Making resources accessible for deaf children and young people
As an organisation or business, it’s important that you make sure your resources are accessible for deaf children and young people, whether they’re your service users or employees. Resources can include things like your website, social media, promotion materials, and training or event materials. By making your content accessible, you could potentially widen your audience to include over 50,000 deaf children and young people across the UK.
It’s also your legal responsibility to take reasonable steps to provide information in an accessible format, such as with subtitles and BSL translation. Find out more about the law and reasonable adjustments you can make.
We’ve created this webpage to help you make your information accessible to deaf children and young people. You can find even further information in our factsheet on making your resources accessible.
How to make your content more accessible
It’s important for your organisation to think carefully about the needs of your audience so that they can get the most out of what you’re offering.
Some deaf children and young people will have difficulty accessing your information. The reading age of many deaf children is substantially lower than hearing children of the same age. English may not be the young person’s first language, and they may struggle with lots of written information. You will need to consider the best possible way to get information to them.
The following tips will help to make your content accessible for deaf young people and will make it more appealing to everyone.
Put yourself in their shoes
- What age range are you communicating with? Think about how you’d speak to a child, teenager or young person of this age, and try to reflect this in your content.
- What might be going on in their lives at school, at home or in friendship groups?
- Would including a deaf character in the resource appeal to your audience?
Know what you want to say and communicate it clearly
- Have one message and break it down into simple steps, such as ‘Fill in the form. Email it to us’.
- Use simple images to illustrate each step, such as an email icon beside the words ‘email it to us’.
- If the task can’t be made more accessible, for example if it involves filling in a form which can’t be simplified, add a clear instruction like ‘ask an adult to help you out’.
Keep it simple
- Use easier words, like ‘place’ instead of ‘venue,’ ‘help’ instead of ‘facilitate,’ and ‘start’ instead of ‘commence.’
- Keep it short and snappy. For example, ‘The course is available to young people and consists of six sessions designed to promote positive mental health and good emotional wellbeing,’ can be turned into ‘Angry? Sad? Excited? Come and talk about your feelings.’
- Try to avoid confusing language, such as idioms like ‘it’s raining cats and dogs’. Figures of speech can be hard for deaf young people to understand.
- If you need to use specialist vocabulary or complicated words, offer definitions of these words within the content.
- Think about the layout of your page. Large blocks of text are unappealing, and your reader will switch off.
- Use images, animation and colour to illustrate what you want to say.
- Pull out key information using box-outs, sub-headings, bullet points and bold font.
- Video and animation can bring a subject to life, especially for deaf children and young people who may be more used to communicating visually.
For websites, check out Gov.uk's quick tips for designing for deaf users.
If you’re creating a video for children and young people, think about how much information they’ll be able to process. If you’re trying to convey a lot of information, you’ll need to do this in an accessible way.
- Use imagery, cartoons, animation, flick-through books and picture stories. Break information into small, manageable chunks, rather than having someone talking into the camera for a long time. For example, this video about loop systems uses animation to explain complex information.
- Show emotions and use body language to help deaf children understand what’s happening, like in this video about becoming a TV presenter.
- Hold up placards or use other visual clues to let deaf children and young people know when the topic has changed, like in this video about a deaf driving instructor.
- Make your content engaging and vibrant, like this video teaching Halloween signs.
- Include deaf children and children with disabilities in your videos. It’s important to show positive role models. This home workout video features Jodie, a deaf professional rugby player.
If your videos includes people in it, make sure they follow these accessibility tips:
- Face the camera when you’re talking. If you turn your head to the side while you’re talking, the young person watching can’t see your mouth, making it much harder for them to lip-read.
- Speak clearly and naturally. Speaking very quickly can make the captions hard to follow. However, speaking unusually slowly or too loudly makes lip-reading difficult. Speak as you normally would, pausing between sentences to allow deaf children and young people time to process what you’ve said.
- Don’t cover your mouth. Covering your mouth with your hands makes lip-reading very difficult. It may also muffle any sound you’re making.
- Use gestures and facial expressions meaningfully. Using gestures and facial expressions where appropriate can help support understanding, but be careful not to exaggerate. Excessive gestures and facial expressions can be distracting.
Video captions and British Sign Language (BSL) translation
To make sure deaf people can access existing video content, try to add captions and British Sign Language (BSL) translation where possible.
Remember to also provide a transcript for your videos. If BSL translation is not available, consider offering a modified transcript, explaining the key points through simple language and images.
The terms ‘caption’ and ‘subtitle’ have similar meanings. Captions commonly refer to on-screen text specifically designed for deaf viewers, and include descriptions of sounds and music. Subtitles are straight transcriptions or translations of dialogue.
Having captions can help any child or young person to understand what’s being said on screen, not just deaf users.
Captioning your video content is relatively straightforward and can mean the difference between a deaf young person being able to access your message or not.
There are some free apps available on the internet which you could use to add captions to your videos. The accuracy might not be perfect on the first attempt, but they can be easily edited and changed before publishing. If you're captioning a longer video, you may wish to consider paying a company to add captions.
You can also check out apps which transcribe live conversations and could be useful for videos.
Remember to check that all captions are accurate before publishing the video.
BSL is a recognised language with its own rules and grammar. BSL is the language of the UK Deaf community, and it’s estimated that about 50,000 to 70,000 people use it as their first or preferred language. For children who use BSL as their language of choice, offering BSL translation is a must. Adding BSL translation to your video content is quick and relatively inexpensive to do.
As BSL is a visual language, there are significant regional variations across the UK. For example, a BSL user in Scotland might use different signs to a BSL user in England, even though they both speak the same language. For this reason, you may wish to use an interpreter who is local to the area where your content is being shown. In Northern Ireland, Irish Sign Language (ISL) is also used in some areas. ISL and BSL are recognised equally under the 2016 Sign Language Framework.
Video production companies will be able to consult with you on what visual techniques will engage your target audience. If you want to add captions or BSL translation to your video content, try searching online to find the right service for you.
Here are just a few organisations offering captioning, translation or deaf-friendly content production services:
- Deaf Friendly Business Solutions
- ITV Signpost
- Red Bee Media
- Sign Solutions
- Sign Language Interactions.
When you’re arranging BSL translation, ask content producers to consider the age range, ethnicity and regional dialect of translators to ensure the video content is engaging and representative of deaf young people.
For in-person or online meetings or presentations, try to keep the use of PowerPoints to a minimum so that any deaf children and young people can continue to see the person presenting and also their communication support clearly.
Here are our top tips for creating PowerPoints for deaf children and young people:
- Only use a PowerPoint if it will add value to the session. You can provide handouts after to consolidate information.
- Keep the amount of information on each slide to a minimum.
- Keep slides uncluttered. Only use images if they have a purpose other than to look nice.
- Keep backgrounds plain.
- Keep information short, concise and language simple.
- Bullet point.
- Avoid jargon where possible.
- Make sure the font is easy to read.
- Don’t use lots of different colours.
- If including videos, make sure they have captions and that the language is appropriate for the given age range.
Consulting with young people is a great way to make sure that your content meets their needs.