Skip to main content
Log in

Enhancing universal access: deaf and hard of hearing people on social networking sites

Universal Access in the Information Society Aims and scope Submit manuscript


Despite numerous studies into the online activities of deaf and hard of hearing (D/HH) users, there has been limited research into their experiences on social networking sites (SNSs), a domain where psychology and computer science intersects. The purpose of this study is to illustrate how one can enhance universal access for D/HH users on the example of SNSs. A model for examining the experiences and preferences of D/HH users of SNSs has been proposed. The model consists of three identity-relevant aspects: (1) belonging to online Deaf communities, (2) communication affinity/preferences for sign and/or written language, and (3) the stigma associated with hearing loss. Based on these aspects, a questionnaire was developed and applied to a study with 46 participants. The findings revealed that the motivation to communicate on SNSs is positively associated with identification with online Deaf communities, an affinity for communication in written language and an affinity/preference for communication in sign language. Better reading comprehension skills, crucial for written communication, are associated with less stigmatic experiences with regard to hearing loss. The model and the findings of this study can help improve understanding D/HH users’ online social interactions and can be used for educational purposes. It may contribute to the discussion of integrating SNSs as communication tools in personal learning environments, which can be an advantage for universal access.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Institutional subscriptions

Fig. 1
Fig. 2


  1. American National Standards Institute: Specifications for Audiometers. American National Standards Institute, New York, NY (2010). ANSI publication ANSI/ASA S3.6-2010

  2. Barak, A., Sadovsky, Y.: Internet use and personal empowerment of hearing impaired adolescents. Comput. Hum. Behav. 24(5), 1802–1815 (2008)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Bishop, J.M., Taylor, L., Froy, F.: Computer-mediated communication use by the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Kybernetes 29(9/10), 1078–1086 (2000)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Boyd, D.M., Ellison, N.B.: Social network sites: definition, history, and scholarship. J. Comput.-Mediat. Commun. 13(1), 210–230 (2007)

    Google Scholar 

  5. Cronbach, L.J.: Coefficient alpha and the internal structure of tests. Psychometrika 16(3), 297–334 (1951)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Cromby, J., Standon, P.: Cyborgs and stigma: technology, disability, subjectivity. In: Gordo Lopez, A.J., Parker, I. (eds.) Cyberpsychology, pp. 95–112. Routledge, New York (1999)

    Google Scholar 

  7. Debevc, M., Kosec, P., Holzinger, A.: Improving multimodal web accessibility for deaf people: sign language interpreter module. Multimed. Tools Appl. 54(1), 181–199 (2011)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Fox, S.A.: The uses and abuses of computer-mediated communication for people with disabilities. In: Braithwaite, D.O., Thompson, T.L. (eds.) Handbook of Communication and People with Disabilities: Research and Application, pp. 319–336. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Mahwah, NJ (2000)

    Google Scholar 

  9. Guo, B., Bricout, J.C., Huang, J.: A common open space or a digital divide? A social model perspective on the online disability community in China. Disabil. Soc. 20(1), 49–66 (2005)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Hanson, V.L.: Computing technologies for deaf and hard of hearing users. In: Sears, A., Jacko, J.A. (eds.) Human-Computer Interaction Handbook: Fundamentals, Evolving Technologies and Emerging Applications, 2nd edn, pp. 885–893. Erlbaum, Mahwah, NJ (2009)

    Google Scholar 

  11. Hanson, V.L., Shankweiler, D., Fisher, F.W.: Determinants of spelling ability in deaf and hearing adults: access to linguistic structure. Cognition 14, 323–344 (1983)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Holzinger, A.: Usability engineering methods for software developers. Commun. ACM 48(1), 71–74 (2005)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Holzinger, A.: Universal access to technology-enhanced learning. Univ. Access Inf. Soc. 7(4), 195–197 (2008)

    Article  MathSciNet  Google Scholar 

  14. Holzinger, A., Searle, G., Wernbacher, M.: The effect of previous exposure to technology (PET) on acceptance and its importance in usability engineering. Univ. Access Inf. Soc. 10(3), 245–260 (2011)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Holzinger, A., Searle, G., Auinger, A., Ziefle, M.: Informatics as semiotics engineering: lessons learned from design, development and evaluation of ambient assisted living applications for elderly people. In: Universal Access in Human-Computer Interaction. Context Diversity. Lecture Notes in Computer Science (LNCS 6767), pp. 183–192. Springer, Berlin (2011)

  16. Howell, D.: Statistical Methods for Psychology, 5th edn. Duxbury, Pacific Grove (2002)

  17. Jambor, E., Elliott, M.: Self-esteem and coping strategies among deaf students. J. Deaf Stud. Deaf Educ. 10(1), 63–81 (2005). doi:10.1093/deafed/eni004

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Kent, B., Furlonger, B.E., Goodrick, D.A.: Toward an understanding of acquired hearing loss in a family: Narrative play format as a new voice in qualitative methodology. Qual. Rep. 6(4). (2001) Accessed 10 Dec 2012

  19. Kožuh, I., Sarjaš, A., Jeremić, Z., Debevc, M.: The effects of using social media as a communication tool in collaborative learning. In: Danko, T. (ed.) EICL Conference Proceedings, pp. 1–6. Crimea, Ukraine (2012)

  20. Leigh, I.W.: A Lens on Deaf Identities. Oxford University Press, New York (2009)

    Book  Google Scholar 

  21. Luetke-Stahlman, B.: Social interaction: assessment and intervention with regard to students who are deaf. Am. Ann. Deaf 140(3), 295–303 (1995)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Möbus, L.: Making web content accessible for the deaf via sign language. Libr Hi Tech 28(4), 569–576 (2010)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Padden, C., Humphries, T.: Deaf in America: Voices from a Culture. Harvard University Press, Cambridge (1986)

    Google Scholar 

  24. Peischl, B., Ziefle, M., Holzinger, A.: A mobile information system for improved navigation in public transport user centered design, development, evaluation and e-business scenarios of a mobile roadmap application. In: Obaidat, M.S., Sevilliano, J.L., Zhang, Z., Marca, D., Van Sinderen, M. (eds.) Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Data Communication Networking, e-Business and Optical Communication Systems, pp. 217–221, SciTec Press (2012)

  25. Power, M.R., Power, D., Horstmanshof, L.: Deaf people communicating via SMS, TTY, relay service, fax, and computers in Australia. J. Deaf Stud. Deaf Educ. 12(1), 80–92 (2006). doi:10.1093/deafed/enl016

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Rehling, B.: Beendet das Internet die kommunikative, soziale und bildungsmäßige Deprivation Hörgeschädigter? (Has the Internet Finished Communicative, Social and Educational Deprivation of Hearing Impaired?). FifF-Kommunikation (FifF-Communication) 13(2) (2000).

  27. Savidis, A., Stephanidis, C.: Inclusive development: software engineering requirements for universally accessible interactions. Interact. Comput. 18(1), 71–116 (2006). doi:10.1016/j.intcom.2005.06.005

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Schirmer, B.R.: Psychological, Social, and Educational Dimensions of Deafness. Allyn & Bacon, Boston (2001)

    Google Scholar 

  29. Schneider, D.: The Psychology of Stereotyping. Guilford, New York (2004). doi:10.1111/0022-4537.00203

  30. Stephanidis, C., Savidis, A.: Universal access in the information society: methods, tools and interaction technologies. Univ. Access Inf. Soc. 1(1), 40–55 (2001)

    Google Scholar 

  31. Stephanidis, C.: Universal Access in HCI: Inclusive Design in the Information Society. Erlbaum, Mahway (2003)

    Google Scholar 

  32. Trewin, S., Hanson, V.L., Laff, M.R., Cavender, A.: PowerUp: an accessible virtual world. In: ASSETS 2008, pp. 177–184. Halifax, Novascotia, Canada (2008). doi: 10.1145/1414471.1414504

  33. Valentine, G., Skelton, T.: Changing spaces: the role of the internet in shaping deaf geographies. Soc. Cult. Geogr. 9(5), 469–485 (2008). doi:10.1080/14649360802175691

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


The authors would like to thank the Ljubljana School for the Deaf in Slovenia and the Slovenian Deaf and Hard of Hearing Associations for participating in this study. This work was supported by the Slovenian Research Agency [1000-11-310140].

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ines Kožuh.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Kožuh, I., Hintermair, M., Holzinger, A. et al. Enhancing universal access: deaf and hard of hearing people on social networking sites. Univ Access Inf Soc 14, 537–545 (2015).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: