We are working on a product for Kindergarten to Grade 2/3 level students learning to read that displays an activity with various mechanisms to students. The instructions for these activities are not displayed on the screen and are only available in audio format. Closed captioning is not currently available, but even if included may not help students who are still learning to read. The instructions include the actual question such as "How many ducks in the pond?" as well as mechanical "Select the correct answer from the list of options."

I have looked through WCAG success criteria for rules that are more focused on supporting hearing impaired users (though, this also impacts cognitive disabilities as well), but many of the guidelines seem focused on visual impairment. As someone with my own cognitive disabilities, it has been a struggle to find information on what rules address this.

I am looking for specific WCAG rules so that the problem can be properly escalated and addressed. Are there any WCAG Success Criteria that specifically address the use of audio-only instructions and the need for text-based instructions?

Thank you for your help!

  • 1
    Are the instructions given live, or are the pre-recorded? Are the children able to read, or are they too young?
    – Izquierdo
    Jul 19, 2022 at 17:48
  • 1
    @Izquierdo The children are given pre-recorded instructions. Let's say Kindergarten to Grade 2. In most cases, they are learning to read, but may have some basic knowledge. Sorry, hit enter too soon. Was expecting it to be a new line 😅
    – rikil
    Jul 19, 2022 at 19:56
  • 1
    I don't know the answer to this, but I'm asking around. Important accessibility question! The WCAG 1.2 criteria cover audio access (either via captioning or transcripts) but I'm not sure what must be provided if the non-hearing person cannot read. I'll send any resources I can find.
    – Izquierdo
    Jul 19, 2022 at 20:21
  • Thanks so much, I really appreciate the help! We have learning experts on our team, but with digital media I want to see if there's anything more that we can do from the technical side to assist these students that maybe wouldn't be considered. We often talk about visual-impairments, but audio-impaired and learning to read is something I don't see much of. Thanks again :)
    – rikil
    Jul 20, 2022 at 19:52
  • 1
    I talked with a disability expert last night and she recommended contacting your local school district's disability administration office - there are specialists who can answer questions like this.
    – Izquierdo
    Jul 21, 2022 at 14:08

1 Answer 1


Most WCAG criteria are applicable to multiple types of disabilities but the guidelines themselves are not grouped by disability. So if you're looking for something specifically for hearing impaired, it's hard to search the guidelines that way. Yes, there's information about captioning, but captioning benefits more than hearing impaired. How often do people use captions on a TV in a bar, gym, or airport? There are many uses of captions beyond hearing impairments which is why the guidelines don't limit it to specific disabilities.

However, that being said, there are a few guidelines that certainly benefit people with hearing impairments.

1.2.1 is usually fulfilled by having a transcript of the audio. But it sounds like in the comment section of your OP that these could be young kids with a minimal reading ability. That's difficult to solve. From a legal compliance perspective, having a transcript would be sufficient but then you'll have to work with educators to get their ideas on how to convey a transcript to a non-reading person.

Note that a transcript in digital format, not just paper, is beneficial to lots of people. Searching a digital transcript is pretty easy. Even a basic editor can search a document.

The transcript can also be translated to braille by using a refreshable braille device (no work is needed on your end). There might be a deaf-blind student that can't see a transcript but if it's digital, they can read the text as braille, although this again assumes a certain reading level.

1.2.2 talks about captions, which you mentioned in your OP. As far as the cost to develop, there are a lot of companies out there with affordable captioning. I'm sure you didn't imply this in your question but if the reason for not doing captioning is because of cost, what price is the boundary between being affordable and expensive? Or another way to look at it, how low does the price have to be to create an inclusive product for all students. Or at what price does it go above that justifies excluding certain students?

There is a "reading level" guideline, 3.1.5 Reading Level, but it's more about keeping the reading level down to about an 8th grade level for adults and doesn't address alternative ways to read for young kids. That sounds like a great PhD topic.

If you can satisfy both 1.2.1 and 1.2.2, that's a great selling point for your product.

  • Thanks for your answer! I updated the question to better reflect this is regarding students still learning to read and removed the bit about cost since it's not really the problem. While there are many more answers left to be found, your answer gives the specific WCAG guidelines I was looking for and has helped me understand how to better ask the questions for the answers I'm looking for. I'll have to do more research into teaching hearing-impaired students to read as reading levels appear to be much lower in these students. Thanks again. Seems like we'll get there in due time. Cheers!
    – rikil
    Jul 20, 2022 at 20:10

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