Usability and user experience user interface design heuristics for Deaf users

Principal Investigator:  Dr. Alexandros Yeratziotis

Programme: NRF free-standing Postdoctoral fellowships

Funding Source: National Research Foundation of South Africa

Duration: 2 years (January 2013 – December 2014)

Partners: Dr. Panayiotis Zaphiris (Cyprus University of Technology) 


Project Summary:

The World Health Organisation reports that there are 360 million people in the world with disabling hearing loss. This represents 5.3% of the world’s population. Of the 360 million it is estimated that 32 million are children. The majority of people with hearing impairments are based in low- and middle-income countries. Equality in the life of the Deaf has become a priority in Africa, Europe, as well as in other continents too. In accordance, the European Union of the Deaf (EUD) has the objective of providing the Deaf with the same opportunities in life that the able population have. This would ensure they become active members in society. Therefore, equality in education and employment remains a serious concern, as these obstacles currently hinder their lifestyles.

The Deaf are regarded as an increasing user population group, yet, they are often excluded from the Information Society. Furthermore, innovations and user-friendly services that will improve their lifestyles are desired. Designing for the Deaf however requires unique considerations. Overlooking these can contribute to accessibility and usability issues that can negatively influence their experience with a technology. Thus, there is a responsibility on the designers of interactive technologies, as well as the researchers, to ensure that they address the needs of the Deaf from usability and user experience perspectives as well. Ignoring these can lead to frustration during interaction, resulting in possible technology abandonment. More research is needed when designing for the Deaf based on the context, application domain and platform in which interactions occur. In particular, limited work has been conducted in the area of novel usability inspection methods for the design of web user interfaces specifically for Deaf users.

The problem identified is the lack of usability inspection methods that can improve the design of user interfaces for Deaf users. Therefore, the aim of the research is to develop a heuristic evaluation that evaluates the design of websites for Deaf users against usability and user experience criteria that pertain to the particular user group. These heuristics should guide designers and developers when developing user interfaces for websites that are to be utilised by Deaf users, ensuring that their usability and user experience are at the forefront.


The heuristics will be developed by following the three-phase process to develop heuristics for specific application domains. Each phase of the process includes a set of tasks that must be conducted. In this case, the process will be followed to develop heuristics for the specific application domain of websites for the Deaf.



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