Trying to better understand Deaf culture - and what the Hearing can do to be more inclusive - as a designer


New Member

I'm an industrial designer and just got hired to make a product with the goal of helping people who are deaf or HOH. Based on my research so far I'm beginning to think designing a "product for the deaf" is the wrong way of looking at it and maybe creating a "product for the Hearing, to understand the Deaf" could be more likely to have a positive impact in both communities. It would be enormously helpful for me to talk with anyone who has experienced hearing loss and/or deaf gain themselves or with a friend, family member, student or co-worker.

Please let me know if you're interested, I'd love to chat!


I’m an interaction designer and HoH. Slowly becoming fluent in sign language. Yes, I agree, most equipment that we would like already exists or is developed by companies already in the field. There are several posts here every year from design students having assignments similar to this.

What prevents us from being included or having access to better products? Usually it is question of resources. If you only target Deaf/HoH, it’s hard to make a profit. Someone has to pay, and as a Deaf private person you don’t have the funding for advanced systems. Especially if you consider that much of the problems are about language, not just perception. What I mean is hearing aids, CI and other technology often helps us perceive sound, but it does not becomes clear enough to allow us to fully be included in for example a conversation with several speakers at coffee time or dinner. This means that we often appear manage well, but still are socially isolated in many situations without other people realizing that we are not following the conversation.

To mitigate this we need things like captions and interpreters, and this is expensive and not a technological solution. Auto-captions are not good enough, since the algorithms actually don’t understand the meaning of what is said. Usually the algorithms have problems with the same things that are hard for me to hear, such as uncommon names or technical terms at work! Exactly the few words that I actually need to get right. This means it’s much about language and communication, not about having access to the sounds themselves.

I’m not sure it’s possible to create something that will create more understanding. My experience is that some people are interested and quickly catch on when I explain, they might even become interested in learning sign language, but others simply are not interested in making the effort. Some people might be very aural and not visual? Then it’s difficult and uncomfortable to change approach. Others simply are not understanding towards others in general, and expect people to fit the standard norm, irregularities of what the difference is. I often meet HoH or late deafend that are terrified of sign language, because it not the normal way to communicate. They don’t understand how useful it can be, and many suffer from isolation in way they shouldn’t have to.

There already is a lot of technology that does bring us together, however. Facebook and texting are really great, and has made things so much easier.


New Member
Thank you so much for your reply! All of this is so helpful for my understanding. Right now I don't know what needs to be developed (if anything), and am just trying to more clearly define the problem my client is trying to fix by understanding the people effected (hearing and non-hearing). Would you be willing to answer a few general questions? I'd love to learn more!