microsoft’s Technical Article ‘Making Video Games Accessible: Business Justifications and Design Considerations’ tells me that “In the U.S. alone, over 28 million people are affected by some sort of hearing impairment”, and that “17 out of every 1,000 children under the age of 18 are affected with a hearing impairment”. This shows that there is a very large potential audience for games that can be played by the deaf, and makes me question why there are still so many games that aren’t suitable to be played by deaf people.
There are many examples of obstacles a deaf person could come across when attempting to play a video game, and how to overcome these obstacles as a designer.

Loss of hearing can affect specific frequencies more than others, so having specific control over different parts of audio is important The player should be given separate individual controls for sound effects, speech, background noise and music, down to silence. This will help hearing impaired players understand what is happening in the game. This can also be considered a cognitive accessibility feature as it can help players comprehend what is going on.

Subtitles and Closed Captioning should also be included for accessibility, with an option to toggle them on or off. If a gamer with a hearing impairment is playing a game, any ambient noise should be capture with text on the screen, particularly for horror, spy and stealth games. Speech should also be captured with text in the same way, using coloured text to denote different speakers and captions for possible mood setting noises and music. The subtitles and captions that are provided should be in an easily readable font size, with clear text formatting and high contrast with the text and the background.

Alternatives for sound effects should also always be provided. Conveying important information through sound alone is an obvious barrier for people with physical hearing impairment, but also causes problems for situational impairments. Subliminal cues can be used to replicate the role of audio in this case, to indicate when something important is happening, such as the screen turning red when the character is injured or low on health. I should think about what gameplay experiences are lost when the sound is muted, then try to put those back in with an alternative output, such as an icon, or a visual or text prompt.