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Designing a Deaf

culture specific web site

Participatory design research for knack.fi

Suvi Kitunen, MA Thesis

University of Art and Design Helsinki, Media Lab

Designing a Deaf culture
specific web site
Participatory design research for knack.fi

Suvi Kitunen
MA Thesis 2009 / Media Lab
University of Art & Design

Kouvola, Finland 2009

University of Applied Sciences
Series A. No. 25

Helsinki, Finland 2009

The Finnish Association
of the Deaf
Publications. No. 53
© Suvi Kitunen,
the Finnish Association of the
Deaf, and Kymenlaakson
University of Applied Sciences
Sciences, 2009

Published by
the Finnish Association of the
Deaf, Osata/KnacK Project
with the support of RAY, and
University of Applied Sciences
Sciences, 2009

Design and photos by

Suvi Kitunen

Printing by
Kopijyvä Oy, Jyväskylä

ISBN: 978-952-5681-53-6
ISSN: 1239-9086
ISSN: 1457-1099

2nd Edition

The design research by Suvi Kitunen aims to

provide design recommendations for Deaf culture
specific web sites taking into consideration the
implications of Deaf culture and sign language as a
first language on web user experience. So far web
sites localised for sign language users have been
merely concerned with providing signed alternatives
to written and auditory content but have failed to
take into consideration the cultural aspects of signed
communication. The knowledge was gathered
through participatory design methods and applied
in the development of Knack.fi web site, aiming to
serve dyslexic Deaf children and their families.

Overall, this thesis made two contributions. Firstly,

it demonstrated that the unduly narrow focus on
accessibility and usability has undermined the
impact of culture upon user experience. Secondly,
drawing together ideas on the literature and
supported by the findings of the user research, it
developed a preliminary list of design recommen-
dations for future developments.

Deaf and hard of hearing, participatory design, user
experience, interface design, cross-cultural design,
accessibility, dyslexia


There are a number of people who have their thoughtful comments. I am also thankful for
contributed to this study, and without their the experts of Deaf rhythmics: Terttu Martola, Russ
input this thesis would have been impossible. I Palmer, and Elina Kivelä-Taskinen.
would like to thank RAY (Finland’s Slot Machine
Association) for financial support and the Finnish Most importantly, I owe special thanks to the
Association of the Deaf for giving me the members of the Deaf community who were willing
opportunity for this design research. to participate in the design process and accepted
me, a hearing, to work with them. For me it has
I owe my greatest gratitude to my Principal been a journey to a land, totally unknown to me
supervisor Dr Päivi Rainò for her support, guidance, – yet so fascinating and exiting. The more I spent
and enthusiasm in helping me to develop my thesis. time with you, the more I listened to you, the more
You provided me with your expert knowledge I realised the richness of your traditions, customs,
on Deaf culture that was the foundation of this and beliefs – and especially stricken by their
design research. Our fruitful conversations greatly strength. Without your helpfulness, enthusiasm,
advanced my work. A special thanks to my Associate and kindness would I not understood the bigger
supervisor Dr Antti Raike for sharing his knowledge picture but forced my own ideas and ideals to a
about Design for All -thinking and constructive world that I did not fully understand – yet, never
comments that helped to develop a convincing work. can I do it fully. Thanks to Hanna Paulanto, Jari
I am also thankful for people sharing their views Nyberg, Kalle Juusti, Johan Pallari, Päivi Majava,
and expertise. A special thanks to my peer students Pia Taalas, Mikko Palo, Maarit Widberg-Palo, Anja
Keri Knowles, Margaret Plaisted, and Riia Celen for Hurtamo, Jukka Hurtamo, and Senni Virkkunen.


Abstract iii
Acknowledgements v
Contents vi


2 Cultural inquiry 3
2.1 Layers of Deaf culture – from values to artefacts 3
2.1.1 Prominence of deafness 3
2.1.2 From oppression towards recognition 4
2.1.3 Culture – shared conceptual map 4
2.1.4 Sign language: Visuo-gestural world 7
2.2 Digital communication tools in Deaf culture 8
2.2.1 Innovation within Deaf Communities 8
2.2.2 Digital texts for hearing impaired 9
2.2.3 From accessibility to people-centred design approach 12
2.3 Case studies: A normative comparison of six web sites 16
2.3.1 By Deaf designers 16
2.3.2 By Deaf organisations 18
2.3.3 By hearing to offer sign language content 18
2.4 Summary 20

3.1 Values an interface brings forth to its users 22
3.1.1 Instrumental value 22
3.1.2 Emotional value 23
3.1.3 Cultural value 23
3.2 Layers of culture oriented interface design 24
3.2.1 Visceral design 25
3.2.2 Behavioural design 26
3.2.3 Reflective design 27
3.3 Summary 28

4 Design research 29
4.1 Design purpose and challenges 29
4.2 Participatory design methods and cultural framework 31
4.3 Participants 33
4.4 Four phases of culture-specific participatory design 33
4.5 Measure of successful process 35

5 Design PROCESS 36
5.1 Contextual inquiry 36
5.1.1 Observations 36
5.1.2 Stakeholder meetings 37

5.2 Identification of Deaf culture specific features 38
5.2.1 Focus group 38
5.2.2 Card sorting 41
5.2.3 Interviews 46
5.3 Integration of Deaf culture specific features 47
5.3.1 Brainstorming session 47
5.3.2 Workshops 49
5.3.3 Co-designing prototypes 52
5.4 Summary 52

6 REVIEW of Knack.fi 53

7.1 Physio-pleasures 57
7.1.1 Access to sound – visually 57
7.1.2 Scannable content 58
7.1.3 Content on demand 58
7.1.4 Balance between content, foreground and background 58
7.1.5 Visual support for a signer 58
7.1.6 Colours 58
7.1.7 Symbols and icons 58
7.1.8 Signing guide 58
7.2 Socio-pleasures 59
7.2.1 Global friends 59
7.2.2 Video applications 59
7.3 Psycho-pleasures 59
7.3.1 Visual feedback 59
7.3.2 Presentation of Deaf people 59
7.4. Ideo-pleasures 59
7.4.1 Fluent signers 59
7.4.2 Faces 60
7.4.3 Dominant signing 60

8.1 Satisfaction 61
8.2 Contribution of the study 62
8.3 Limitations of the study 63
8.4 Future work 63

References 65
Appendix 1: Focus group 74
Appendix II: Thematic interview 75
Appendix III: Concent form 76

Chapter 1

This study aims to provide design recommendations and organisational constraints. In other words, the
for Deaf culture specific web sites taking into designer needs to understand both the social and
consideration the implications of Deaf culture cultural contexts of use as well as the meanings the
and sign language as a first language on web user stakeholders give to the interface.
experience. The participatory design research was
conducted in the course of designing a pilot web site This leads to the adaptation of participatory design
for Osata (KnacK) project in 2008–2009. Finally, methods that engage with the community. The
the findings of the design activities were concluded purpose of this design research is not to search for
into general design recommendations. Despite an quantitative or objective research ‘truth’ but rather
extensive body of research on usability, accessibility, to look for inspirational and actionable insights
and user experience, web sites localised for sign on how the cultural practices affect the way web
language users have been merely concerned with sites should be designed to meet the real needs of
providing signed alternatives to written and auditory Deaf users. In this participatory design approach,
content. Simultaneously, however, they have failed the course of designing forms the actual research.
to take into consideration the cultural aspects of The goal is not just to empirically understand how
signed communication that ultimately affect user Deaf users currently experience web sites, but also
experience. Consequently, web sites localised for sign to identify how they would like to experience them;
language tend to only provide access to the content that is, to simultaneously envision, shape, and
but rarely offer a web browsing experience that Deaf transcend it in the ways participants find buoyant.
users would enjoy and be comfortable with.
The design research focussing on user preferences
This study is grounded on previous studies that in the Deaf culture was carried out during the
claim: if an interface meets one’s cultural needs, it winter of 2007 until the end of spring 2009. In
enhances one’s browsing experience. This realisation order to develop a user focussed design project,
of the importance of culture is the newest turn in user eleven members of the Deaf culture (all who are
experience studies. This means that the value of an sign language users) were invited to participate
interface does not only lie in its material form such for the duration of the study. These participants
as aesthetics or functions but in the meanings that included Deaf and hard of hearing grass-root
it brings forth to its users. Thus, more effort should users, designers, academics, and researchers. Their
be put on culturally sensitive design elements, which experience and opinions were recorded and fed
are preferred within a particular cultural group. back into the next design stage. The design process
In the context of this study, this means looking involved three main phases: (1) contextual inquiry
beyond accessibility, functionality, and usability of through observation and stakeholder meetings;
an interface, and considering the impact of Deaf (2) identification of Deaf culture specific design
culture on design features. Thus, it is important features through a focus group session, card
to start the interface design process by analysing sorting method, and thematic interviews; and (3)
the design context including cultural, historical, integration of the identified design features by
way of a brainstorming session, two collaborative Document overview
workshops, and development of prototypes in
collaboration with deaf designers. Results from the Chapter 2 provides cultural context for this design
participatory study were applied in the process of research. The first part is devoted to define the
designing a pilot web site for the KnacK project. concepts relating to Deaf Culture, history, and sign
language. The second part discusses the design
The web site is part of a larger project being climate in relation to communication tools and web
run by the Finnish Association of the Deaf in sites targeted to Deaf users.
which the primary aim is to raise awareness of
learning disabilities in Deaf and hard of hearing Chapter 3 investigates how interfaces become
children. The KnacK/Osata initiative is based adapted, valued, and appreciated. The first part
on studies that have proven that disorders in defines three different levels – instrumental,
perception of rhythm are linked with difficulties emotional, and cultural – by which an interface
in learning. This highlighted a need for deaf and becomes valued by its users. The second part
hard of hearing children to practice rhythm – a studies three different phases – recognition,
step forward in the process of relieving learning exploration, and reflection – of interface usage that
disorders of these children. The web site has are influenced by one’s culture.
been designed to inspire, encourage, and inform
deaf and hard of hearing children and their Chapter 4 first discusses the design challenges
stakeholders. In order to reach them, three of this study and defines them through Jordan’s
primary target audiences have been defined: Four-Pleasures framework. Then, it explains
children, parents, and professionals, all of which participatory design methods and Moalasi’s
may be hearing, deaf or dyslexic. This variety socio-cultural framework that are employed in this
of users brings about a challenge to create a study. Finally, it describes the participants chosen for
boundary object – an interface between the this study and the schedule of the design process.
different communities of practice. Although digital
technologies allow localisation and modification Chapter 5 reviews the entire participatory design
of interfaces to meet the needs of diverse sets of process. It reviews the methods and outcomes of
people, solutions that would satisfy both parties each design phase. There are three of these phases:
are non-existent. (1) contextual inquiry, (2) identification, and (3)
integration of Deaf culture specific features.
Overall, within the limitations and confines
of this design study, this thesis makes two Chapter 6 reviews design solutions including the
contributions. First, it identifies and demonstrates aesthetic, interaction, and technical choices made.
that the unduly narrow focus on accessibility has
undermined user experience. There is a need Chapter 7 develops the findings of participatory
to consider the full range of issues involved in research into general design recommendations.
designing pleasurable interfaces. The findings Utilising Jordan’s Four-Pleasure framework it
are consistent with previous cultural studies; explains the physical, social, psychological, and
but importantly, they have not been the focus in ideological features of an interface that are engaging
the previous web interfaces designed for Deaf for Deaf users. These recommendations are to assist
users. Secondly, drawing together ideas from the the designing of sign language web sites in future.
literature, an overview of design implications has
been established and developed into a set of design Chapter 8 discusses the contribution of the study,
recommendations that is supported by findings its application to Deaf culture specific web sites, and
from the user research carried out. the future research areas.

Chapter 2

Cultural inquiry
Culture and language affect one’s attitudes, 2001) out of which 5000 have sign language as
behaviours, ways of thinking, and even their first language (Report of the Government on
remembering; and thus, also fundamentally the application of language legislation 2009). The
influences the way interfaces should be designed for remaining 3000 are people who have lost their
specific cultural groups. This chapter examines this hearing later in life, traditionally referred to as hard
cultural context. In the first part, it reviews different of hearing. A much smaller number who suffer total
layers of Deaf experience, and the role of sign or near total hearing loss as an adult are described as
language within Deaf culture. In the second part, deafened. From the Deaf cultural perspective, both
it discusses how digital communication tools have of these groups are hearing people who have lost
influenced Deaf culture, and reviews how web sites some of their hearing. There are also those who have
are designed for sign language users today. lost their hearing during early childhood and are
described as severely deaf. For them, as for hard of
2.1 Layers of Deaf culture – from hearing, hearing may be possible with sophisticated
values to artefacts hearing aids. Only 0.1 percent of the population are
Different layers of Deaf culture have formed over congenitally deaf. They are described as profoundly
centuries as Deaf people developed communities, deaf as they are incapable of hearing speech with the
enabling them to live in the world that is designed aid of normal hearing aids. (Ladd 2003; Sacks, 1991)
for the average. To better understand these different
layers, this section first discusses the prominence Before the era of cochlear implant, Deaf people
and history of deafness. Then it defines four without any hearing experienced fundamental
different layers of Deaf culture that form the language barriers in their early childhood. This
mindset in which Deaf people operate. Finally, affected the development of meaningful relationships
it looks at one fundamental component of Deaf with their hearing peers. As a consequence, they
culture, that is, sign language. formed close relationships with other Deaf children
with whom they could comfortably communicate
2.1.1 Prominence of deafness through sign language. Moreover, they often
Statistics for the number of deaf people depends attended the same Deaf schools or activities arranged
on the definition, and of interpreting the resulting by Deaf clubs, and a high percentage of them (90%)
figures (Benderly, 1980; Johnston & Schembri, married another Deaf person. In no time they were
2007). Nevertheless, it has been estimated that completely integrated into the Deaf community,
deafness, from moderate to profound hearing loss, sharing and participating in the culture: a language,
affects one person in a thousand in developed experiences, values, and ways of interacting with each
countries (Ladd 2003; Johnston & Schembri, 2007). other. (Ladd, 2003)
According to WHO (2006), deafness has been
estimated to affect 278 million people worldwide. The Deaf culture still affects all the areas of Deaf
In Finland, there are approximately 8000 people life: both the explicit forms of culture, which consists
with a hearing loss (Sosiaali- ja terveysministeriö, of artefacts such as Deaf art; as well as the implicit

forms of culture consisting of patterns of thinking During the past 20 years, the repression of sign
(Ladd, 2003; Sacks, 1991). Thus, the reality of language has slowed, even halted. The 1980s
severe and profoundly deaf is totally different from marked a paradigm shift for Deaf people. The
hard of hearing, and deafened who have spent old medical model – which saw deafness only as
their childhood with hearing peers. To distinguish a disability – shifted into a social model, which
between the terms physically deaf and culturally Deaf, insisted fundamental equality for all human beings.
a small ‘d’ is used when referring to people from a This inclusive approach meant that society should
medical perspective, and a capital ‘D’ is used when be designed for all. Consequently, accessibility
referring to culturally Deaf (Woodward, 1972). legislation was implemented. It was concerned
with ensuring that technological solutions meet
In Finland, there are around 20-30 deaf born the needs arising out of hearing impairments, such
annually, and 95% of them are hard of hearing, as text telephones, TV subtitles, and videophones
wearing cochlear implants (Kentala & Jero, for deaf people. Despite the urge to recognise deaf
2007; Lonka & Hasan, 2006). This means that people as full members of society, the legislation did
the number of totally deaf is on the decrease. not meet the requisites of Deaf culture nor did they
Moreover, as the implant allows hard of hearing address the sincere needs of the Deaf community.
children to hear – in varying degrees – most of (Ladd, 2003) Moreover, it was not until 1995 that
them are now able to communicate with their sign language was recognised as an official language
hearing parents without the aid of sign language. in Finland, and not until 1999 that Deaf were
As 90% of deaf children are born to hearing entitled to have instructions in sign language at
parents, the implants no longer necessitate the school (Salmi & Laakso, 2005)1.
use of sign language. As a result, these children do
not become full members of the Deaf community Frankly, there is still a demand for the recognition
as before, and do not posses the feeling of shared of Deaf cultural issues that lie outside of the hearing
experience (Ladd, 2003). Thus, the future of the impairment (Salmi & Laakso, 2005; Ladd, 2003);
Deaf society and culture is uncertain, but the that is, to see deafness from a linguistic and cultural
considerations that arise from Deaf communities perspective. Rather than seeing themselves as
are of the deepest importance, despite the disabled, Deaf consider themselves as a language
population being small, as Sacks (1991) points out. minority, similar to other oppressed cultural
minorities and indigenous populations such as Sami
2.1.2 From oppression towards recognition people: both have fought for their rights to use their
The society designed for hearing starts to recognise language, preserve their heritage, and follow their
and understand the needs of Deaf people. This customs that have formed around shared experiences,
results of Deaf communities’ centuries-long struggle values, and history. Within the Deaf community,
against mainstream culture. Throughout time Deaf Deaf are the ones that are trusted and it is import to
people have formed communities and supported share the same cultural heritage. This forms the basis
each other. This togetherness has brought forth of Deaf experience in which the inability to hear is
a unique Deaf way of life: patterns of behaviour, seen as a secondary. Ladd (2003) hence proposes that
beliefs, attitudes, and values referred to in English as Deaf should be seen as dual-category members: some
Deaf world, Deaf community, and only more recently of the issues might relate to issues of non-hearing
as Deaf culture. (Ladd, 2003) However, Deaf have whilst others to language and culture.
struggled to survive under a set of policies and
discourses that have prevented them from fostering 2.1.3 Culture – shared conceptual map
their culture and using their mother tongue. This The way people perceive sensory experiences is not
oppression reached its peak in the mid-19th century universal: the values and meanings that are given to
– referred to as oralism – when signing was seen
only as a primitive form of language and the inability
to speak as an inability to think. As a result, deaf 1 In Finland, the Basic Right Reform in 1998 (§ 14.3 of
students – for whom speaking was extremely difficult the Constitution) entitled Deaf to develop and maintain their own
– were forced to speak, even violently. This tradition language and culture. The reform of the school legislation (§ 1 of
of oralism spread across schools around the globe. It the Act on Basic Education [628/1998]) extended the rights to
was officially exercised in Finland up until the 1970s have instructions in sign language (§ 10) as well as to be taught sign
(Salmi & Laakso, 2005). language as the mother tongue (§ 12). (Basic Education Act, 2008)

people, objects, and events are strongly influenced that designers are mainly concerned with the outer
by one’s culture (Hofstede, 1991). Culture is a result layers of culture, and tend to overlook the inner
of enculturing and an unconscious learning process core layers. Thus, this study uses Spencer-Oatey’s
(Hall, 1997). Yet, the way Deaf experience the (2000) cultural model as it provides tools to look
world combines both biological and social factors at both the inner and outer layers of culture.
that are fundamentally linked with each other Its onion structure illustrates how culture is
(Ladd, 2003; Mindess, 2006). Thus, in this study manifested in four different layers: it consists of
the Deaf way of being – including sign language, four rings moving from the most invisible aspects
shared collective consciousness, and issues related of culture to the most visible ones. As illustrated in
to different sensory order – are all encompassed Figure 1 these layers form the cultural context of
under the same term culture. It includes both Deaf people, that is, the mindset within which the
unconscious and conscious levels: there are aspects members of Deaf culture operate.
that people think of as external to themselves and
are able to verbalise; and there are aspects that 1. Basic assumptions and values. The innermost
are so embedded to the everyday that they have circle holds the core ideas and values held by the
become invisible, implicit, and unrecognised (Ladd, society. For people outside the cultural group, this
2003; Hall, 1997). proves the most difficult to recognise. In contrast
to individualistic Western culture, Deaf culture is
Varying authors have been defined culture in many filled with collectivist values: Deaf people value
different ways. Among them Hofstede (1991, p.5) sharing information, strong in-group ties, group
defined culture as “the collective programming decision making, and strong identification with
of the mind which distinguishes the member of the group (Mindess, 2006; Hall, 1997). This means
one group or category of people from another”. that the analytical, objective, and individualistic
According to Hofstede (1991, 2001), culture can be approach of the West is foreign to the Deaf
defined through five different dimensions: power people who prefer personal and collective means.
distance, individualism, toughness/masculinity, The members of Deaf culture also use more
uncertainty avoidance, and long term orientation. symbolic, indirect, and non-verbal cues in which
Though Hostede’s definition and theory has most meanings are embedded in the context of
been often used in cross-cultural web design interaction. (Mindess, 2006)
studies (i.e. Marcus & Guild, 2000; Würtz, 2005;
Callahan, 2005; Evers, 1997), research based on 2. Beliefs, attitudes, and conventions. The second
these models have been criticised for simplifying layer carries the steps or the accepted norms of
the complexity of real-world interaction processes doing things. These cultural meanings organise and
(i.e. Ess & Sudweeks, 2005; Barnett & Sung, 2005; regulate the second layer; that is, shared knowledge,
and Hewling, 2005). Faiola and Matei (2003) have goals and beliefs, and a common way of talking. For
criticised this approach most dramatically. They example, a dialogue in a first time meeting of two
argue that these models neglect cognitive style of Deaf Americans is totally different compared to
users focusing solely on surface design elements an encounter of two hearing Americans: the Deaf
such as aesthetics. Faiola and Matei (2003) stress people would ask about schools they attended and to
that both cognition and behaviour are dependent whom they are related; whereas hearing Americans
on one’s socio-cultural context: people with would most commonly ask what one does for a
different cultural backgrounds not only behave but living. (Mindess, 2006)
also think, feel and perceive the world differently.
They develop a cultural cognitive theory that 3. Systems and institutions. The third layer refers
stresses the importance of culture specific cognitive to the cultural aspects that are shown through
styles and their impact on speed and easiness of education, political, family units, and social
finding information. and legal systems. In the case of Deaf culture it
consists of organisations, schools, clubs, libraries,
Despite the fact that the study by Faiola and Matei and museums that the members of Deaf culture
(2003) aims to take a step further in cross-cultural have created in order to ease their lives and to
web design research, it fails to recognise culture bring Deaf people together (Ladd, 2003). Frankly,
specific meanings that users give to the system. Deaf community is formed around these artistic,
This view is supported by Lee (2004) who argues leisure, and sporting activities: these organised

Figure 1.  The layers of Deaf experience in four rings based on Spencer-Oatey’s (2000) cultural model and
Mindess’ (2006) and Ladd’s (2003) work on Deaf culture.

events allowed Deaf people to meet up with their and behaviours such as norms of greetings,
friends as well as to share and receive information. communicating, and paying respect to others.
These activities have been a powerful resource The most visible aspects of Deaf culture include
in the struggle to gain equal positioning with the sign language and a set of discourses such as Deaf
hearing. (Ladd, 2003) arts, folklore, sense of humour, and even Deaf
Olympics – things Deaf people are proud of and
4. Visible artefacts and customs. The fourth layer wish to pass on to future generations. These
carries the most visible aspects of culture: artefacts and practices symbolically manifest the
tangible artefacts such as words, gestures, and shared experiences concerning Deaf history as well
pictures, which carry a particular meaning as political, economical, and social contexts that
within the cultural group; and intangible rituals frame their lives. (Ladd, 2003)

2.1.4 Sign language: Visuo-gestural world 1. Contrasting. Opposites are used to describe what
Around the world wherever communities of Deaf something is and is not.
people have formed, sign languages have developed. 2. Descriptive personal accounts. Information is given
As sign languages are born as a result of natural through empirical stories rather than through
interaction in Deaf communities, they are closely hard facts or figures.
related to Deaf people’s cultural values and social 3. Examples. Explanations are given through a
behaviour (Padden & Humpries, 1988). As the specimen rather than by a definition.
meanings of sounds are cut off, Deaf people have 4. Nesting. Objects and phenomena are identified
generated a language system that relies on vision. by description, analogy, or function instead of
Even if numerous sign languages around the world by label.
have developed separately from each other, they 5. Reiteration. The same thing is repeated side by
are strikingly similar in terms of grammar and side or at the beginning and end of the remark.
vocabulary (i.e. Zeshan, 2003; Rathmann, 2005). In 6. Multiple perspectives. Different point of views are
contrast to spoken languages, which consist of vocal given to describe an object or a scene.
articulators, sign languages consist of sequences of 7. Role shifting. Signer takes different characters to
movements and configurations of hands and arms, describe the way in which an action was done.
face, and upper torso. Sign languages differ from
spoken languages in two significant ways: their (1) Nevertheless, even if spoken and sign languages
modality of production that is gestural instead of may seem so contrary at first, several linguisticians
oral; and (2) perception that is visual instead of aural have recognised that sign languages resemble
channel. (Zeshan, 2003) language in communal cultures – among them
several Asian and African languages as illustrated
Not only do sign languages encode meanings in in the following three examples. Firstly, the use of
gestures opposed to words but also represent these expressive ideophones (carriers of iconic meanings)
meanings differently compared to spoken languages. highly resembles Kammu, a language spoken in
In other words, sign language users understand, Laos (Bergman and Dahl, 1994). Secondly, the
observe, and make sense of the world in a visual use of manual gestures – instead of paraphrases
way (Sacks, 1991). Even though sign languages and – is similar to Igbo, a language found in Nigeria
spoken languages can convey the same information, (Rathmann, 2005). Thirdly, the topic-comment
sign languages exploit visual imagery, space, and structure of sign language can be found in Chinese –
movement in a way that is not available to spoken a stark contrast to Aristotelean rhetoric of Western
languages (MacSweeney, 2008; Rainò, 2006). In languages which follow from main to subordinate
contrast to linear, one dimensional spoken languages, information (Zhu, 2005). Yet, the similarities are
sign languages use multiple layers: a signer is able not only found in grammar but also the manner
to provide several visual attributes at the same in which communication takes place: both are
time using hand shapes, movement, gestures, and characterised by non-linguistic communication in
expressions. An essential feature of sign languages which the meanings of a message rely heavily on
are polysynthetic signs. They describe a location of the context of the communication and gestures of
an object and a manner of an action in a such a detail the communicator. In these high context cultures
that in English would require a whole sentence to be communication refers to shared experiences, and
translated (Jantunen, 2003). For instance, in just a evokes affective responses (Levine, 1985).
few seconds, a signer is able to explain the form, size,
and consistency of an object; the three dimensional Not only the cross-cultural comparison but also the
location in which the action takes place in relation connection between language use and perception has
to the actor; the manner in which the action takes intrigued researches for decades (i.e. Whorf, 1956;
place; as well as the intensity and characteristics McLuhan 1962; Classen, 1993). In its strongest form
of the process (Rainò, 2006). As these non-verbal linguistic relativists claim that speakers of different
features are atypical for Western languages, they are languages think and behave differently because of
easily forgotten when designing for sign language it. This view is supported by cross-cultural studies
users (Rainò, 2006). These differences are also on colour perception; for instance, studies by Berlin
identified by Shelley Lawrence (1996 in Mindess, et al. (1997), and most recently by Drivonikou et
2006) who distinguishes seven characteristics of al. (2007), have demonstrated a clear correlation
native American Sign Language (ASL): between the colour terms available in a language

and the colours that its speakers can conceptually Deaf community. It surpassed mobile phones with a
handle. Moreover, it can be argued that it is not only complete keyboard and a screen that showed more
the language that affects thought and perception detail than that of a standard mobile. With the new
but also the communication style that is determined technology people with a hearing loss could surf
by one’s culture. Building up on McLuhan’s (1962) the Internet or send email on the go, wirelessly.
theory on the impact of the printing press invention (Mindess, 2006) In Finland, it was not until in the
on Western culture, Classen (1993) states that the beginning of the 1980s that the text phones offered
dominance of written communication changed new possibilities for Deaf to deal with their day
mainstream culture: it lead to an analytical and to day communication (Salmi & Laakso, 2005).
fragmented mode of thought, depersonalisation, In Finland, as well as in the rest of the Europe,
and individualism; whereas before, society was based Deaf communities have been heavy users of text
on oral tradition. As sign language does not have a messaging (SMS) rather than pagers as in these
written or printed format, which would be used in countries no such services or devices have been
day to day communications, the Deaf culture still developed for deaf users.
relies on oral tradition. In contrast to analytical and
individualistic Western mode of though, Deaf people Today, the Internet has became an important
think holistically and their communication relies on communication tool especially for the young Deaf
human contact and interplay (Mindess, 2006). people around the world who use numerous blogs,
bulletin boards, forums, and web sites to facilitate
2.2 Digital communication tools in communication and to build vast communities
Deaf culture across national boundaries. Most of these
Deaf culture has been influenced by technological technologies, however, are text based. This means
innovations especially so by communication devices that Deaf people and hard of hearing must express
(Mindess, 2000). Firstly, this chapter reviews the themselves in writing if they want to participate.
ways digital communication tools have enhanced the Even if the possibility to send SMS or e-mail has
lives of Deaf people, and how they have developed given Deaf people an access to public services and
these tools to fit into their life experience. Secondly, communication, for some Deaf people writing is a
it reviews how web sites have been developed to fit real struggle. This is especially so due to the fact that
into this experience by giving an overview of the Deaf there is no visual feedback from facial expression
specific web design practice. Thirdly, it questions or body language. (Lang, 2000) This is against the
the traditional definition of web accessibility and widely held misconception that since deaf people see,
compares it to people-centred design approach. they can easily and comprehensively access written
Finally, it represents a few case studies. material (Israelite et al., 1992). Even if most Deaf
people are bilingual, acquiring fluent writing and
2.2.1 Innovation within Deaf Communities reading skills may be a daunting task: sign language
The US has been a forerunner of introducing users must learn to manipulate a language structure
communication tools for Deaf people. These tools and grammar which is foreign to them (Ladd, 2003).
have been the foundation for major initiatives in
innovation, design, and policy development for By far, to use video is the only possibility to offer
today’s accessible products and services (Lang, 2000). content for sign language users in their mother
In the late 1960s, the American deaf community tongue. Consequently, Deaf have striven to produce
made history by introducing teletypewriters (TTY), new tools and appliances based on sign language
a text messaging system before the era of mobile that would better meet their communication
phones. It became significant in empowering, and recreational needs. In the UK, Deaf people
bonding, and enlightening Deaf people as it enabled repeatedly insisted that the BBC develop a system
them to communicate over long distances, schedule to provide text based content for hearing impaired.
appointments with their hearing friends, or to book This then spread across Europe for mainstream
a time for a doctor without the help of a translator. use as a form of teletext. (Thomson, 1992 in Rainò,
It was a forerunner of today’s social media in which 1997) In Finland, during the 1990s, one of the key
Deaf people were able to post news items from their drives has been the development of signed video
private homes. (Lang, 2000) Decades later, in 1990s, production that spread rapidly (Salmi & Laakso,
interactive palm-sized devices called text pagers 2005). Today, several web sites have been launched
were introduced to and adopted by the American for Deaf users in order to support the need for

signed videos. Many features of these sites resemble This included sign language for these respective
mainstream online TV and video sharing sites countries. Another recent educational initiative in
such as YouTube or Vimeo as seen in Figure 2 and Finland is VIIVI – a web portal that offers learning
Figure 3. Similarly, the rise of video-sharing web material in sign language (see Fig. 5).
sites like YouTube, has lead to a golden age for deaf
documentaries, home-made clips, video blogs, signed Nevertheless, web sites are not systematically
music videos, and short films such as a British comedy produced in sign language due to difficulties in
sketch Four Deaf Yorkshiremen (Swinbourne, 2007) embedding sign language; restricting standards and
which has reached over 100,000 views. Deaf have also legislation; lack of resources and suitable formats;
launched sites of their own to distribute signed video and shortage of technical skills and appropriate
such as D-PAN for Deaf performing artists in the US content management. Sign videos on the Internet
and a video sharing site Sign Tube in the UK. has long been a challenge for three main reasons.
Firstly, the quality of the video needs to be high
Today’s better broadband connections have also so that the gestures and hand shapes are clearly
enabled sign language users to communicate in visible. Secondly, long video clips are difficult
their mother tongue using web cams and video to navigate: it is much harder to find the right
relay (Mindess, 2006). In Greece, as a part of piece of information on a video compared to text.
EU funded eGOV accessibility project, a group (WWW-sivut ja viittomakieli, 2003) Thirdly, the
of researchers have worked on a Greek Sign process of translating text into sign is costly and
Language terminology glossary to be used with a time consuming. To solve this problem, there have
virtual finger-spelling and digit keyboard (Fotinea been attempts to create 3D models, i.e. Vcom 3D,
& Efthimiou, 2008). A group of researchers from ViSiCAST, and DePaul University American Sign
Germany, Spain, Sweden, and the UK worked Language Project that would automatically translate
together on project called WISDOM (Wireless text into signing. Yet, there have been no satisfactory
Information Services for Deaf People on the Move) systems capable of understanding meanings and
in 2000–2004. One of the resulting applications context of subtle non-verbal cues in sign language
of the project was a real time conversation service (i.e. Rainò, 2006; Koskela et al., 2008).
allowing person-to-person live communication; that
is, a possibility for Deaf users to show emotions, 2.2.2 Digital texts for hearing impaired
tone, and meaning through expressions – impossible Researchers and educators have examined the
on text based services. Of the needs expressed effectiveness of embedding a variety of other
by Deaf users, the project also resulted a service supports in digital text to make instructional
called Deaf Station (see Fig. 4), providing an online materials more accessible to deaf or hard of hearing
access to sign language information services. These users. In Finland, already in 1997, Raike explored
include details about employment, sports, and arts, possibilities for distributing sign language content
and most importantly, sign language news that are over the Internet for Deaf children in Ateneum’s
updated daily. (Deaf Studies Trust, 2000) (Finnish National Gallery) Discoveries project. Raike
(1997) concludes that the hypermedia for Deaf users
The web site discourse within Deaf communities could benefit from using the combination of text,
entails a tension between reusing established forms sign language, images, animation, and graphics. This
of traditional web design in combination with view is inline with studies by Anderson-Inman and
new ways to embed sign languages. Many official Horney (1998 in Anderson-Inman & Horney, 2007).
authorities and public services such as Tate Gallery They found that students with hearing impairments
offer sign language content on their web sites to use multimedia resources differently compared to
offer Deaf people access in their mother tongue. In hearing students: hearing impaired relied more on
addition to translational content, several web sites graphics and video signing than on text. Similar
have been designed especially with Deaf users in findings by Gentry et al. (2004, 2005) suggest that
mind. One of the most recent initiatives has been an not only video but also images and other illustrative
EU funded project DEAFVOC (Sign Languages and methods could greatly enhance the reading and
European Written Languages in Virtual Vocational understanding of the text by deaf and hard of
Education for the Deaf) that lasted from 2003 till hearing. The difficulty, however, lays in getting the
2006. It aimed to provide bilingual teaching material combination of elements right for a particular person
online in English, Czech, Finnish, and Greek. and particular tasks (Nelson & Camaratan, 1996).

Figure 2.  Deaf TV that offers videos produced in British sign language.

Figure 3.  Sign Language TV that holds a collection of videos in Finnish sign language.

Figure 4.  Deaf Station in Britain offers news in sign language.

Figure 5.  Finnish VIIVI web site that offers learning material in sign language.

In addition to the studies on how sign language users meaningful and useful for Deaf people; that is,
use multimedia resources, few studies conducted organised in the way that reflects the world as they
on web usability of Deaf users have focussed on perceive it. The Internet and sign language are
linking accessibility to cognitive abilities of deaf connected in one important dimension: the Internet
users and their speed of information retrieval. In is a visual information highway and sign language
Spain, Fajardo et al. (2004, 2006, 2008a, 2008b, a highly visual language (see Muir and Richardson,
2008c, 2009) conducted several studies aiming at 2005). In theory, Deaf people have more visuospatial
finding ways to improve web accessibility for deaf capacity to maintain and manipulate visual and
people in a research program called Cogniweb. Their spatial information derived from the sign language
studies have shown that reading literacy of Deaf usage. Technological advances such as flash videos
users slows down their ability to search information and javascript libraries have made it possible to
and increases their possibility of getting disoriented create customised viewing experiences on web
on hierarchical text based web sites. Fajardo et al. sites: to add interactive elements and pointers that
(2008a) showed that Deaf people were slower in allow more precise navigation within the clips; to
forming verbal categories compared to hearing. They provide on-demand content that is initiated by the
concluded that verbal navigation on web sites is not time code; and to create modifiable players that
appropriate for deaf users. In their later studies, can be used to allow each individual user to tailor
they also argued that wide structures of verbal the interface that best suites their needs. In the
information, though overloading Deaf users (2008b), following the policies and discourses that frame
may also facilitate the visual search and match the design paradigm of sign language web site are
process of Deaf users (2009). These findings are discussed and then a few examples of web sites
supported by Japanese usability study by Namatame targeted or localised to Deaf users are reviewed.
and Kitajima (2005) which showed that hard of
hearing users faced more difficulties in finding 2.2.3 From accessibility to people-centred
appropriate links and hidden semantic structures. design approach
They concluded that the text processing and visual Usability and accessibility are essential parts of
scanning of Deaf users was more intuitive and less interface design today. Especially so for sites targeted
structured compared to that of hearing users. towards Deaf users: these sites need to find the
right balance between the needs of Deaf users while
As the studies have shown the inadequacy of ensuring it is accessible to others. This Design for
text-based links for Deaf users, researchers have All – linked with the terms inclusive design widely
investigated alternative methods. Fajardo et al. used in Britain and universal design used in the US
(2008a) found that Deaf people utilise visual- and Japan – is a political term used especially in
matching strategy more often than a semantic Europe that calls for designing for human diversity,
approach to navigate compared to hearing. In a later social inclusion, and equality (Design for All Europe,
study, Fajardo et al. (2008c) concluded that Deaf 2009). It describes two processes simultaneously:
users were faster in graphical web search compared firstly, the ability of the user to access information;
to hearing if the information was not located in and secondly, the design effort to enable a page to
deep structures of hypertext. Fajardo et al. (2008c) function with the assistive devices used by individuals
recommend the use of graphical hyperlinks for with disabilities (Nielsen & Pernice, 2001; Foley
very frequent and familiar concepts, and the use & Regan, 2002). According to Design for All
of sign language to support textual hyperlinks. e-Accessibility Network EDeAN (n.d.), the discourse
Similarly, Namatame and Kitajima (2008) showed aims at providing equal opportunities for everyone
that labelled-icon has an advantage over text for sign to participate in the society and to include the true
language users as they require less eye fixation both diversity of users including those who are currently
in terms of frequency and number. They conclude marginalised by mainstream design practices.
that icons help in recognising what is represented
quickly, and labelling helps to clarify the meaning of This discourse has strongly affected the web design
previously unfamiliar icons. policies of many government and educational
institutions. Among these is the web discourse by
Despite the fact that there are no completely the Finnish Association of the Deaf that requires
satisfactory interfaces developed to date, in that all their official web sites must meet accessibility
theory, web sites have a huge potential to become criteria. Official guidelines set by the World

Wide Web Consortium (W3C) provide a list of used sparingly on web sites and most of the content
instructions that web sites need to meet in order to is visual, Deaf or hard of hearing users rarely face
be usable and accessible to people with a wide range physical barriers in accessing functions or content
of disabilities. The Web Accessibility Initiative on a web site. Though W3C does not yet provide
(WAI) has recently launched an improved version of official guidelines for Deaf people, The Royal
the standards WCAG 2.0 that calls for the following National Institute for Deaf People emphases the
four web site qualities: Firstly, web sites should importance of plain language, short paragraphs,
be perceivable, that is, to provide text alternatives balanced colours, alt tags in images, clear links, large
for images, captions for audio, adaptability of font, captions or text for multimedia content, and
presentation, and colour contrast. Secondly, they diagrams or photos to visualise content (RNID, n.d.).
should be operable by providing keyboard access,
strong colour contrast, timing of input, and The limitation of these guidelines for Deaf people
navigability, and also they should avoid seisure. has been noticed i.e. by Namatame and Kitajima
Thirdly, web sites should be understandable, that is, (2005). Their argument is that these guideline
readable, predictable, and assistive. Fourthly, they do not deal at all with behavioural characteristics
should be compatible with assistive technologies of Deaf people such as the different interaction
such as screen readers. (Caldwell, 2008) methods compared to that of hearing. The problem
with the accessibility standards is that they focus
The most obvious group to encounter accessibility merely on functionality, underestimating the
barriers are the visually impaired who are not able importance of user experience. The standards assure
to access the information if the font size is too that a web site has all the inevitable qualities that
small, there is not enough contrast, or they are allow everyone to perform a function, and access
unable to use screen readers on a site. As sound is information and content on it, but they do not

Figure 6.  Accessibility in this study does not only refer to physical access but takes into consideration also
social and culture-linguistic levels of accessibility that are not part of traditional guidelines such as WAI.

guarantee that the users are able to do it fluently such as cluttered and complex page layouts; and
nor enjoy using them (Fig. 6). Jordan (2000) has confusing and disorienting navigation mechanisms.
even claimed that the joy of use and meaningfulness In the study, the most accessible web sites – in most
of the interface is a more important aspects of user cases – were the ones with appealing look and feel,
experience than the functionality itself. encompassing graphics, and photos. They conclude
that sites can be visually appealing and sophisticated
Lack of the user-centred design approach has also and still being fully accessible. Consequently, they
been also recognised by others. Regan (2004), an argue that accessibility should not be viewed as a
Accessibility Product Manager at Macromedia, constrain but rather as a challenge and a prerequisite
emphasises that web sites should not be designed by for a successful design.
principles or standards but they should be designed
for people. He claims that today accessibility on Meares-Irlen Syndrome (MIS) is one of the issues
the web lacks imagination. This view is shared that is missing in the guidelines. According to Irlen
by Piggott (2002), a regional director of a British (1997 in Evans, 2005), it troubles 12–14% of the
disability charity called MENCAP. She argues in general population, and 46% of those with dyslexia2.
an article called eAccessibility for all for Ability – The syndrome is characterised with symptoms of
ICT Magazine about Disability Issues – that the visual stress and visual perceptual distortions that
guidelines by W3C give a direction for designers, can be alleviated by using individually prescribed
but in reality they are too far from people with coloured filters. (Evans, 2005) This is in contrast
cognitive disabilities to produce people-centred with WAI recommendation that suggest using high
designs (Piggott, 2002). Piggott challenges learning contrast. Several web sites such as Barclays and the
technologists to involve disabled students in the BBC have solved the contradiction by offering the
design of accessible web sites so that they would opportunity to change the background colour and
become more satisfactory for their users. Even if contrast levels to meet individual needs.
the WAI guidelines addresses the importance of
images, the MENCAP (see Fig. 7) is a rare example In short, we have demonstrated that the WAI
in its field, employing a visual approach to increase guidelines are incapable of addressing all needs.
accessibility. It utilises the power of icons, videos, The question then is what is accessibility, how
and colours to visualise information. The approach it should be defined, and can it be narrowed
taken by MENCAP is in contrast, for instance, down into a checklist. Compared to WAI; British
to the Finnish equivalent papunet.net (see Fig. Museum, Library and Archive (MLA) offers a
8) that offers information and material to people much more holistic definition of accessibility in
with difficulties in speech. Though being clean and regards of museum spaces. In addition to physical
simple, it is much plainer in its design. Papunet and sensorial barriers that are addressed by the
does not utilise the power of visual medium. Its WAI standards, it also recognises several other
presentation lacks creativity and style: the site is barriers that may prevent participation: these are
heavily text based; it uses hardly any images, colour, intellectual, attitudinal, cultural, social, financial, or
or imagery; nor does its navigation provide any technological. As this approach acknowledges the
visual cues for the user. Papunet reflects Regan’s multidimensional aspect of accessibility, calling for
(2004) claim that there is a misconception of sensitivity towards varieties of human experience,
accessibility representing restriction on creativity. perception, thought and values, it is used a basis for
this study to understand accessibility. This means
The misconception that accessibility equals that accessibility is not used as a checklist but as a
uninteresting design has been also identified by mental construction to guide the design process; that
Petrie et al. (2004) who argues that web designers is, an attitude towards the act of designing to listen
have misunderstood the term accessibility as if the to people and their various needs.
sites for disabled need to be uninspiring and plain.
Their user evaluation based study encompassed 100
web sites and involved 51 disabled users including 2 Dyslexia is a low reading ability, which cannot be
Deaf, hearing impaired, dyslexic, blind, partially explained by lack of education or emotional stress (American
sighted, and physically disabled. Participants faced Psychiatric Association, 1994). It is a highly individual condition
585 different problems with web sites from which that can undertake several different forms with varying degrees
45% were not presented on any WAI checklist (Al-Wabil et al., 2007).

Figure 7.  British Mencap web site takes a people-centred design approach.

Figure 8.  Papunet web site focuses on meeting WAI accessibility standards.

2.3 CASE STUDIES: a normative the stage he welcomes the visitor to the site, and
comparison of six web sites then presents the content of the site by pointing at
To get an understanding of the contemporary different navigational items while explaining. The
state of web sites targeted for Deaf audiences an camera and lights stay on the signer’s background to
normative comparison was conducted. This chapter give the context to what is being signed. Similarly,
reviews altogether six different web sites which take navigation utilises images and colours to visualise
different approaches to designing for sign language and categorise the content. Main navigation is
users. This section defines three different genres formed of text-based buttons placed on the top of
of Deaf specific web sites: ones designed by small the screen. Sub-navigation is placed on the right.
groups of Deaf people, by Deaf organisations, and It utilises colour-coded links with images attached
by national institutions. These authoring bodies to them. In addition to the home page, there are
have different interests, guidelines, and goals. Thus, six sections on the site: general, ordering videos,
the approach they take towards the designing for archive, contact details, gallery, and feedback.
sign language users varies greatly. Only one of the sections, that is, general, has a
sign language alternative to text. However, this is
2.3.1 By Deaf designers the only page with a long passage of text within
Web sites in this category are targeted to Deaf the whole site. The rest of the articles – except
users and designed by Deaf designers. These sites contact and feedback – utilise images to visualise
usually take an experimental approach to design the content. For example, the video descriptions are
as they are not bound to existing platforms nor accompanied with a screen shot of the film.
regulations such as accessibility guidelines. Instead,
they take experimental approaches to offer sign Case 2:
language content, focusing solely on the needs Deaf Free Camp Europe 4
of Deaf audiences. The site is developed in Belgium by a Deaf
designer. It provides information about an
Characteristics international camp for Deaf people, created purely
• Aesthetics are vivid and colourful. Lots of in International Sign Language.
images and other visual elements are used to
illustrate the content. The site has three main sections (program,
• Signing guide tells the user what one can do on subscribe, and baggage), and four additional
the site by pointing to different parts of the page information pages (guestbook, image gallery,
while signing. There may also be more than one participants, and credits). Navigation of the site
signer in a video. The style of signing is informal, relies on signed words and symbols such as a pen to
storytelling style. Sign videos are big in size and illustrate the guestbook and a camera to illustrate
take up most of the screen estate. the image gallery. There are only two text labels:
• Navigation utilises icons or signed videos in subtitling for video guestbook, and contact details
combination with text links. on the top of the page. There are several signed
videos moving at the same time that make the
Case 1: site restless, but the look and feel is highly visual.
Deaf Video Production An introduction video welcomes the user to the
This site is developed by a group of Finnish Deaf site in which two signers explains the history of
filmmakers to offer information about signed DFCE camps and what one can do on the site.
video production. All signed videos on the site are built around
narratives. For instance, the camp program section
As the Figure 9 illustrates, a background image – instead of giving a schedule of camp activities
showing camera lights and a camera take most – parades a story in which events are explained in
of the screen estate to illustrate theme of the site a chronological order to draw a picture of what
visually for the user. Within the image there are two one can experience on the camp. Throughout the
small paragraphs of text that welcome the visitor video, background images are used to illustrate
to the site and inform about the content of the the activities as they are mentioned; for example,
site. Below the text there is an image link, a signed a photo of a bonfire appears behind the signer
introduction video. The video begins by the signer while she describes an evening to be enjoyed by a
walking in and switching the light on. Once on campfire (see Fig. 10).

Figure 9.  Case 1: Introduction video on the home page of the Finnish Deaf video production web site.

Figure 10.  Case 2: A sign video on the program section of the international Deaf camp Europe web site.

2.3.2 By Deaf organisations On the top, there is a header that has a logo, search
The sites that belong to this category belong bar, and links to members login, contact us, and
to organisations or institutions that represent home page. There are three columns on the page:
Deaf communities. These sites are restricted by on the left, there is a main navigation; in the middle,
organisational policies and rules of their funding there is some welcome text and a RSS feed of six
bodies. Targeted for hearing and Deaf audiences, most recent news items; and on the right, there is a
the goal of these sites is to spread organisational signer that welcomes the user. The signer introduces
information such as news and events. the user to the news items below the fold. In the
relevant sections, the signer is consistently placed
Characteristics in the same position on screen and guides the user
• Aesthetics relies on corporate look and feel. They through the content of those pages. Within the
are text heavy with few images. subsections of the site, six of the twenty items have
• Sign videos are placed inside a box against a a signer explaining the content of that section.
clean and simple background. Usually there Though look and feel remains the same, the
is one signed video on the home page to sign signer in each section is a different one. If the text
the main content of the site. The style of the equivalent of the site is a list of links, the signer
signing is formal. points to those sections to describe them. Three
• Navigation is often placed in a banner or of the remaining items without a signer presents a
presented as a list of text-based links. list to further subsections of the site utilising clipart
images to illustrate the content of those sections.
Case 3: Otherwise, hardly any images are used to illustrate
The Finnish Association of the Deaf the articles; only news items have an image attached
The Finnish Association of the Deaf is the central to them. Rest of the text items benefit from using
Deaf organisation in Finland. The organisation bullet points to brake down the text. It makes the
has an obligation to produce sign language online text easier to scan not only for sign language users
content within the WAI guidelines, that is, the design but also for hearing visitors that want to grasp the
priority is to design inclusive sites. content of these articles quickly.

On the top, there is a header with a main navigation 2.3.3 By hearing to offer sign language content
banner, search box, and a photo displaying two people Sites in this category are national organisations
signing. The content is divided into three columns: such as art galleries, broadcasting companies,
in the middle there is one signed video that signs the and museums – mostly owned and funded by a
main news item; on the right there are abstracts to government. They have the resources to localise
further news; and on the left there is a list of shortcuts their sites for sign language users. These sites
to different sections of the page. Below those, there are bound to governmental guidelines to follow
are further advertisements and shortcuts to events and Design for All principles. On these sites sign
services. The site has seven subsections: services, news, language videos are used as an alternative to
culture, sign language, organisation, communicaton, written content. This is to provide more equally
and contact details. In the subsections, the articles are accessible site for everyone, even if most of the
text heavy. All the pages have a small blue toned image users of these sites are hearing.
showing faces of Deaf people, always placed on the
right below contextual navigation. Though the images Characteristics
illustrate a range of Deaf community members, they • Aesthetics follows corporate look and feel. The
do not communicate the content of the page. Only sites are often text heavy with few images.
articles within the organisation section have signed • Sign videos are not shown by default but can be
alternative to the text. found in subsections of the site that are targeted
for sign language users. The videos function as
Case 4: replacements for text, they are usually small in
British Deaf Association size, and are filmed against a plain background.
The British Deaf Association is the largest Deaf • Navigation on these sites is most often text-
organisation in the UK that presents the British Sign based. The main navigation is placed on a
Language (BSL) community and campaigns for the banner on the top of the page and contextual
legislation of BSL. links are within a left or right hand side column.

Figure 11.  Case 3: Home page of the web site of the Finnish Association of the Deaf.

Figure 12.  Case 4: Home page of the British Deaf Association’s web site.

Case 5: (2000) and Mindess’ (2006) study on Deaf culture,
Tate – British and international modern and this chapter has distinguished four layers of Deaf
contemporary art culture: (1) basic assumptions and values that are
Tate is a British institution of modern art that the core ideas and values held by the community;
consists of four art museums. (2) beliefs, attitudes, and conventions; (3) systems
and institutions; and (4) visible artefacts and
The Tate web site provides information about the customs.
museums themselves, their collections, and research
activites. If the user clicks BSL icon on the home This chapter has also identified that Deaf culture
page, the user is taken to a page that shows a list of has been influenced by digital technology, and
Tate information provided in BSL. However, the especially so by communication devices. It has
site lacks consistency: it also provides glossary terms reviewed how they have enhanced the lives of
in BSL that are not listed on this page. There is Deaf people, and how Deaf have developed these
no way to know this: in order to benefit from the tools to fit into their life experience. These tools,
feature, the visitor has to know the right navigational with their signed narratives and sign guides, are
path to find it or to discover it by accident. On the in contrast with the ways hearing are used to
glossary terms page one can switch between BSL find information on the web. This chapter has
and text definition mode by clicking an icon next also illustrated how the unduly narrow focus on
to the alphabetical list of terms. Only 21 of the 300 accessibility has undermined the user experience
items are signed and if one clicks any other alphabet on most of these sites.
to explore further definitions, the signed content is
lost. To get back to the signed content one has to go Finally, this chapter has given six case studies that
to the glossary main page and scroll down to find a reveal different approaches towards designing
link to the list of signed items. web sites for sign language users. These examples
have illustrated differences between sign language
Case 6: sites designed by hearing and Deaf designers:
YLE – Sign Language news by the Finnish the more freedom and the more Deaf designers
Broadcasting Company involved in the project; then, the less text there is
YLE is a Finnish Broadcasting Company that and more visual devices are used to illustrate the
provides news in sign language. content. Furthermore, the sites designed by Deaf
designers use sign language more dominantly and
The link to sign language items is on news section creatively than sites designed by hearing: sign
placed on the left hand side column. The link is videos are not used purely as alternatives to text,
placed in the same box with links to other news but as pieces of art that utilise the power of stories
categories targeted to minorities such as those in and images within the signed video to engage the
Swedish and Sámi language. The main page of sign user with what is being communicated.
language news section is divided into two parts: (1)
content area with articles and (2) a column with
links to most recent TV news in sign language. All
the articles are combined with an image and some
of them have a signed alternative. On the bottom of
the page there is a tab which one can use to switch
between text and video mode to search items related
to sign language.

2.4 Summary
The cultural inquiry in this study has explored
the mindset in which sign language users
operate. This includes sign language, shared
collective consciousness, and issues related to
different sensory orders. In this study these are
all encompassed under the same term culture.
Building on the cultural model by Spencer-Oatey

Figure 13.  Case 5: The sign language videos on the TATE art gallery web site are found
when one enters glossary terms section.

Figure 14.  Case 6: On the web site of the Finnish Broadcasting Company, there is no sign
language shown by default but it provides links to sign language videos such as TV news.

Chapter 3

This chapter first examines instrumental, emotional, interaction process does not exist in a vacuum: it
and cultural value of an interface. Then it studies is influenced by previous experiences. It is a result
cross-cultural interface design, identifies three of a continual engagement with one’s culture, self,
different layers of an interface, and reviews how they and others that creates collective meanings to these
can be mapped into cultural features. interactions. These meanings provide a description
of the values that people bring with them when
3.1 Values an interface bringS forth they act with technology such as web sites.
to its users (Djajadiningrat, et al., 2002; McCarthy & Wrigth,
This section studies different aspects of user 2004; Jordan, 2000; Margolin, 1997)
experience. It builds up a notion that the traditional
terms connected to user experience, as with In the following, the concept of user experience is
accessibility, are unduly narrow. This leads looking divided into three different layers of values in order
beyond accessibility, functionality, and usability of to review a holistic understanding of the concept.
an interface and considering how user experience It moves from the traditional focus of usability
is affected by the values that users bring with them research to current notion of usability that includes
while interacting with a system. emotional (i.e. Jordan, 2000) and cultural (i.e.
Krippendorf, 2006) aspects of an interface. This
The term user experience refers to the quality means considering how the user experience is born
of experience gained from interacting with a out of different values that users bring with them
system. Traditionally it has been used to stress while interacting with the system. These values are
functionality and usability, that is, biological instrumental, behavioural, and reflective.
and physiological factors of design. Originally
user-centred design originates from industrial 3.1.1 Instrumental value
needs to transform professional technologies Instrumental value consists of functional benefits and
for non-experts. It applied theories of cognitive ergonomic usability that an interface brings forth
science and psychology to shape interfaces. to its users. Usability is a term used to emphasise
(Keinonen, 2008) The research on the area has the importance of effectiveness, intuitiveness,
focused almost exclusively on instrumental aspects and ease-of-use (Nielsen,1993; Norman, 2004)
of interaction, although the term aims at describing as well as to minimise the cognitive and physical
the experience of human-technology interaction demands placed on users (Jordan, 2000). The most
holistically (Djajadiningrat, et al., 2002). referred definitions of usability are given by Nielsen
(1993) and international Ergonomic requirement
However, user experience is not only an standard (ISO). Nielsen (1993) defines usability
instrumental quality of a system but it is the in terms of learnability, efficiency, memorability,
holistic feeling that one gains as a result of this errors, and satisfaction. ISO 9241-11 (International
interaction. The way one makes sense of this Organization for Standardization, 1998) sets a more

technical core definition as a set of measurements: Similarly Jordan (2000) calls for understanding
“The extent to which a product can be used by users holistically in which the quality of a design
specified users to achieve specified goals with should be valued on the basis of wider relationship
effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction in a specified between a product and the people it is designed
context of use.” All of these are measured on for. Jordan (1999) defined pleasurability as
subjective or objective rating scales that emphasise the emotional, hedonic, and practical benefits
issues such as the users ability to handle errors, associated with products. Practical benefits,
learn easily, frequency of the product use, and according to Jordan, are the outcomes that
physiological responses of the user. result from using the product. Hedonic benefits
are those relating to the sensory and aesthetic
Though, usability can be seen as a key component pleasure associated with the products. Emotional
of pleasurability, usable products are not necessarily benefits are those that correlate with a user’s
enjoyable to use. Even though usability is concerned mood, such as enhancing user’s satisfaction,
with satisfaction, it is traditionally used to refer excitement, or happiness.
to avoidance of physical and cognitive discomfort
forgetting psychological and emotional context This insight is at the core of the emerging turn
of use (Jordan, 2000). Jordan (2000) even argues towards user experience. Motivations to use
that usability approaches are dehumanising: they interfaces are not only rational or goal driven but
promote a view of a user as a cognitive and physical also ones that bring sheer pleasure: people play
component that uses products only as tools to games, buy fancy clothes, and decorate their homes
complete tasks. He calls for understanding users without direct functional benefits (Krippendorf,
holistically in which the quality of a design should 2006). Krippendorf (2006) argues that these intrinsic
be valued on the basis of wider relationship between motivations enhance usability immensely as they
a product and the people it is designed for. This bring life to technology. Davis et al. (1992) proved in
means that physically accessible and functional their study on extrinsic and intrinsic motivations that
design is not enough: the users are not going to use the more useful and the more enjoyable programs
the product if it does not reflect their personal and are the more easily they are accepted by their
social values (Buchanan, 1996; Sanders, 2004). potential users. Similarly Norman (2003) claims
that emotions may be the most critical element in
3.1.2 Emotional value ensuring product success.
Recently, the attention of usability studies has
changed towards a wider range of interests aiming 3.1.3 Cultural value
at matching new interactive technologies with The newest turn on user experience studies is the
human-to-human communications, organisational realisation of the importance of culture. This means
requirements, and social and emotional perspectives. that design should connect not only emotionally
A number of researchers have contended that the but also culturally with users; consequently, they all
overall user experience is affected by emotions. This can use the same systems each in their own way as
importance of emotion and non-instrumental needs naturally and effortlessly as possible (Krippendorf,
without clear and precise goals has been referred 2006). Numerous studies have shown that people
to by a number of terms including pleasure-based from various cultures experience, understand, and
approach (Jordan, 2000), joy-of-use (Nielsen, 2002), perceive things differently (i.e. Hall 1976, 1983;
empathic design (Battarbee, Koskinen &Mattelmäki, Hofstede, 1991, 2001; Nisbett, 2003; Trompenaars,
2003), and emotional design (Norman, 2004). 1997). Therefore, it is through better understanding
of the users’ sensorial perception and cultural
Already in the early nineties Brenda Laurel (1993) values that design is capable to meet users’ real
argued that engagement in computer mediated needs and make their experiences more meaningful.
activity is as much about emotional and aesthetic Krippendorf (2006) calls this as a semantic turn in
relations as it is about rational and intellectual ones. design in which diverse cultural meanings generate
Years later several authors such as Dant (1999), a need for new design practices that connect culture,
Blythe and Hassenzahl (2003), and Norman (2003) cognition, and design. He acknowledges that the
have argued: in order to become enticed, acquired or sole purpose of interfaces are to be meaningful,
desired, a product needs to offer different kinds of remain useful, and enable members of the
benefits associated with the product use. community to feel at home with them. Thus, the

value of an interface to its users does not only lie in specific styles are embedded in the values held by
its functional benefits but in the meanings and values the members of that culture and their patterned
that it brings forth to its users (Rafaeli & Pratt, ways of thinking, interacting, and responding.
2006; Krippendorf, 2006; Sengers, 2003).
These differences in communication styles pose
To become successful, an interface needs to embed challenges to the ways in which web sites should
the ways members of a society make sense of the communicate their messages. The research on
world: people are not going to use the system cultural differences has slowly also begun to
if it undercuts their cultural values and needs shed light on cross-cultural web design. Web
(Buchanan, 1996; Beyer and Holtzblatt, 1998; sites communicate on multiple levels: how the
Sanders, 2004; Krippendorf, 2006). Barber and information is categorised, how the sentences are
Barber (1998) conducted a term culturability to constructed, what types of images and colours
link culture and usability as well as to emphasise are used, and through which mediums messages
the importance of one’s cultural background on are being delivered (text, images, video, audio,
user experience. They argue that it is important animation). All of these elements send a distinctive
that usability is redefined in terms of a cultural message to the visitor.
context: what is user friendly for one culture can be
vastly different for another. Moalasi (2007) takes Most commonly cross-cultural web design studies
a similar approach claiming that no matter how (e.q. Barber & Barber, 1998; Marcus & Guild,
innovative and beautiful a product is, if it fails to 2000; Callahan, 2005) have examined visual
gain user’s acceptance, it will be a wasted design elements on web sites through Edward T. Hall’s
effort. This means that where identity matters culture specific communication styles1 (1976, 1983)
conformity follows – one size does not fit all. or Hofstede’s (1991, 2001) cultural dimensions2.
People use objects that serve and strengthen their One of these studies is by Elisabeth Würtz (2005)
identity, the ones they like to be associated with. who analyses graphical design features on high
Moalasi (2007) suggests that if culture is integrated and low context web sites. She proposes that high
into design features it will become meaningful context cultures are likely to use more imagery,
for its users and facilitate product acceptance. He less text, and develop strategies for mimicking
argues that this can be accomplished by employing human presence and communal values more than
metaphor, allusion, and historical and cultural low contest cultures. Her finding suggests that web
references that form a product language – the site designers seeking to make sites accessible to
shape and form of the interface. specific cultural groups will likely profit from

3.2 Layers of culture oriented

interface design 1 Hall (1976, 1983) claims that meaning and context
Numerous studies have suggested that differences are tied together and in order to understand communication one
in language, thinking, and communication style should address them concurrently with the words themselves.
affect web use, satisfaction, and usability. These According to Hall, in some cultures, like in most Asian cultures, the
differences influence the way one recognises, message relies heavily on non-verbal and para-verbal communi-
interacts, and values web sites. Multiple studies cation in which the time, situation of the communication, and
in behavioural and cognitive psychology have relationship between the interlocutors is important. Whereas
uncovered significant differences in the way in many Western countries, including Scandinavia and the US,
people behave, think, assign value, and engage communication is low-context, that is, direct, explicit, issue ori-
others in different cultures (i.e. Evers & Day, ented, and less personal.
1997; Evers, 1998; Faiola, 2002; Faiola & Matei,
2005; Jhangiani & Smith-Jackson, 2007). The key 2 Hoftede (1991, 2001) proposes an alternative to
notion here is that the collection of experiences the Hall’s high-context (HC) and low-context (LC) dimension.
constructed over history becomes part of one’s He observed that HC cultures tend to be collectivistic while LC
identity and affects how one learns and creates cultures tend to be individualistic. In individualist societies ties
meanings. This is why our cultural environment between individuals are loose and individual decision-making is
determines what we are able to see, how we encouraged. On the contrary, in collective societies in-group ties
construct meanings of what we have seen, and also are strong, following societal norms is valued, and group decision-
how we process this information. These culture making is encouraged.

using specific parameters addressed in high and low interface. In the following these different layers
context cultures as a starting point for developing of meaning – that users give to an interface from
culturally-aware web sites. initial recognition to evaluation – are discussed
more in detail.
However, research based on these models has
been criticised for simplifying the complexity of 3.2.1 Visceral design
real-world interaction processes and cultures (e.q. Designing for immediacy is what Norman (2004)
Ess & Sudweeks, 2005; Barnett & Sung, 2005; calls visceral design and Krippendorf (2006) as
Hewling, 2005). Most strongly so by Faiola and recognition by sense. This dimension refers to the
Matei (2003), who argue that these models neglect immediate, unconscious, and intuitive sensation
the cognitive style of users, focusing solely on evoked by colours, movement, proximity, or
surface design elements such as aesthetics. They similarity before significant interaction occurs
develop a cultural cognitive theory that stresses (Norman, 2004). In other words, the visceral design
the importance of culture specific cognitive styles features form the first impression. In the context of
and their impact on speed and easiness of finding web sites this means that users will usually first scan
information. Despite the fact that their study aims the page for visually interesting content; only after
to take a step further in cross-cultural web design something grabs their attention, will they actually
research, it fails to recognise culture specific start to read. In other words, these affordances
meanings and emotions – the betweenness of (actionable properties) are the perceived experience
users and technology in which interfaces evolve and understanding evoked by the surface design
and become meaningful to its users. This view is elements. These elements include the way items
supported by Lee (2004) who argues that designers or functions are grouped; links, buttons and menu
tend to overlook the inner core layers of culture, items are labelled; colours and images are used; and
being based mainly on the outer layers. the page is laid-out.

There have been few studies exploring the linkage Both Norman (2004) and Krippendorf (2006) agree
between culture and emotional operators (Tsai et that this level of user experience is subjective and
al., 2008), or memory strategies of users (Norman, culturally conditioned. According to Krippendorf
2004; Scherer, 1997). One of these is Lin’s (2007) (2006), cultures differ in the respect of what is
framework for designing cultural objects. Lin perceived foreign and what is not. He argues that
distinguishes three levels of culture that can be this first level of recognition reflects one’s personal
incorporated into cultural design: (1) the inner history of perceived similarities and differences.
level, containing special content such as stories, Thus, it is not only one’s physical abilities but also
emotions, and cultural features; (2) the mid level, language, communication style, and mode of thought
dealing with function, operational concerns, that affect how one perceives an interface. Similarly,
usability, and safety; and (3) the outer level, dealing Norman (2004) argues that something which appears
with colour, texture, form, decoration, surface as an affordance to a member of one culture might
pattern, line quality, and detail. This division of pass unnoticed to a member of another.
culture into outer and inner layers is similar to
several other cultural models such as Spencer- A number of studies have explored differences in the
Oatey’s onion models (discussed on p. 6). Lin way different cultures perceive their environment.
(2007) maps these three levels of cultural objects For instance Classen (1993) demonstrates the
into three levels of design features. The model is inadequacy of Western perceptual models for
based on Norman’s (2004) three levels of meanings understanding non-Western cultures; for instance,
of artefacts in use; that is, visceral, behavioural, in the case of fire: the Tzotzil emphasise its heat;
and reflective levels of cognition and emotional the Ongee its smoke; and the Desana its colours.
processing. This model resembles several other Several other researchers have focused on studying
representations of artefacts with entities of the differences in perception between low and high
three such as the one proposed by Krippendorf context cultures. According to Mindess (2006), Deaf
(2006). In his model the phases of interaction are culture belongs to high context cultures which are
recognition, exploration, and reflection phase. characterised with a holistic mode of thought that
Together, all of these levels of user experience is linked with oral communication style. Members
determine the user’s overall appraisal of an of these cultures have a tendency to perceive

by dispositions, needs, expectations and use of
language that do rely on universal laws. In practise
this means that interface aesthetics must fit the
taste and lifestyle of the target audience in order
to be engaging and enjoyable to use. Beauty then
is not a property of an interface, but a property
of perception that is heavily influenced by one’s
culture (Krippendorf, 2006). This means that in
order to design a web site that is appreciated by Deaf
audience, their social context needs to be understood.

What is more, a number of studies (Tractinsky,

1997; Lavie & Travinsky, 2004; Lindgaard &
Dudek, 2003; Norman, 2004; Hartmann et al.,
2008) have suggested that the immediate sensorial
impact is linked with the overall perception of
an artefact. This means that positively perceived
aesthetics override users’ poor usability experience
– often referred to as an assimilation or halo effect.
This is extremely important in regards of the Deaf
community: as previously discussed, it is a strongly
visually oriented culture in which anything that is
visual is open for comment (Ladd, 2003). However,
Figure 15.  Three layers of culture mapped into if an interface looks pleasing at first sight but
three layers of design features moving from outer, frustrates during the interaction, the appeal does
visible, and tangible levels towards inner, invisible, not pay off (Overbeeke et al., 2003). As observed
and intangible (adapted from Lin, 2007). by Lee (2004), cross-cultural design research is
still limited to visceral design such as identifying
scenes globally; that is, the context and the field as aesthetic stereotypes of a culture. More design
belonging together (Nisbett et al., 2001; Nisbett & effort should be placed on the behaviour and
Norensayan, 2002). Western cultures, on the other exploration phase of interface use. This phase is
hand, as a result of written tradition (McLuhan, discussed in the following section.
1962), have a tendency to perceive objects
separately from the scene and assign them into 3.2.2 Behavioural design
categories and separate them from the field (Nisbett The behavioural level processes the sensorial
& Norenzayan, 2002). The study by Dong and Lee information from the visceral level. It determines
(2008) proposes that holistically-minded people – a the usability and usefulness of an interface. This
category in which Deaf also fallen into (Mindess, level is exploration “by cognition and action”,
2006) – tend to scan a web page as a whole. They as defined by Krippendorf (2006, p.105). The
suggest that in order to cater to people from holistic behavioural level determines how the sensed data
cultures: (1) the context of the web site should be – such as relationships between interface elements –
shown clearly to provide an overall picture of the are interpreted and defines the implicit assumptions
page; and (2) attention should be placed on the about the interface. This understanding moves
harmony between foreground, background, and users through tasks and determines what is being
content. explored. Of the three levels, as Norman states
(2003), this is the most commonly researched
Another well research area of visceral design is aspect of design: performance, effectiveness, user-
aesthetics. Several studies have pointed out that friendliness, and controllability are the focus of
the aesthetic perceptions and conception of beauty traditional usability research.
are culturally dependent (Kurosu & Kashimura,
1995; Travinsky, 1997; Prabhu & Harel, 1999; There are only few studies on Deaf people’s search
Cho et al., 1999). This means that the conception strategies and usability. As discussed in the previous
of beauty is shared within a culture: it is informed section, Fajardo et al. (2008) identifies three

cognitive factors that affect Deaf people’s efficiency
when searching the Internet for information:
reading skills, verbal categorisation abilities, and
visuospatial span. In Japan, Natamame et al. (2006)
research showed that the types of links hearing
and hard of hearing participants selected were
significantly different in terms of the amount of
semantic information contained in the links as
illustrated in Figure 16. Their findings suggest
that Deaf users apply a visual-matching approach
rather than semantic strategy to navigate on the
Internet. To meet this visual need, their study
recommends two things: (1) visual support to help
to grasp information structures easily; and (2) use
of easily comprehensible representations instead
of complex labels. One of the rare examples to
support this notion is an online learning portal
targeted toward Deaf users called CinemaSense: Figure 16.  Differences between the types of
it visualises the relations between terms regarding links that the hearing and the hard of hearing
film production to facilitate learning and participants selected that were identified in the study
understanding (Honkela et al., 2000; Raike, 2005). by Namatame et al. (2006).
Inline with these findings, studies have shown that
in general representation of verbal and non-verbal to use somewhat different problems solving skills
materials simultaneously result in faster learning compared to hearing (Rainò, 1997; Marschark &
and improved recollection (Presno, 1997). Everhart, 1997). As sign language is a visual-spatial
language, it can also be assumed that the differences
The differences in understanding information in encoding and recalling environment are not only
differently is not solely due to the differences in medical but culture-linguistically based (Gentry et
sensory order but also due to one’s culture: it has al., 2004, 2005). This view is supported by recent
been proven that different cultures categorise studies which suggest that sensory compensation
items (Lucy, 1992)3 and search information in among the Deaf people does not lead to enhanced
fundamentally different ways (Choong & Salvendy, visuospatial skills; though, an early acquisition of
1999)4. Though, the representation of categories sign language leads to above average performance
within the semantic memories of Deaf people is on face recognition, block design, movement
still unclear, Marschark and Everhart’s (1997) study detection, and spatial memory (Mayberry, 2002;
suggests that category labels may be less important Marschark & Hauser, 2008).
for Deaf people than for hearing. Several authors
have also argued that the perception of user-friend- 3.2.3 Reflective design
liness varies across cultures (i.e. Krippendorf, 2006; Reflection considers the rationalisation and intel-
Dong & Lee, 2008). This can be presumed true for lectualisation of an interface including the feelings,
Deaf people as well, as they have shown emotions, and cognition involved in experiencing
a web site. This level of design is concerned with
the message and meaning of a product as well as
3 Lucy’s study (1992) showed that Yucatec Maya and its use. According to Lin (2007), this is the aspect
English speakers process in formation of concrete objects that varies the most between individuals as it is
differently: Yucatec preferred material-based classification, a result of several factors such as one’s culture,
whereas English preferred shape-based classification. experience, education, and personality. Yet, it is the
least considered level of design and hardly touched
4 Choong and Salvendy (1999) showed that different upon by research. This level deals with cognitive
cultures often focus on different attributes of the same items of processing and is accessible only via memory.
object. For an example, Americans tend to focus on functional (Krippendorf, 2006) Interpretations of aesthetics
attributes, whereas Chinese focus on thematic attributes, that is, are not only based on material, form, and function;
according to where they are used – not what they are used for. they are also dependent upon the people’s interests,

lifestyles, and culture in which they exist. Beyond
the initial impact, a product can evoke positive
memories, emotion, and images (Hummels & Van
der Helm, 2004). Following this line of thought,
Blythe and Hassenzhal (2003) argue that engaging
activities and objects are relevant and personally
meaningful. Similarly, MacDonald (2002) suggests
that the meanings and values that we give to
perceived information is influenced by the way
our brains and senses are evolved biologically in a
particular cultural context. This means that people
will respond to an interface positively if it employes
references to cultural meanings that open deeper
content, evoking interest and inspiring the user
to apply this new knowledge to aspects of his or
her own life. A perceived interface only becomes
interesting and important when the observer is able
to understand it and relate to it.

3.3 Summary
The literature reviewed has demonstrated that
interfaces become valuable to its users through
different layers – instrumental, emotional,
and cultural. To meet these layers, interaction
design can be divided into three layers: visceral,
behavioural, and reflective from which the
reflective design is the least researched aspect.
Through these layers, interfaces become
meaningful to their users. To sum up: in addition
to functionality and usability, emotional and
cultural factors affect the overall user experience.

In short, in order to enhance web user experience,

it is important to identify the features that are likely
to facilitate product acceptance such as identity,
meaning, traditional aesthetics, and bonding, as well
as to understand how to design interfaces that are
compatible with users’ cognitive patterns. Designing
for user experience then, is to pay attention to users
and their relationship with the system. This includes
respecting the users; commitment to the user needs
and desires; and a holistic understanding of the
interaction that is influenced by one’s culture.

Chapter 4

Design research
Chapter Four first examines the purpose and that Deaf people make. In order to pinpoint these
challenges of this research and development intangible aspects of an interface, this research is
(R&D) project. It then discusses the participatory qualitative in nature.
design methods and participants involved in
the development process. Finally, it reviews the The main driving force of this applied research was
structure and schedule of the design process. It also to tackle the problem of Deaf users being unsatisfied
looks at the validity of the research and set measures with sites that are designed for them. Even web sites
for the project’s success. that meet the accessibility criteria – and sometimes
them especially – do not seem to attract Deaf users.
4.1 Design purpose and challenges When interviewed during the preliminary research,
This R&D project gathers ideas for improvements a group of Deaf people stated that they are unable
in a normative case study in which the end to engage with most web sites for three reasons:
deliverable is a pilot web site for KnacK project. firstly, because they were not in their own language,
This study aims to understand the ways in which secondly, because accessible sites look boring and
interfaces could become meaningful for Deaf users ugly, and thirdly, because they did not feel at home
by considering the implications of Deaf culture when using them. Similar results have been found for
and sign language as a first language on web user example in Britain (Skelton and Maruyama, 2006).
experience. The design process includes three main
phases: (1) contextual study; (2) identification of This study aims to understand the ways interfaces
Deaf culture specific features; and (3) integration of could become meaningful for Deaf users. This
the identified features so that Deaf people will be means that the interfaces should carry affordances,
comfortable using them. Finally, it aims to provide which reflect the visions of the Deaf community
design recommendations for future developments, and its social reality. If we can identify these
considering the effect of Deaf culture on web user affordances that bring pleasure to sign language
experience. It takes ideas from participatory design users, we could change the way interfaces are
research, and collates them into design recommen- designed for them and by them. Thereby, the
dations by using Jordan’s Four-Pleasure framework challenge of this study is to identify how web sites
that can be applied to future designs. can be designed to meet the real needs of Deaf
users – a successful culture-oriented product design
Due to the importance of tacit knowledge in this is greatly affected by the enjoyment it affords (i.e.
context, the purpose of this design research is not Moalasi, 2007). Essentially, this means translating
to search for quantitative or an objective research the Deaf way of doing, seeing, and representing
‘truth’ in its traditional terms, but rather to look into interface design features; that is, features
for inspiration and actionable insights on culturally which enable Deaf users to feel engaged and
rooted conventions that influence user experience comfortable. In this study we adopt Jordan’s (2000)
including functional and aesthetic design choices Four-Pleasures framework to categorise these

pleasures as the structure provides a way to look
beyond product functionality and usability. Jordan
(2000) stresses – whilst not disagreeing with the
advantages of usability design – that usability and
functionality focused design approaches tend to
take a limited stance on people. They only focus on
physical and cognitive user needs, not taking into
consideration emotional, social, and cultural ones.
Jordan (2000) claims that well-designed products
are those that understand people’s needs and bring
joy to their lives.

The pleasurability framework provides a way to

categorise people’s needs and to gain insights into
what different kinds of pleasures a web interface
could provide for Deaf users. Not only does it so
from a physiological perspective but also from a
social, psychological, and ideological perspective
as illustrated in Figure 17. The framework has
been used in several interface studies (i.e. Harrison,
2004; Jhangiani & Smith-Jackson, 2007) to identify
needs of user groups which differ somewhat
from mainstream users, as well as referred to in
cultural studies to identify culture specific needs in
designing pleasurable products (i.e. Moalasi, 2007).
The framework consists of the following categories:

Physiological pleasures. These are derived from

sensory organs such as smell, touch, and vision
as well as physical fit with the user. Thereby,
psychological pleasures stem from complete
physical access to a product. This is the aspect
of traditional accessibility research which
identifies that Deaf people, for instance, face
disadvantages with auditory content compared to
the mainstream population.

Social pleasures. These are derived from relationships

with others, that is, from the role of the product Figure 17.  Interface features mapped into Jordan’s
in interpersonal relationships. These pleasures can (2000) Four-Pleasures framework.
be also derived from the status which the product
confers. This includes the culture which user Psychological pleasures. These are derived from
belongs to and the values and customs associated cognitive and emotional reactions. This deals with
with it. As identified in the cultural inquiry section, things like how easy the product is to use, and
a sense of normalcy is important for Deaf people the emotions it triggers during its use. It includes
as they do not want to be categorised as disabled. characteristics of intelligence, skill, and creativity.
Due to the history of oppression, the feeling of It includes the perceived ease-of-use and the ability
togetherness is important to Deaf community and to learn, memorise, and tolerate errors. This is the
artefacts that enable the community members to area of traditional usability research. As discussed in
interact socially with each other are important. This Chapter Three, there are cross-cultural differences
category also includes the aesthetics of the product in what is considered user friendly and what is
that can send either a negative or positive message not. The way people understand, memorise, and
of the targeted culture. categorise information varies depending on people’s

cultural context. If an interface fits psychologically construct the emerging design. These methods
with the user, it will provide enjoyment; on the follow a cultural framework that distinguishes two
contrary, if it does not, it will cause frustration. design phases: identification and integration of
socio-cultural features.
Ideological pleasures. These are derived from people’s
values and personal aspirations. This category is As Buchanan suggests (2001, p. 9), “Design is
about whether or not the product is consistent the human power of conceiving, planning, and
with its users’ identity, values, and ideology. The making products that serve human beings in the
cultural onion model (Fig. 1, p. 6) illustrated that accomplishment of any individual or collective
there are value structures distinctive to Deaf culture. purpose”. Participatory design research helps
This category also includes the look and feel of in understanding this ‘native’ point-of-view. It
an interface: the interface brings pleasures if its utilises an ethnographic approach that seeks to
reinforces one’s self-identity. develop an understanding of what the phenomena
is about – instead of asking why something is as
Based on Jordan’s framework this design research it is (Anttila, 2005). While the ethnographer is
focuses on identifying the following interface interested in understanding human behaviour as
features that could enhance its possibility to become it is reflected in the life of diverse communities
appreciated by Deaf users: of people, the designer is interested in designing
artefacts that will support the activities of these
Physio-pleasures communities. Nevertheless, the ethnographic
• Ergonomics: What features allow sign language method provides a unique perspective: it allows to
users to work effectively on a web site? bear on understanding the way sign language users
• Accessibility: What features are required to appreciate web sites. As the web site is to become
make an interface accessible to Deaf users? part of Deaf community, it must follow the patterns
of Deaf users in order to become successful,
Socio-pleasures accepted, and used by the community.
• Social interaction: What features make social
interaction more satisfactory to Deaf users? Ethnography has the potential of providing a
• Information access: What features are needed context wherein mutual understanding between
to give sign language users full access to users and designers can evolve. Deaf people are
information, that is, being able to be heard often sceptical about hearing people designing
and informed? for them as they feel that hearing cannot know
Psycho-pleasures how it feels to be a Deaf person – a hearing
• Usability: What features make a site easy to use cannot know what suits them best (Ladd, 2003).
for Deaf users? In Deaf culture, as in any oppressed culture
• Aesthetics: What aesthetic qualities enhance the striving to maintain its values, many everyday
appreciation of an interface by Deaf users? acts and beliefs become fundamentally political
or oppositional. Consequently, even if a product
Ideo-pleasures is perfect from the outset, it will not be so within
• Self-identity properties: What interface features the community without a Deaf person involved
reinforce the feeling of being part of the Deaf in the development process. If we are able to
community? recognise this, according to Ladd (2003), it
• Look and feel: How web sites should look and enables us to go beneath surface readings of a
feel to deliver values, tastes, and aspirations of culture. Due to this, it is important to empower,
Deaf communities? engage, and involve the community in the design
process from start to finish (Von Hippel, 2005):
4.2 Participatory design methods and that is, one must regard Deaf users as innovators,
cultural frameworK and not as targets objects for user research.
This study follows the participatory design
ideology that puts stakeholders at the centre of This leads the adaptation of design strategies,
design process and appraises their concerns, values, methods, and strategies that both engage the
and perceptions. In the course of this research, community, and in which openness is the key.
participatory methods are used iteratively to Thereby, this study follows the human-centred

design ideology that puts stakeholders at the centre through documenting the design activities by
of design process and appraises their concerns, recording and photographing as well as writing
values, and perceptions (Rouse, 2007; Norman notes during the sessions that can be analysed at the
1988; Buchanan, 2001). According to Rouse (2007), later date (i.e. Leinonen et al., 2008).
there are three primary objectives of human-centred
design. These are (1) to identify, understand, and The design methods are used iteratively to construct
cultivate human abilities so that they could be the emerging design, which itself simultaneously
enhanced; (2) to identify human limitation so that constitutes and elicits the research results as
they could be overcome; and (3) to dictate user co-interpreted by the designer and participants.
preferences and concerns to foster user acceptance. Participatory design is a type of research in which
Similarly, following the tradition of human-centred the course of designing forms the actual research.
design practice, Moalasi (2007) identified two Utilising several methods ensures that participants’
components of the design process that allows the interpretations are taken into account in the research
finished product to become cherished by its users: throughout the design project. The goal is not
(1) the designer needs to understand the diverse set just to empirically understand the activity, but to
of stakeholders and their needs by giving a voice to simultaneously envision, shape, and transcend it
them, and (2) he needs to be skilled in translating in ways participants find buoyant. The power of
that information into design features. participatory design research lies in its ability to
bridge participants’ tacit knowledge and researchers’
It is important to note here the distinction between more abstract, analytical knowledge (Anttila, 2005).
what people do and what they say. People are
often unable to express our day-to-day activities Yet, despite the huge interest in human-centred and
through language as they are so embedded into our emotional design, hardly any design methods have
lives (Blomberg et al., 1993; Krippendorf, 2006). been developed to tackle culture-specific charac-
For this study it means that even members of the teristics. There is a lack of in-depth research and
Deaf community are not fully aware of web design appropriate methods when it comes to assisting
practices and conventions that they themselves designers with how culture should be integrated in
have developed, nor are they able to express them product design (Moalasi, 2007). Even recent design
completely through language. This requires one books (i.e. Cooper et al., 2007; Garrett, 2004) neglect
to gain an understanding of Deaf people’s tacit the social and cultural contexts primarily focusing
knowledge1 regarding web design, that is, their shared on psychological and biological factors of users
conventions and practices of how to design web sites. such as interests, experience, learning pace, reading
skills, age, and education. Thus, the design process
According to Anttila (2005), tacit knowledge can be of this study is influenced by a culture-oriented
divided into two dimensions: Firstly, the technical framework developed by Moalasi (2007). In his
dimension with shared expertise and know-how doctoral theses in which he studies the relationship
that makes group knowledge identifiable and between culture and human-centred design, Moalasi
accessible for a specific communities of practice. (2007) argues that so far designers are not been able
Secondly, the cognitive dimension with mental to encode culture into the design to the same extend
models and paradigms that permit tacit knowledge as cognitive and physical human factors. He specifies
to be applied unreflectively. Participatory design two distinctive phases of the culture specific design
methods help in allowing to capture this tacit process: (1) identification to specify, analyse and
knowledge. Not only does it make the outcome integrate socio-cultural factors and (2) integration to
of the design accessible to all stakeholders, but transform these factors into design features.
– through designing with the members of the
community – enables one to understand the issues Due to the constraints of this thesis, this design
concerning the design process. This can achieved study does not go in depth in the visual and textual
content analysis that Moalasi develops. However, it
adopts the conscious identification and integration
1 Tacit knowledge is gained in the course of socialisation. It of culture in the participatory design process by
is deeply rooted in one’s ideals, values, and emotions and embedded following these two major phases of this framework.
in practices that are gained through one’s own experiences, senso- According to the framework different data collection
rial perception, and engagement in action. (Anttila, 2005) methods can be used to gather information on users;

such methods include conducting interviews, focus This learning style affects the ways in which
groups, user observation, and ethnographic methods. they prefer to have information displayed.
Integration then is the designer’s domain in which Consequently, during the design process it
he/she needs to interact with the users to draw is important to distinguish between personal
from their experiences in order to translate culture opinions, and cultural influences in order to
specific features into the design. This triangulation provide culture specific recommendations.
of theories and methods allows us to gather several
point of views for the project and to recognise Dyslexic participants included in this study belong
reoccurring Deaf culture specific design patterns. to the stakeholder group of the KnacK project,
diagnosed with dyslexia before or after they
4.3 PARTICIPANTS commenced school. Dyslexic Deaf people are one
Participants were selected through purposive of the minority groups within Deaf community.
sampling. All participants were chosen based on They are included in this study for three reasons:
the following objectives: they are stakeholders of firstly, due to the thematic needs that arise from
the KnacK Project; have an interest in the design the KnacK project; secondly, due to the fact that
or its consequences; and are willing to support and among the Deaf approximately 8% are diagnosed
constructively criticise the development. Those with learning disorders (Saar et al., 2004)3; and
candidates best fitting these criteria were selected. thirdly, because they are a special needs group
Altogether 16 sign language users were chosen. that question the needs of the mainstream, and
Selected participants presented a wide range of Deaf thus, capable of providing alternative viewpoints
community members. From these two were hard of supporting from the minority to mainstream
hearing and fourteen were Deaf of which four were design thinking. It has been proven that dyslexic
dyslexic2. Participants were all sign language users have visual processing problems (Livingstone
from 20 to 60 years of age and included researchers et al., 1991; Skottun, 2004) as well as sensitivity
working at the association, web designers, to high luminance contrast (Bednarek, 2002).
translators, camera men, and academics. For the Consequently, those with dyslexia are easily
identification and integration phase of this study, distracted by visual noise and strong contrast. The
participants are represented by letters A through latter especially is in contradiction with accessibility
to J. When representing independent comments, standards, which recommend the use of strong
no coding is used. The coding is not used to draw contrast. Dyslexic users have been totally neglected
linkage between the comments of individuals in in this regard.
different parts of this study but to make dialogues
easier to follow; thus, no correlation in the coding 4.4 Four phases of culture-specific
exists between the different methods. participatory design
The process of this design research can be seen as
The involvement of stakeholders from varying having three main phases that are used iteratively
fields is an asset to the project. Despite the shared throughout the design process. These are (1)
cultural background, several authors, such as Ladd contextual inquiry; (2) identification of cultural
(2003) and Leigh (2009), have pointed out that factors; and (3) integration of cultural factors in
there is no single Deaf experience: Deaf people design. During these phases of design the designer
are individuals with personal opinions, tastes, interacts with the stakeholders in varying degrees.
personalities, preferences, and learning styles – The design research was conducted between winter
Deaf community is far from being homogeneous. 2007 and summer 2009. As discussed in the previous
It contains a paradox that each person is unique chapter, the stages chosen for this design process
despite sharing the same culture. For example, are based both on participatory design methods
though Deaf people are visually oriented, not all of and Moalasi’s (2007) culture-oriented framework.
them are visual learners (Marschark & Hauser, 2008). Whereas participatory design methods aim at

2 Dyslexia (a learning disability) manifests itself as a 3 In general, 5-20% of school children are diagnosed with
difficulty in learning to read and interpreting words and letters. learning disorders (Lyytinen, 2005), among them dyslexia. Even if
This difficulty does not result from neurological deficiency with the amount of Deaf with dyslexia falls between these figures, it is
hearing nor general intelligence. still a considerable portion of the Deaf community.

involving stakeholders during each phase of endeavoured to understand the cultural context;
the design process, the socio-cultural design to define the preliminary design challenges; and
framework aims to ensure culture-specific features to gain a holistic understanding of stakeholders’
are incorporated in the design. thoughts and behaviours.

The ethnographic research approach required 2. Identification: In autumn 2008, as the awareness
spending a long period of time with the Deaf of the context had increased, work commenced on
culture. Hence, the entire design process took over planning and animating participatory design methods
a year and half to finish (see Fig. 18). This is the to meet user needs and the design context. In order
result of involving everyone from the beginning to involve as many Deaf participants as possible,
till the end – a design process open for everyone. several participatory design sessions were arranged.
Feedback from users was incorporated at each phase During these activities users planned and worked
of the developing process to help to ensure that together to define preliminary design concepts.
the concept maintains a focus on real user needs
throughout the design study. Figure 18 illustrates 3. Integration: During spring and summer 2009,
this iterative process which consisted of three the actual product design began. This included
main phases (contextual inquiry, identification, and integration of the identified cultural features to
integration). These phases not only informed each form basic user interaction. Through user feedback,
other but also occasionally overlapped and took prototypes were polished and perfected. This phase
place simultaneously; that is, only the time and lasted till the prototype satisfied all participants.
effort spent on them varied within the design cycle.
These phases were: In order to analyse these sessions later, all meetings
were recorded on video, and a professional translator
1. Contextual inquiry: In November 2007, the entire was employed at all meetings to translate speech to
design process started with contextual inquiry. sign and sign to speech. The methods used in each
This took eight months during which the project design phase are outlined in the following:

Figure 18.  Schedule and three main phases of the iterative design process including design activities and
their deliverables.

1. Contextual inquiry with the entire design process and outcomes of the
• Stakeholder meetings: To define goals, mission, research project. Satisfaction involves acceptance
vision, and target audience. of less than ideal circumstances, and even an
• Observations: To gain an understanding of the extensive compromise. The success of research
cultural design context. relies on methods and tools that help in reaching
a solution that is ‘good enough’ (Simon, 1969).
2. Identification Satisfaction will emerge if the design research has
• Focus group: To evaluate existing web sites. included stakeholders to the extent that they want to
• Card sorting: To identify Deaf culture specific participate. As future is unknown, outcomes of the
themes and ways of categorising information. design research needs to be seen as a hypotheses for
• Interviews: To identify Deaf culture specific the kind of web site that could satisfy Deaf users (see
concerns regarding web sites. Leinonen et al., 2008). This hypothesis is formed in
collaboration with Deaf participants and combined
3. Integration with the designer’s intuition about the context of use.
• Brainstorming: To develop design concepts. The success of this study is not only measured by
• Workshops: To sketched out and test screen the production of generalisable knowledge, but also
layouts and interactive mock-ups. by its cultural validity: its relevance and consistency
• Co-design: To develop a prototype that is within the cultural framework in which research is
enjoyable and meaningful for participants. conducted. The research is successful if all parties
are satisfied with the utility of the process and its
4.5 Measure of successful process outcomes. (Comstock, 1993)
In the design process there are countless paths
to take and no theories, methods, techniques,
or tools that can envision the future or the final
outcome (Nelson and Stolterman, 2003). In design
discourse this phenomena of unknown problems
and paradoxical possibilities is referred to as a wicked
problem (Rittel and Weber, 1973). Thus, the design
process is a trial and error procedure that aims
to find new sets of methods that are triangulated
during the process. This section evaluates the
validity and reliability of this design study and sets
measures for a successful project.

Participatory research strengthens the reliability

of the study by triangulating both data sources
and design methods. Moreover, the validity of
the outcome is enhanced by taking into account
contextual factors. Different stakeholders may
have different understandings of a problem as
well as acceptable solutions. There is no right or
wrong: evaluation of design is always subjective
depending on the stakeholders’ individual values
and goals. According to Rittel and Webber (1973),
there is no such a thing as a final design. The
problem solving ends when the project ends, and
the design process finishes when a solution is
satisfies the criteria (Simon, 1969).

All solutions expose new problems which require

further design and development. Yet, one cannot
learn about the problem without trying solutions.
The measure of success is the level of satisfaction

Chapter 5

Chapter Five reviews the entire participatory One of the first observation milestones was an
design process. The chapter is divided into three attendance to two seminars of Satakieli program in
parts according to the main design phases of the Helsinki and in Mikkeli. The focus of these seminars
study; that is, contextual inquiry, identification, was Deaf children with cochlear implants. The first
and integration of culture specific features. Within of the seminars reviewed the recent studies about
each section respective design methods and their Deaf and hard of hearing music education, and the
outcomes are reviewed. second, about their education and rehabilitation in
general. The seminars were important in forming an
5.1 CONTEXTUAL INQUIRY understanding of Deaf education as well as getting a
Contextual inquiry fosters the ideology of grasp of how Deaf experience rhythm.
participatory design: it entails meeting the target
audience, talking to them, and observing them The second integral part of the contextual study
(Beyer & Holtzblatt, 1998). The technique helps was a discussion with parents of Deaf and hard of
in providing an understanding of the nature of hearing children at a Junior Program. It was an
user tasks, as well as in forming an understanding event arranged by the Service Foundation for the
of project goals, stakeholder needs, and design Deaf at a Deaf school in Jyväskylä. Of those who
environments (Bennett et al., 1989). In this study, attended, three fathers and five mothers were invited
these preliminary steps involved observing and to take part in a free-flowing discussion through
spending time with Deaf people. These observations voluntary sampling. The aim of the discussion was to
were important in forming an understanding of gain knowledge of their and their children’s Internet
the cultural context. In addition to these activities, use and attitudes towards the project. The discussion
stakeholder meetings were arranged to form a goal, revealed that parents were using the Internet mostly
mission, and vision for the project web site. The for informational purposes whereas their children
phase lasted from the late winter 2007 until the end were using the Internet to play games on sites such
of spring 2008. as papunet.net. Children as young as three were
already using the mouse and playing independently
5.1.1 Observations on the Internet. Parents grasped theme of the
Before any design steps could be made, an project, that is, visual / kinesthetic / haptic1 rhythm,
understanding needed to be reached of the way easily, even if the concept itself was new to them.
Deaf people communicate, behave, and think. They were inspired to hear more.
These preliminary steps involved spending time
with Deaf people; attending a sign language course;
seeing Deaf theatre plays; talking to Deaf people
1 Visual refers to the perception through sight; kines-
at clubs; attending seminars; as well as meeting
thetic refers to the movement of the body; and haptic refers to
students and their parents.
the sense of touch.

The third important activity in this phase was The first meeting followed a free-flowing
attending a sign language course that provided basic discussion in which the participants got to know
information regarding the structure of the language. each other and formed an understanding of
It helped in communicating with the Deaf at the the rhythm project. In the meeting two music
future sessions as well as forming an understanding therapeutists, Russ Palmer who is blind and hard of
of how the language functions. This was crucial hearing and Terttu Martola who is deaf, reviewed
during the analysing stage, as stakeholders referred the ideology behind their methods. Russ Palmer
to visual features of sign language. focused on reviewing his methods of visualising
and interpreting music in order to allow sensory
In short, these observational activities were impaired people to feel music through vibrations
important in forming an understanding of the instead of auditory impulses. Terttu Martola on
community members, their attitudes, and prejudices. the other hand focused on illustrating rhythmical
These observations in combination with field notes gymnastics in which rhythm is exercised through
formed the basis for creating later design methods kinetics. In addition, the methods of a hearing
and activities that would suit with the community. composer and choreographer Elina Kivelä-
Taskinen, who is experienced in teaching body
5.1.2 Stakeholder meetings percussion to deaf people, were reviewed.
In order to create meaningful content for the web
site, an understanding of its theme was required: During the second meeting the concept of body
How do Deaf people perceive the concept of rhythmics was acted out so that all participants
rhythm? How do they learn rhythm? And, how were introduced to different ways to experience
would they like to experience and learn it? To rhythm. These two meetings resulted an
answer to these questions, four stakeholder meetings understanding of project goals and how to reach
were arranged. There were ten participants in each them. In the final meeting stakeholders (Fig. 19),
meeting from which two were hard of hearing, six goals, a mission and vision for the KnacK web site
were deaf, and three were hearing. were specified. The rhythm web site was to set to

Figure 19.  Identified stakeholders of the KnacK project that may benefit from using the site.

help deaf and hard of hearing children to acquire 5.2 Identification of Deaf culture
a better sense of rhythm, and thus, relieve the specific features
severity of their learning disorders. Identification involves collecting information about
users, their tasks, and their environment. These
In order to encourage children to do rhythmic material, social, emotional, and technological
exercises, parents and other stakeholders – who factors are used to shed light on Deaf people’s habits
are the facilitators of these children – need to be and values. These are important aspects as they
aware of the importance of rhythm and inspired contribute to product acceptance and overall user
by it. In the best case scenario, all Finnish parents, experience. Since there are often major differences
teachers and other stakeholders of these children – between what people say and what they do, direct
who all may be Deaf, hearing or dyslexic – would observation and hands on card sorting exercises were
acknowledge the importance of visual and kinestic- used as a supplement to focus groups sessions and
haptical rhythm. To meet this scenario, the web site interviews. All the activities were held at the Finnish
was targeted towards a network of stakeholders that Association of the Deaf in autumn 2008.
include parents, children, and professionals, all of
which may be hearing, deaf or dyslexic: 5.2.1 Focus group
A focus group is an informal technique in which a
For parents: the web site provides tips on how to group of people who have something in common
promote the enjoyment of rhythm into everyday are asked about their attitude towards an artefact
life. It enables them to gain knowledge of how they (Krueger & Casey, 2008). The method was used
can better facilitate their child to enjoy the world of in assessing the needs and feelings of the Deaf
rhythm. This is important as the parents may not community towards sign language web sites before
always be aware of the importance of the kinesthetic- working on the actual design. All participants sat
haptic rhythm since 90% of Deaf children are born around a computer screen to discuss, explore, and
to hearing parents. investigate different web sites. For this reason – in
contrast to a normal focus group session which
For children: even if parents are too busy to play involves from six to eight stakeholders (Krueger
with their child, the web site provides a fun & Casey, 2008) – only three people were invited.
playground that is always available for practising As a consequence, the findings of the focus group
and learning rhythm. session were confirmed through interviewing
eleven community members at a later stage. As
For professionals: the web site provides information limited number is incapable to truly represent
about the project as well as the visual and kinestic- the whole Deaf community, participants were
haptical theory of rhythm for teachers, researchers, carefully chosen through purposive sampling to
and music therapists. represent as wide a range as possible. The group
consisted of one hard of hearing web designer, one
In short, the goals, mission, vision, and target deaf dyslexic who is a regular Internet user, and a
audience were set as follows: Children of Deaf Adults (CODA)2 who has been
actively following web design practice within the
Goal: encourage and inform the stakeholders of deaf community. Participants are hence forth referred to
and hard of hearing children about deaf rhythmics. as A, B, and C respectively.

Mission: address the sensitive issue of rhythm in For participants, the focus group session was
Deaf culture and increase the awareness of the topic free-flowing and relatively unstructured, but in
that has not yet been openly talked about. reality, it followed a list of issues to be discussed
to met above two goals. This technique stimulates
Vision: rhythmic exercises would become part of day discussion that provokes elaboration and brings out
to day life of Deaf and hard of hearing children. users’ spontaneous reactions and ideas (Nelson,

Target audience: parents, children, and professionals

all of whom may be hearing, deaf, or dyslexic. 2 A Child Of Deaf Adults (CODA) is a hearing person
who was raised by a Deaf parent or guardian. Many CODAs iden-
tify with both Deaf and hearing cultures. (Singleton, 2002)

1997; Krippendorf, 2006). The session was recorded symbols they use for navigation (Fig. 21). It’s easy
on video for subsequent data analysis. In interactive to explore even if I don’t know any French. The
systems development, the proper role of focus way the signer is placed on the site is also different
groups is not to assess interaction styles or design than normally seen on a web site. Mew... I don’t
usability, but to discover what users want from the like the way it’s inside that box though.
system (Nielsen, 1997). The idea of the focus group B. Yeah, I don’t like that either. You know the site…
discussion was to identify their likes and dislikes of wait a moment. Here it is. This is a Finnish site
existing web interfaces, especially those targeted (Fig. 23). I like that the man is standing there
to sign language users. The aim of the session was freely. Though he is too small in size. It’s hard to
to provide grounds for planning improvements to follow. But somehow it feels like it belongs there.
Deaf specific web design practices with two main It tells you what is on the site. I like that. But
purposes in mind: otherwise there is too much text on the site, and I
don’t like the colours. They are boring.
1) To identify design challenges by
recognising Deaf people’s concerns related The statements above illustrate how participants
to already existing web interfaces. favoured sites in which the signer was engaging and
2) To understand the current state of Deaf full of character. This type of signer is illustrated in
web sites by identifying the kind of web sites Figure 21. Participants favoured sites in which the
that are designed for sign language users signer was integrated with the rest of the interface
as well as discussing sites that are used and elements and interacting with the users like in
appreciated by the community. Figures 22 and 23; they did not like the signer being
isolated in a box as in Figure 24. It became evident
In order to ignite conversation about sign language that, for participants, a signer on a web site did not
web sites, a set-of-exemplars method was used. bring functional value as such but it brought cultural
Providing visual objects to be discussed, they helped value by giving access to their mother tongue.
review the current state of web design practices
within the community. As Deaf culture is highly When it came down to actual web usage, the clarity
visual, discussion through examples was important for and easy-of-use were the most deciding factors for
exploring visual and functional aspects of an interface favourite sites of participants. They told that they
that cannot be recorded through verbal accounts. The became inpatient if a site was slow or too complex,
exemplars were chosen by asking participants about both in terms of structure and layout. Secondly,
the sites they regularly visit as well as by researching they valued sites that offered interesting content
existing web sites targeted to sign language users which they could understand and use instantly.
before the session. None of the exemplars used were For example, participants brought up the VIA
perfect but each of them included elements that Cooperative web site as an example of a good piece
appealed to Deaf users which could be combined and of design (Fig. 25). Participants reasoned that the
further developed. All together 17 different web sites cause for liking the site was its visual simplicity: it
were viewed (see appendix I). has a nice colour palette and a peacefully animated
top banner that catches one’s attention but at the
To make a distinction between participants’ favourite same time is restful on the eye.
sites and the ones they used in practice, participants
were asked to show examples of sites they used daily The state of current web development practices
as well as ones that were their favourites. It became within the Association was also discussed. It became
evident that the most used sites were news portals, clear that the current platform used for official
designed for hearing users such as the web presence sites ensures that web sites meet accessibility
of Finnish tabloids Iltasanomat and Iltalehti. standards. At the same time it prevents experimental
However, when asked about sites that brought them approaches to try out new design solutions that
enjoyment, paradoxically, they showed examples of would satisfy the real needs of sign language users.
sites targeted towards Deaf users. Moreover, the modification of these sites was stated
to be costly as the platform is outsourced. The
A. I like the French site (Fig. 20). Let me see if I can dissatisfaction for current web design practices
find it. Here it is. You see. The signer is engaging among the Deaf community was acknowledged,
and funny, interesting to follow. I also like the but the obligation to meet accessibility standards

Figure 20.  A signer of a French sign language web Figure 21.  Navigation of a French sign language
site WebSourd that is presented on every page. web site WebSourd utilises symbols.

Figure 22.  A signer and a post-it note navigation Figure 23.  A signer on the home page of Finnish
on a personal web site of Markku Jokinen. translation service Signline welcomes the user.

Figure 24.  A signer on the home page of the Figure 25.  Home page of the Finnish Via Sign
Finnish Association of the Deaf. Language Sector Cooperative.

was seen as the barrier in overcoming these issues. Charismatic signer. Participants always preferred
Participants clearly expressed that the current sites having a signer welcoming the user on the home
targeted towards Deaf users do not cater to their page. If the signer varied in character at different
genuine needs. This is the reason that the most used sections of a web site, the participants felt that
sites were designed for hearing users. They claimed the sites became more engaging. The participants
that if there was a site designed to meet the real even considered that a well thought clothing
needs of Deaf people, they would definitely use it. brought added value.

For the purpose of analysing the focus group Non-isolated signer. Participants felt that too often
session, a long-table approach was followed in the signer was isolated inside a box as if it would be
which transcripts are cut into pieces of colour-coded a separate element from the rest of the page. They
cards and arranged according to identified themes explained they would rather have it as part of the
and categories (Krueger & Casey, 2008). The page, interacting with its surroundings. This would
statements of the participants were listed to sum up help them to relate the signing with other content
the prevailing mood for the group. The following areas on the page. In addition, the participants said
summary of the focus group findings is based upon that separate signed translations was not enough: the
seven recurring themes: (1) simplicity and clarity; (2) signed video should be placed equally with the text
visual guidance; (3) vividness and engagement; (4) on the page.
charismatic signer; (5) non-isolated signer; (6) clarity
of the signing; and (7) speed. Clarity of signing. All participants emphasised the
importance of clear signing. They stated that the
Simplicity and clarity. Participants felt that most web size of the signer should be big enough so that hand
sites targeted towards them were ugly and cluttered. movements and facial expressions are clear. One
The amount of visual noise that was tolerated of the participants compared that to unreadable
varied between participants with dyslexia and those text: “to follow signing that is too small is as if to
without, but they agreed that they were unable to read text that is written with a tiny font against
focus if there was more that one element moving a cluttered background.” When it came to the
on the screen at any one time. Following this line movements of the signer, the dyslexic user felt that
of thought, participants felt that bright and vivid it was distracting if the signer was moving while
colours were good but should be limited. signing; whereas the participant without dyslexia
felt it made signing more natural.
Visual guidance. Participants appreciated it if they
were able to view and grasp the content of the Speed. Due to heavy use of video and often flash, the
site visually – in one glance. They felt that too participants felt that many attempts to do web sites
often web sites have too much text on a single for sign language users failed, because they were
page, and as a consequence, pages are hard to too slow to use. They emphasised the importance of
follow. All participants agreed that symbols, text, being able to navigate and view content quickly.
and images should go hand in hand supporting
each other. Especially when it came to navigation, As these themes are based on concerns of only three
they felt that visual clues such as symbols helped participant, no reliable generalisation concerning the
in surfing through content. whole community can be made. Thus, the identified
themes here were reassessed in the interviewing
Vividness and engagement. Participants felt that they phase with eleven participants (see section 5.2.3).
were unable to engage with sites using a corporate
look. They described them as uninviting, dull, and 5.2.2 Card sorting
static. Participants yearned for images or other The card sorting task aimed to identify Deaf culture
visual elements that would draw their attentions specific content categories around theme of the
and encourage to exploration. In addition, they KnacK project, that is, rhythm and parenting. Thus,
emphasised the ability of images to tell stories much the card sorting task was organised with two main
better than words. They felt that images should offer goals in mind: firstly, to identify the way Deaf users
something to be explored – “a window to another categorise topics that relate to rhythm learning; and
world,” as one of the participants described. secondly, to identify the kinds of topics and images

that Deaf users can easily relate to. For the activity, words written on them), one stack of blank cards,
eleven participants were selected all together to and a pen. The card sorting task included three main
represent as wide a range of the community as phases: selecting, grouping, and ranking. In the first
possible. They were between 20-60 years old age, phase, participants were asked to go through the
nine Deaf and two hard of hearing, six females image and word cards intuitively and remove cards
and five males, and four with and ten without they were not interested in. In the second phase,
dyslexia. All of them were working at the Finnish participants were asked to organise the remaining
Association of the Deaf but presented a wide range cards in to groups (see Fig. 26) and name these
of professions including designers, camera men, groups based on the pictures and words (Fig. 27). In
academics, administrators and translators. Each the last phase, the participants were asked to select
session took around 20 minutes in which each their favourite theme from those they had created as
participant attended individually. well as their favourite card.

Traditionally, the purpose of the card sorting Then, participants were asked to articulate the
technique is to explore how people group choices they had made with three objectives in
items. This enables researchers to gain a better mind. Firstly, to find which cards and themes
understanding of how users categorise information, were most important to them and why. Secondly,
so that their expectations and priorities about the to discover their reasons for discarding particular
intended functions can be developed. In the classic images; that is, gaining insight into why they
card sorting method, possible features, functions, relate to some topics and not others. Thirdly, to
or design attributes are named on separate cards illuminate the choice of image: why the chosen
and participants are asked to organise them spatially ones were considered attractive and what was
in a way that makes sense to them (Morville interesting about them. This discussion was the
& Rosenfield, 2006; Moggridge, 2007). These most important: their explanation gave a deeper
interactions enable one to learn about needs and understanding of their ideas and visions.
wants that users cannot express explicitly.
There was a difference in the way participants
For the purpose of this study, the classic card sorting handled the cards, especially so between the
method was slightly modified to better fit with the participants with learning disorders and the ones
purpose of this study. In addition to traditional without. All the dyslexic participants refused to use
word cards, the participants received a set of image the word cards or at least found them demanding
cards3. This was done for three reasons: Firstly, to organise them. The majority, however,
Deaf culture is highly visual and thus image cards categorised the cards according to descriptions,
are more suitable. Secondly, four out of the eleven analogy, or function of the groups rather than
participants were dyslexic: they may have faced exact labels, falling in line with the Lawrence
difficulties with categorising the cards containing findings of the nesting feature of sign language
words written in their second language. This means (discussed on p. 7).
that use of wordy cards would have limited their
contribution and complicated their participation. After the sessions the results were analysed in
Thirdly, my intention at this phase was not to get two different ways: (1) by ranking the cards
exact labels but instead to bring about themes that according to their popularity to discover which
participants were concerned with by allowing them topics and images they were interested in; and (2)
to impose their own interpretation. by grouping the labels that emerged during the
activity through semantic mapping (see Fig. 28).
In the beginning of each session a participant The analysis of the images showed that there were
received two packs of shuffled cards with 50 cards in huge differences in the ways beauty and attraction
each (one pack with images and another one with is valued within the community; but yet, there
are common themes that could be identified:
importance of stories, nature, beauty, visual clarity,
3 The use of image cards draws the method close to people playing together, and images of hands. The
collages developed by Sanders and William (2002) in which people latter especially was considered important as it
are given a set of picture and word stickers and a space on which reminded the participants of sign language, as one
to arrange them according to instructions. of the participants explained:

Figure 26.  One of the participants organising cards.

It’s definitely related to hands and sign language – This image is my favourite. It reminds me of the
and Deaf people. We use hands. We could not live moment when my first child was born. It’s decades
without them. ago but I remember that moment so vividly. Like
we’d made a connection when I took him into my
The participants also felt that stories are important arms for the very first time.
in images. The participants were especially
interested in images that they could relate to their Although the interests of the participants varied
own life stories. These three comments illustrate depending on their personality, age, and gender,
the fact that the participants valued images that had five main themes emerged: (1) visual culture,
something to say: (2) sports and playing, (3) experiences, (4) eager
to know more, and (5) emotions. These themes
If there is nothing to say. I don’t like if an image is were analysed through grouping the occurred
somehow empty. If its wrongly shot. Carelessly. It labels and colour coding the reoccurring words.
needs to have an idea. The resulting semantic map is illustrated in
Figure 28. The emerged themes reflect charac-
The idea of an image is important. I like when an teristics of Deaf culture: the importance of
image takes you to another world and when it gets emotions, being together, personal experiences,
your imagination flowing – hungry to know more and doing together as well as the traditional
about the story behind it. activities held by Deaf clubs.

Figure 27.  The pile of cards with notes after the card sorting tasks.

Figure 28.  Semantic mapping of the categories that the participants produced in the card sorting task.
Every word represents a category label and the size of that word correlates with its frequency. The smallest
word on the graph occurred only once and with every additional occurrence the size of that word is increased
by two points. The colours of the words correlate with the meta themes (capitalised words) that emerged from
the labels. The size of the background circles represent the overall popularity of a meta theme.

5.2.3 Interviews Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE (see Case
In combination with the card sorting exercise a Study 6 on p. 20). This is in line with the focus
short thematic interview was conducted with all the group discussion in which participants valued
eleven participants. This was for two main reasons: clarity and informativeness, as the following
firstly, to draw a bridge between the findings and interviewee illustrates:
web site preferences; and secondly, to confirm the
findings of the focus group discussion with a wider The most important thing is that it is clear. The
range of participants. There was a list of issues to image and the content. And that it is interesting
be discussed during the interview (see appendix II) and engaging. It should not be preaching – nothing
but the order and flow of conversation was open in like that. It should offer profound information.
order to facilitate discussion of unanticipated issues.
During the interview the participants were asked Participants also confirmed the findings of
to relate their favourite web sites, surfing patterns, the focus group session: there should not be
and problems they face with existing systems. This too much content on one page. For instance,
is because problems and solutions are conceptual participants were asked for their thoughts on the
pairs: people are better at remembering the problems current state of web interfaces, one responded:
they encounter than envisioning non-existent ones
(Krippendorf, 2006). The discussion confirmed I’m disturbed by all of it being mixed. Text and all
earlier results: Deaf participants were unsatisfied – like a rathole… I mean too much text or images.
with systems developed for sign language users this I don’t know where to look or where to click on…
far. The participants emphasised their frustration It puts me off if the page is full of text and it’s
with long paragraphs of text, lack of images, slow all there at once. If there’s text, I’d like to have a
uploading times, and overly textual navigation. This choice to go to read it if I want to, but it’s too much
was also the reason why one of the participants had if it’s there all at once.
been studying online communications:
Even if the interviewees were overwhelmed by
I’ve been developing web sites for years. Last year, text, some participants stated that they preferred
however, I decided to have a degree on online to read text than to watch sign videos. One has to
communication. I want to learn more how to wait for videos to stream; text on the other hand
create visual information. I want to share more can be scanned and read quickly, as one of the
visual information … Most of professionals in participants explained:
the field are hearing. If there would be more
sign language users, they’d know what they are It may be that I haven’t got the patience to sit
yearning for and what are their genuine needs for in front of the computer for long periods of time.
this type of communication. Maybe I’m more text oriented. Reading is so much
faster. I think I’d rather read the text.
The interviewed also highlighted the lack of
interesting content as an issue. This was one of Most of participants, however, preferred visual
the reasons why the following participant hardly and signed communication to text if it was
ever used web sites targeted towards Deaf people: available. All the participants used both mediums
and expressed that the one they used varied from
Meh… I hardly ever visit web sites for sign one day to another:
language users. Sometimes I follow events
but only a little. These sites offer so little I’ve got a learning disorder. I belong to that group
valuable content. The briefing is poor. The of people. That’s why I’ve always been so fond of
whole chunk of information is just blasted visuality. But the disorder has eased a bit since I
carelessly onto one page. was a little. I’ve worked hard in order to be able
live with it. And now I know how to overcome it.
Most participants, however, said that they would Today I even like reading news online.
visit sign language web sites if they were better
designed and offered content that interested If there is signing I do watch it. If there is not,
them. The only sign language web sites they then I read the text. But I always watch if the
followed was news offered in sign language by the signer has something interesting to say.

To sum up, the interviews confirmed the results of The brainstorming session ran for two hours and
the focus group, finding that the speed and content it consisted of three separate parts: introduction,
of sites override the medium. The interviewees discussion, and conclusion. In the beginning, findings
discovered that the most important factor in the from the previous research activities were introduced
interface was the easiness of comprehending. and the purpose of the session was explained. After
the introduction, a paper (A3), pencils, and sticky
5.3 Integration of Deaf culture notes were placed on a table. Participants were
specific features advised to use them during the session to illustrate
During the integration phase, the results from their ideas and concepts. At the end of the session
the identification phase were implemented. This results of the discussion were summed up. Similar
means that the designer needs to interact with topics were grouped together and ideas that did not
stakeholders and explore artefacts together with fit into the concept were eliminated. The remaining
them in order to transform socio-cultural factors ideas were discussed once more and those for further
into acceptable product features. In this study development were decided upon.
one brainstorming session and two hands-on
collaborative workshops were arranged to As the previous research activities had shown,
conceive possible interface features. Ideas and some sign language users preferred text to sign,
experiences from every session were fed back the brainstorming session started with a discussion
into the following workshops and finally into of the importance of sign language on web sites.
the development of prototypes. All the sessions Even if participants agreed that they were happy to
were held at the Finnish Association of the Deaf read text on pages they stressed that signed content
during spring 2009. should be place equally with text on a web site:

5.3.1 Brainstorming session D. It needs to be multiple channel. Which one I’ll

Participants: Two deaf designers who are marked use is irrelevant.
as D and E. E. I watch the one that is showed first.
D. It’s same for me as well. The web site kind of sets
The brainstorming method was chosen for this which one I’ll use first. But I think it‘s important
design research as it provides an environment that that both options are there.
is conducive to generating novel ideas through E. But if there will be a video clip and a paragraph of
open conversation. This means that issues are text on the screen which one you will pick up?
allowed to emerge spontaneously and no opinion is D. I watch the video first. The text comes second.
wrong. During the session each participant should E. For me it purely depends on which one will catch
be allowed to contribute, and each one’s opinion is my eye first. And normally it is the text because
respected and listened to. (Krippendorf, 2006) videos are so slow. You must wait for them. By
that time you’ve already read the text. But the
The purpose of the brainstorming session was to sign language needs to be there anyhow. There are
explore different strategies, and how to integrate many aspects to accessibility, and one of them is an
the identified socio-cultural features into the access to one’s own first language.
interface. The two most important themes that
participants brought up in the identification phase Slow web sites were addressed and a possible
were highlighted; that is, (1) what is the right solution was suggested: display a short introduction
balance between text and signing; and (2) what that downloads quickly yet attracts one’s interest
does visual clarity mean in terms interface design. and catches one’s eye. From the introduction, one
The session aimed to brainstorm ideas on how such could then click for more information. The problem
factors should be translated into interface features. that the participant noted with introduction videos,
There were two Deaf participants and a translator however, was that it gets boring if the same clip
invited to the session. Both of the participants were appears every time you visit the site:
web developers who were familiar with web design
practices within the Deaf community and had E. I like that the video screen is there already. Or
experience in sign video production. Both of them at least there should be some sort of movement
had also taken part in the identification phase, and on the screen.
thus, were familiar with the project. D. If I need to first watch a video. I do watch it. It

catches my eye. But if I visit the site again and I at the same time as I sign something would appear
know the story – and the video is still there. That’s that gives you the possibility to click on and jump
pointless. The interface needs to give an option straight to that entity or point in time. Even if it
what I want to watch and what not. all would be kind of related to the same theme, a
E. You’re right. It’s enough to have the guidance navigation would appear – for example an image
video only for the first visit. of a car or airplane – as I sign.
D. That means that front page doesn’t necessarily need E. But what the navigation would be like? What
to have a signed video that I need to watch over would be the language? Would there be an image
and over again. Rather it should clearly show me or some text. Mew… you can imagine that there
themes for the videos that I can choose from. would be images that you can click on. The videos
would be behind them. It would make it more
When discussing solutions for refreshing the web appealing for the kids as well.
site, the idea of discussion forums was dismissed. D. If you think about the front page. There could be a
The participants felt that Deaf were disadvantaged person or persons. That person would hold a picture,
on the text based discussion forums as many of them logo, or symbol in his hand. It may be accompanied
were not confident in writing: with a tiny passage of text or a word that tells
something about the content. Then there could be
D. If we’ll develop a discussion forum then it’s another person that would hold a piece of paper or
targeted to hearing users. Deaf people won’t take some kind of a board. It could be quite perky and nice
part into such a conversation. Some Deaf simply looking. Firstly, the page would have people on it;
have such a bad knowledge of Finnish that they and secondly, they’d hold something on their hands.
wouldn’t take part … The knowledge of Finnish is
just so poor. People don’t know how to spell it. If one The conversation shifted into a discussion about
should write freely on a computer. For example, the how information should be communicated in signed
word computer [tietokone in Finnish]. There are videos. Participants were strongly of the opinion that
Deaf who write it tetokone or tetokane. the signer needs to have some character, and the way
information is presented is of extreme importance.
As participants agreed that writing would not work Moreover, the style of signing determined if they
for Deaf users, another solution was a ready made found information useful, and were able to engage
list of answers that one could choose from, such as: with what was being said:
yes, no, maybe, and absolutely yes. The participants
also saw video commenting problematic as one D. If there’s some information that needs to be
cannot present him/herself anonymously as one explained such as ‘this is what the sign language
normally would on forums that are text based. is about’, this kind of normal things, which can be
Another problem participants faced with signed a bit boring. Like sign language users in Finland:
videos was navigation: ‘There are around 5000 sign language users in
Finland, bloah, blah, blah... and a people who uses
E. There needs to be a way to navigate through the sign language may be a Deaf, a translator or a
videos easily. It’s easier with a text. If you want to next of kin.’ That is so boring! It is important yes.
find a specific point in time on a video you need to But it should be somehow changed to something of
drag the bar back and forth: no it wasn’t here it this sort: ‘Hi, I’m a Deaf person! Did you know
was ten seconds earlier. It’s always difficult to find that I use sign language? Don’t think that I’m
the right piece of information on a video. the only one in Finland. There are around 5000
people like me in this country. And it is not only the
As the participant was signing he came up with a Deaf people that sign to each other. I have friends
solution in which a visual navigation would appear that I sign with and my hearing sister signs to me
next to the signer as he/she signs. This navigation as well.’ I mean that the way it’s presented needs
would present themes of the clip: to be totally different. It’s all about how the issue
is brought up and expressed. This way it would be
D. When video starts it will sign the issues to be much more useful.
discussed: these five topics are to be discussed. And E. You’re right. Expressive. The signer needs to be
then I sign that this topic is related to cars, and lively, creative. Humour is always good. Not too
this one deals with airplanes and this topic … and serious. Some kind of liveliness.

Then the conversation shifted into a discussion on 5.3.2 Workshops
the way a signer should be filmed: Two workshops were arranged to enable both
designer and non-designers, giving the members
D. And when filming the video the background of the Deaf community a voice and allowing them
is extremely important. Purely white or blue to be part of the design process. The workshops
are not really good. I think it is better that if always included one Deaf project representative,
the background dissolves – goes with the colour and altogether six members of the Deaf culture
scheme or suites with the images on the page. that were not associated with the KnacK project.
I mean that it would not appear in a separate In order to distinguish preferential differences
window. between dyslexic and non-dyslexic Deaf users,
D. You can play a bit with the background but the the workshops were conducted separately for
signer needs to be shown clearly and naturally. both groups. The first one was held for two Deaf
I like the idea of different people with different participants and one hard of hearing, and the
coloured clothes which are connected to the theme second for two Deaf participants with difficulties
being discussed. in reading. Both workshops lasted for an hour
and a half. The outcomes of the first workshop
The discussion of themes and colour coding then were fed into the development of the second one.
shifted towards navigation. Participants felt that In order to illustrate the findings of the previous
textual navigation is not clear or visual enough. research activities, a set of possible screen layouts
Neither did they find signed links easy to use: it were prepared for each workshop with differences
takes time to follow the movement to decipher them. in colours, symbols, and the placement of the
They agreed that symbols would be the best solution signer. These layouts were hypotheses, examples
for this purpose: of solutions that might meet the needs of sign
language users. During the workshops, the
E. I hate when you need to explore all the hands to stakeholders amended them until they were satisfied
find out what they are for. with the outcome.
D. Yeah. Hands are not good for navigation. It
needs a face as well. Sign language doesn’t exist All the five participants were invited through email
without a face. in which the agenda of the workshop was explained.
E. I like pictures the most or symbols if one can find There were pens, paper, sticky notes, and scissors
a suitable one. If symbols, text, and signing are placed on a table. A laptop was also made available,
balanced, the site works. It works for both hearing allowing direct modification of the pre-made
and sign language users. solution, as each workshop involved one Deaf
D. What if the navigation would be like a carousel designer. During the workshop the participants
that the user can control and roll over. There tested, evaluated, and refined different screen
would be images or people that the user could click layouts, and interaction models: they drew, cut,
on. And behind them there would be always a new pasted, and shifted different features around screen
topic or new story. If new topics need to be added, layouts to build a shared vision. The agenda for
the navigation would be easy to expand on as well. both workshops was the same:

To sum up, the brainstorming session raised the 1. Explanation. The purpose of the session,
importance of providing reactive content that the research results so far, and the session
responds to the users actions instantly. The option outcome was explained.
of developing a discussion forum was abandoned 2. Exploration. Participants explored different
as Deaf users would be disadvantaged in using solutions in pairs by modifying the pre-
a text-based systems, especially on KnacK web made screen layout, cutting and drawing
site whose target audience includes a number of different sections, forming a design that they
dyslexic users. The participants felt that videos were were satisfied with.
problematic as they were hard to navigate, although 1. Documentation. The designs generated during
sign videos were a necessity for Deaf users. A the workshop were discussed once more. A final
solution suggested was an icon based navigation that screen layout that all the participants agreed on
would illustrate different sections within a video. was documented.

Figure 29.  Printed paper models of the interface prototype with cut and pasted parts and drawn
amendments made during the workshop.

Workshop 1 goes on and off as you hover-over. I mean that
Participants: One hard of hearing and two deaf you can have the option there to read the text if
persons. They are coded as F, G, and H in the you want to.
respective order.
As we discussed the designs from the workshop, the
The first workshop was devoted to finalising screen following issues were identified as most important:
designs, that is, to amend paper models of the
interface. Ideas from the brainstorming session were 1. Symbols and colours should be used to visualise
illustrated in the form of seven different screen and categorise information.
layouts. This was to share work-in-progress with
participants and to allow participants to cut and 2. Images should be used to provide the context
paste elements to and from interface templates in for information being communicated so that
order to explore new alternatives. There were three one can get a holistic understanding of what
noted issues to be explored: the placement of the is being signed.
signer, colours, and use of symbols.
3. A signer should be clearly placed so there is no
When participants considered the placement of disturbance with the background, but still it
the signer on screen, they started by discussing the should dissolve seamlessly with the rest of the
background. They liked a solution in which there interface elements, naturally with its settings.
was an image on signer’s background:
Workshop 2
F. The signed videos with plain backgrounds do not Participants: Two deaf persons with dyslexia who are
invite to follow what is being signed. referred to as I and J.
G. Blank backgrounds does not even arouse my
interest to follow the signing, The second workshop was held with two dyslexic
F. The background can’t be too dark however. Deaf participants. The purpose was to test the
It’s tiresome to follow a signer against a dark results of the first workshop with dyslexic users as
background. It is like watching TV in a dim room. well as to prototype basic interaction design for
It makes your eyes tired. the web site. Dyslexic participants felt that the
G. Nor can the image be directly behind the signer. It results of the first workshop were too colourful
makes the signing hard to follow. and restless. They also wished for less elements
F. I think it would be better if the image could on the page making it easier to concentrate on the
somehow dissolve on the background. You can do it task at hand:
easily with Photoshop. Can I show you? [He then
takes the laptop and draws an example onto I. Too strong colours and those elements at the bottom
a computer screen.] make the page restless. Otherwise I like it. it is
simple but the same time inviting and interesting.
One of the first issues the participants addressed
was how to place signing and text on the page. One Different colour schemes were tested to find a
of them signed: palette pleasing for participants; one that was
restful, that is, allowing one to concentrate on the
H. Which one is the default language? Signing or content. The participants felt that text next to the
text? I think they should be egalitarian. The text signer was distracting:
cannot come before signing.
G. I think signing should be there always. If you J. If there’s text next to a signer it shouldn’t be too
want, you can close it down and then read the text. dominating. If it is, it distracts. The font size
H. Or there could be an option. When you should be small. Otherwise I like big font sizes. It
hover-over, two symbols would appear that would makes it easier to read.
let you to choose which one you want to use [text I. Yeah. I like those pages where I can enlarge the
or sign video]. font size to a good size. My fluency to read varies
F. Mew … maybe there could be subtitles. from one day to another. Some days I like to read
H. What if you only want to read the text? small fonts where as some days big text sizes
G. There could be an option in the control bar that work the best.

It is apparent from the comments above that text The second issue of the interaction design was the
sections next to a signer were distracting. This role of visual aids. The designer proposed the use of
creates a paradox: the text should be on the screen diagrams and icons – such like power point slides –
in a manner that it is related to the signer, and at which would enhance the understanding of the sign
the same time the text should not disturb signing. video and make it more engaging. The would give
Participants expressed that even if one would be context and meaning for the topic being discussed.
able to switch off the text box it is still no good: The prototype was modified until both the Deaf
the site should be pleasant to follow from the very designer and the workshop participants were happy
beginning. The solution was to place the signer on with the interface and found it easy to use.
the centre of the screen, and place a symbol next
to the signer from which one could click for text 5.4 Summary
to appear. Alternatively, the text should be placed In this chapter, the participatory design phase
below the signer so that it does not compete with has been reviewed. The three main stages in the
ones attention. Participants also thought that process were contextual inquiry, identification, and
subtitling of the sign video was a possible solution. integration phase. The whole participatory design
process took a year and a half, and involved eleven
After the workshop the dyslexic participants were members of the Deaf community. All of them took
emailed with two sets of amended screen layouts. part in the card sorting exercise and interviews,
When these participants were happy with the and seven of them attended the activities at the
result, a rough prototype of the interface was integration phase. The prototype that resulted from
created and tested with participants from both these sessions is illustrated in the next chapter.
workshops. The participants also expressed that
there should be only one primary image, and the
remaining images and text could be relatively
small; that is, not drawing one’s attention, and
distracting one from following the sign video.

5.3.3 Co-designing prototypes

Designing is the phase where a designer steps
back to actual design work. A working prototype
was created based on drafts resulting from the
workshops. To ensure the solutions would fit
with Deaf culture, real-time feedback was given
from a Deaf web designer over two weeks. The
conversation was arranged through email and
instant messaging in which design ideas and
working prototypes developed for Wordpress
publishing platform were shared. This made
it possible to experiment with already existing
plugins and open source tools that are available for
everyone for future web developments.

The biggest concerned raised during the

interaction design was how the signer should
appear and how the navigation of sign videos
could be enhanced. The Deaf designer was given
a day to film different approaches and styles. The
question was how the signer should be introduced:
should it be there already, should it fade in, or
walk into the screen? In other words, what feels
the most natural in starting conversation with the
user in a particular context.

Chapter 6

REVIEW of Knack.fi
This chapter reviews the prototype of Knack.fi card sorting task in which users were free to label
web site in terms of content, functionality, and the categories they had formed from piles of images
look and feel – the result from the participatory and words (Fig. 28, p. 45) . Under these categories
design process. Recommendations for future web there will be videos filmed by groups of Deaf people
site developments are discussed in the next chapter. that show ways to learn rhythm through mimicking
Therefore, this chapter will not go into details animal movements, plays for children to practice
of culture specific features but rather it will give rhythm, and situations in which Deaf tell how they
an overall description of the resulting design to feel rhythm in their day to day life. The front page
draw a better picture of the design outcome of the provides links to a rhythm game and documentary
participatory research. The prototype presented here that were also developed for the project.
is a hypothesis of the kind of interface that brings
enjoyment to members of Deaf community based on Navigation. There are four navigational systems
their ideas developed in workshops. The prototype within the site. The navigational systems surround
is a design outcome that the participants found the signer, making it easier for him/her to point
engaging as well as easy to use and understand. at different sections of the site as each of the
Though some of the features described here are still navigational items has a unique spatial direction
to be implemented, all of them have been tested. in relation to the signer (i.e. top left or bottom
middle). All the navigational elements respond to
Technology. The site was designed in php and jQuery user’s mouse movements: they are animated when
for Wordpress publishing platform. The project one hovers over them.
also utilised jQuery based videoplayer, Flowplayer
and related jQueryTools as they provided the tools 1. Main navigation is placed on the top of the
needed to meet the requirements of participants: page so that it will be easily recognised.
(1) the tools are designed to present content to It displays an icon for each category item
the reader in an easy and visually pleasing manner, and label attached to it. A feature that Deaf
improving usability and responsiveness of a site participants mentioned and yearned for
without compromising accessibility; and (2) they repeatedly during the participatory design
are relatively light and can be used without huge process was a visual clue to immediately draw
comprises in terms of site performance. one’s attention to main navigation. Therefore,
when a user enters the web site, all four
Information hierarchy. In addition to the home page, navigational items slide down from the very
the information hierarchy of the site consists of top of the screen.
three main sections: play [leikkiä], learn [oppia], and 2. Sub-navigation to content videos is placed
feel [tuntea] as illustrated in Figure 30 that shows the below the signer. Once one clicks a
front page of the site. These simple but descriptive content video icons, an overlay playing the
labels were the most common words to appear in the corresponding video appears (see Fig. 31).

Figure 30.  Home page of Knack.fi web site.

3. Sign video navigation helps users to follow what Look and feel. The visual style of the site aims to
is being signed. As the signer signs, a visual be clear and calm but yet visually interesting. The
presentation appears next to him/her which participants did not feel at home with sites using
helps the user to navigate within the video clip a white background, but rather longed for nature
to different cue points within the clip. like, tranquil atmosphere. The background colours
4. Information navigation includes icons to contact are muted so they would not visually compete with
us page, sitemap, and project info. They are the content items such as the signer. To visually
placed on the top right so that they can be distinguish the different category sections from each
accessed on all content areas within the site. All other, they are colour-coded (as seen in Figures 30,
the pages are overlaid so that users can easily 32, 33, and 34). All the categories will also have a
return to the page or section they were on. different signer to give them a distinctive personality,
and consequently, make different sections distinctive
Signer. On every category page there is a signer that and memorable. Behind the signer there is a category
guides the user through that section. These sections image that portrays different people in rhythmic
start with a short sign video: a signer asks a “Did activities to further enhance the visual distinction
you know” -question about the topic at hand. The and to create a mental image of each category.
video clip is randomly drawn from a pool of five However, this image changes if the space is needed
different clips. Once the clip is over, a navigational for additional visual guidance such as a diagram or an
menu appears next to the signer. It links to the other image during a sign video.
remaining videos, helping the user to navigate
through the signed clips. These include the rest Settings. The participants were sensitive regarding
of the “Did you know” -questions, and a guidance font size: it should not be too big to disturb signing
video on which the signer explains what one can do nor too small if they wished to read the text. The
on the site. Every time a new video is launched, the dyslexic participants particularly expressed that the
navigation shrinks to the top so not disturb the sign optimal font size varies from day to day: when they
video visually. If the user wants to watch another are tired for example, they wish for a bigger text size
video while the signer is still signing, the user can but sometimes a small one is better. Moreover, the
expand the navigation back to its full-size. The colour and contrast of the text and background made
space on the left is also used to support the signed a huge difference in their ability to read. Therefore,
message by showing images, diagrams, and item lists a customisation option was designed to allow users to
of what is being signed. select the settings that fit their personal needs.

Figure 31.  Overlaid content video.

Figure 32.  To feel section.

Figure 34.  To play section.

Figure 33.  To learn section.

Chapter 7

Chapter Seven develops design recommendations the lack of confidence in writing skills may prevent
for future web developments targeted for Deaf taking part in text-based discussion forums, inability
users. The recommendations are developed on the to use one’s mother tongue may cause frustration,
basis of the user research and confirmed by earlier and unclear guidance may prevent using the site.
studies on Deaf culture and cross-cultural interface Additionally, this study has demonstrated that the
design. Both the user research and literature has style in which information is told was important to
illustrated that not everyone in the Deaf community Deaf users: it determined if they were engaged and
fits the cultural pattern precisely, but there is enough willing to explore content of the site.
regularity to identify preferences. Presented are
some of these identified tendencies to enhance What is more, there are countless design solutions
Deaf people’s user experience. They are collided and features needed in each project varies depending
into design recommendations using Jordan’s (2000) the goal of the site and its content. The recom-
Four-Pleasures framework. mendations listed here do not cover all the possible
needs but the ones encountered during the users
Some of the recommendations may also apply to research. Neither do they function as a checklist as
hearing people; thus, the recommendations should no design can cover all pleasures. However, they act
not be treated as a list of differences but rather as as a list of issues to be thought of when designing
a list of issues to be considered when designing web sites for Deaf culture so that Deaf users would
for the Deaf community. This from-minority-to- enjoy using them. As a result of the participatory
mainstream-thinking also implies that Deaf people design research analysis – confirmed by knowledge
– whose language is based on visual gestures and drawn from earlier research and literature – the
movements – are more sensitive to visual elements. following pleasures were identified specific to the
Consequently, they have a smaller tolerance for community of Deaf users:
clutter and discontinuity in design. This may also
bring a new perspective in designing for other user 7.1 Physio-pleasures
groups such as for elderly and dyslexic users who are This refers to the ability to work effectively on a
visually oriented due to short term verbal memory. web site and to access its content; that is, the ability
to use a system completely. For Deaf users too long
Even if many of the recommendations are in line with passages of text, unclear navigation, and lack of
general usability guidelines, it is important to realise visual cues cause frustration.
that the needs of Deaf users differs somewhat from
mainstream users. Even though Deaf people do not 7.1.1 Access to sound – visually
face as strong physical barriers in accessing content as For Deaf people, the most obvious accessibility
blind and weak-sighted people do, there are mental issues is access to audio content. However, a pure
barriers that may be as limiting. For example, a transcription of the sound does not give the same
written replacement for audio content is not enough: experience as the original format. One should think

of visual presentations of sound, such as sound waves screen without compensating in video quality.
or illustration, to produce equal access to auditory Regardless, the background gives more contextual
content. These could function as ideophones in sign information to users than plain colour. If the
language that describe sensations. background is to interact with the sign video, it
can be done through the use of chroma-keying
7.1.2 Scannable content and cue points. In addition to videos, other visual
Deaf people face difficulties using deep information elements such as still images and diagrams can
structures. Use of images and symbols help in be used to add contextual information. However,
interpreting information and creating a holistic view participants found that the image should not make
of the site and its content i.e. through displaying all signing harder to follow: the background behind
content items in the form of icons or images rather hand movements needs to be clean and simple,
than deep verbal structures. If text is used, carefully preferable monocolour and limited contrast. They
planned layout helps the visual reader: headers, found the background image pleasant when it
bullet lists, margins, and indentation can be used seamlessly blended with the rest of the background,
to make text more interesting and scannable. The not visually competing with the signer but still
visual distinction between different categories within being big enough to be easily seen. As an interface
the site can be reinforced through the use of colours, restricts communication to two-dimensional plane,
images, and icons. it is more difficult to follow signing shown on a
screen than in natural space.
7.1.3 Content on demand
The participant yearned for engaging but 7.1.6 Colours
simple designs, and an interaction model that The participators abhorred white, corporate
is responsive to mouse movements. Light box looking sites. They enjoyed seeing colours. This
application, or other ajax technologies, capable is partly do to the fact that a signer against white
of creating layered content can be used to create looks pale and does not provide enough contrast
a visual information architecture in which one between the background and the skin colour in
cannot get easily lost. This interaction model northern latitudes. However, in contrast to general
helps in creating content that interacts with users accessibility guidelines, there should not be too
and is displayed on demand. much contrast between text and the background as
it makes reading harder especially so for dyslexic
7.1.4 Balance between content, foreground, people. Alternative style sheets can be used to cater
and background people with different visual capabilities such as to
Compared to low context cultures such as most increase contrast for people with low vision.
Western cultures, high context cultures – including
Deaf culture – have a higher sensitivity to a balance 7.1.7 Symbols and icons
between different elements. Similarly, this study Previous studies have shown that the combination
has implied that surrounding elements inform Deaf of icons and text is the most effective navigation
users as much as the message itself. Thus, special method for Deaf users. Similarly, participants in
care should be taken to produce a harmony and this study found icons the most enjoyable means
wholeness of the site: background and content of navigating if they were aesthetically pleasing
should support each other. Guidelines should be and intuitively understood. Moreover, if used
created for all elements and photos to guarantee consistently, icons can enhance the recognition of
unity of the design. different sections of the site from each other and
help in scanning content within a page. However,
7.1.5 Visual support for a signer they should be used only for the most important
Participants expressed that a background image content elements on a page so that they do not
behind a signer invites one to follow what the create unnecessary visual clutter that slows down
signer has to say. Today, more and more sign videos the scanning of a page.
on web sites are filmed against natural settings
rather than plain studio backgrounds. This may 7.1.8 Signing guide
result from the increase in home made sign videos; Deaf people are more interested if information
or the increase of bandwidth, which allows sites is relayed by another Deaf person than if it is
to include more movement and details on the told by other means such as writing. The design

research illustrated the need for a person to provide 7.3 Psycho-pleasures
information about what one can do on a site. That This refers to psychological pleasures that
said, the signer should not make platitudinous an interface offers. These pleasures include
remarks but to invite to explore more. While the satisfaction felt when a task is successfully
signing, the guide should point to different content completed and the emotional responses towards
parts on that page. An engaging signer that guides aesthetics of an interface.
users throughout the site may not improve usability
in its traditional terms as a good interface should 7.3.1 Visual feedback
be intuitive to use. However, one needs to keep Instant visual feedback helps Deaf users to
in mind that Deaf people are used to face-to-face understand information and navigate on the site.
communication. The guide helps in bringing However, constantly moving animations or scrolling
cultural value to Deaf users, and thus makes it more text should be avoided. Deaf users find it difficult to
attractive to them. focus when distracting movement cannot be turned
off. If scrollable and animated content is used, there
7.2 Socio-pleasures should also be an option to stop it. No more than
This refers to pleasures gained from social one moving element should be used at a time.
interaction as well as to pleasures gained from the
possibility of being heard and informed. 7.3.2 Presentation of Deaf people
Deaf users are naturally keen observers of physical
7.2.1 Global friends traits, and thus, the way people are presented should
Deaf gain huge pleasures from being able to contact be well planned. Even if the presentation depends
their friends across the globe. The Internet creates on a genre, goal, and target audience of the web site,
an alternative social space where Deaf users can one should consider the following:
access and exchange information instantly as well • Emergence. How the signer appears on the
as stay in touch with their peer groups. In terms screen and disappears from it? Is the signer
of information exchange, the web allows Deaf already presented or does he/she walk into
people to break from the constrains of their local the screen? What style delivers the right
social environment in which one has to travel atmosphere?
long distances to meet the other members of the • Clothes and accessories. What is the signer
community. Before Deaf exchanged and gained wearing? Do the clothes and accessories
information solely by attending Deaf clubs, but match with the colour scheme of the site? Can
today the ability to read, write, and sign by using different accessories be used to distinguish
digital devices is reducing the need of clubs as different types of content from each other?
information channels. Thus, systems that facilitate • Actors. Who is signing? Different persons
this interaction on the Internet, would bring can be used to present different types of
pleasures for Deaf users. information to visually and stylistically
distinguish different sections of the site.
7.2.2 Video applications • Signing style. How is the information being
Social media sites such as Facebook are becoming signed? Is the signing in a storytelling or
adopted by Deaf users. Though text-based systems matter-of-fact style? On the basis of this
have been liberating for the Deaf community, study, Deaf users seem to appreciate highly
writing does not give the freedom of expression personal, vivid, and joyful signing. This
in one’s mother tongue for sign language reflects the natural communication style in
users. Participants felt that open source video Deaf culture which relies on face-to-face
commenting system such as Seesmic and Kaltura encounters and interpersonal style.
available for Wordpress were not good enough:
(1) they did not offer Finnish translations, and 7.4. Ideo-pleasures
(2) the blogging interface was clumsy to use. This refers to the way people see and would like
Though, developing new tools was out of scope to see themselves including the values the product
for this design project, these tools would be worth embeds. In the case of the Deaf community, an
experimenting for future development. They would interface brings pleasures if it provides Deaf users
offer the Deaf people the possibility to take part in with a feeling of being part of the culture and an
online discussion in their mother tongue. ability to be proud of their heritage.

7.4.1 Fluent signers
Deaf feel more confident if information comes in
the form of stories told by another Deaf person.
Thus, the pleasure gained from watching sign videos
depends both on the way stories are told as well as
the position of the signer in the Deaf community.
Signers clearly needs to have sign language as their
mother tongue; signers should not be representatives
of main stream culture to whom sign language is a
second language – signing skills not being as fluent
as that of Deaf people.

7.4.2 Faces
Deaf gain pleasures from being able to recognise
other member’s of the community: it reinforces the
feeling of Deaf identity. One of the important aspects
of Deaf culture is the importance of people’s faces.
Even signed names are based on one’s visual traits
(Rainò, 2004). When a person is presented on a web
site, whether as part of text or signing, the name
should be accompanied with an image of that person.

7.4.3 Dominant signing

The lack of alternatives to audio content causes
frustration but so does the inability access one’s
mother tongue annoy Deaf users. Being proud
of sign language is one of the biggest pleasures
for signers. Yet, the participatory research
demonstrated a paradox: the participants stressed
the importance of having a signed video even if one
does not necessarily watch it. Participants repeatedly
expressed the need to have access to one’s mother
tongue as it signifies recognition of sign language
that has been downplayed and unrecognised for
decades. This has two implications:

• Signed video should not be used only as a

substitute for text. It should be celebrated, and
placed equally with written content.
• Signing should be clearly visible on the home
page not only because large video size is easier
to follow but as it signals that sign language has
been fully recognised.

Chapter 8

This thesis has reported a research and development The literature review described the characteristics of
process of KnacK project’s pilot web site Knack.fi for sign language to draw spaces and processes in a detail.
people with a hearing loss. A challenge was set to The language itself functions in a three dimensional
design an interface that would meet the real needs space that allows one to exploit and mimic real
of Deaf users. This is because the web sites that world settings. On the basis of the visuo-spatial
fully met accessibility criteria – and sometimes them features of sign language, visual processing may be
especially – did not attract Deaf users. The purpose even more dominant for sign language users than
of this design study was firstly to identify affordances for mainstream culture – even if visual thinking
which convey the Deaf way of doing, seeing, and is embedded in every culture. Visual languages
representing; and secondly, embed these into design have predated the development of textual ones. In
features that Deaf find buoyant. In order to develop combination with textual descriptions, visualisations
recommendations for future web developments are used to make information more accessible to
for Deaf users Jordan’s (2000) Four-Pleasures human intuition: textual presentations are frequently
framework was used to categorise these features. accompanied with pictures that exemplify the ideas
The preliminary work reported in this thesis is a contained in text allowing the viewer to discover
first step in that direction. relations and characteristics that are hidden in the
textual descriptions (Marriott & Meyer, 1998).
The design process showed that even if visually
engaging content was the key for liking an interface, On the Internet people expect to find information
ease-of-use and speed were as important factors for quickly, effortlessly, and concisely. Thus, in the
Deaf participants. It became evident that participants context of designing an interface, one should
yearned for visual guidance, but not at the cost think of ways to enhance the effectiveness of
of clarity of an interface. They did not appreciate communication so that it can be delivered naturally,
highly experimental web sites such as the ones which but at the same time powerfully. For Deaf users this
utilised 3D space or landscapes for information means features that support their visuo-gestural
space: the participants found them confusing and language in a two dimensional plane i.e. use of icons
cluttered. Instead, they favoured and used sites which on navigation; photos to illustrate the context of
they found easy to navigate and understand, and that signing; colours to visually differentiate different
responded instantly to their actions. Even if visuality, sections of the site; and visual responses to mouse
usability and responsiveness may seem separate movements to clarify functionality.
entities, they are strongly linked: Firstly, participant
repeatedly expressed their desire for instant visual 8.1 Satisfaction
feedback such as icons that animate once they hover Three main objectives were presented for the
over. Secondly, participants stated that the use of participatory research: (1) to identify culture specific
signing guide helped them to navigate on the site and needs of Deaf people that an interface needs to
to understand the structure of the site better. meet; (2) to integrate the identified needs into a web

interface; (3) to develop design recommendations context cultures in general. Inline with studies
that extend traditional accessibility guidelines to conducted in Japan (Natamame et al., 2006) and
include not only physical but also social, ideological, in Spain Fajardo et al. (2008a), the participatory
and psychological needs of Deaf users. In the design activities and interviews showed clearly that
following section the fulfillment of each of these Deaf users long for visual cues rather than semantic
goals is addressed. information to navigate on the Internet. Similar
to the stereotypical members of low context and
1. Identification of culture specific needs. The holistic cultures (see Würtz, 2005; Barber & Badre,
acknowledgement of reflective level required in 1998; Marcus, 2001), the Deaf participants were
understanding historical context of Deaf culture. likely to use more images and less text as well as
It also helped one to understand why it was so favoured approaches that mimicked human presence
important for Deaf participants to have sign and communal values. There were also similarities
language on a web site: even if most Deaf are to findings by Dong and Lee (2008) and Nisbett
able to read perfectly, the history of oralism and and Norensayan (2002) on holistic cultures. Firstly,
century long struggles surrounding the right to Deaf participants longed for the visual display of
use sign language, has ensured this issue to remain all content items, which indicated that they scan
sensitive. The participants strongly expressed a page as a whole. Secondly, participants were
that the term accessibility heavily depends on the sensitive to even tiny changes on the visual layout
person who defines it. For them it not only mean of screen space and colour palette, demonstrating
access to content and functions, but also access their sensitivity to the balance between foreground,
to their mother tongue. Therefore, it should background, and content.
not be secondary to text on a site: the use of
sign language as a dominant feature signifies the Previous studies on user experience with Deaf
acknowledgement and acceptance of Deaf people people have examined how effectively Deaf users
as full members of society. are able to navigate and find information on web
sites, or how intuitively they understand individual
2. Integration of culture specific needs. This research elements such as icons, text, or signing on a web
has gone beyond surface design elements to study site. This study is inline with the findings of earlier
which features are meaningful for Deaf people. It studies conducted in Japan (Namatame & Kitajina,
addressed the substantial limitations of previous 2005; Namatame & Kitajina, 2008) and in Spain
work, targeting high-level goals and real needs of (Fajardo et al., 2006, 2007, 2008c): (1) fancy design
Deaf individuals. No hypotheses were set in the ideas are not easily captured by the hard of hearing,
study goals to limit this design research, but rather and (2) for navigation the use of icons accompanied
it was set open to themes to be raised by participants with labels is the most effective means for helping
during the design process. Deaf people navigate on the Internet. Pervious
research on Deaf interface design, however, has
3. Recommendations. Jordan’s (2000) framework only touched the outer levels of design without
provides a way to look beyond physical and investigating the deeper structures involved
cognitive needs of Deaf users to include sociological, including the ideological role of sign language
ideological, and emotional needs. This reflection and its role in guiding the user. This study has
of people’s values and tastes is a perquisite for a demonstrated that material elements of an interface
meaningful interface as discussed earlier in this do not bring value on their own. Rather, it is
study. As noted in Chapter Two, the Deaf experience the meanings an interface bring forth to users –
consists of both sociological and biological factors: through visceral, behavioural, and reflective levels
some of the issues may be related to sign language; of interaction – that are worthy. They form the
some to difficulties in hearing; and some to shared overall user experience. Yet, no research on Deaf
history and values. user experience on the reflective level – which is
the most deepest level of interface design – has
8.2 Contribution of the study been conducted before.
This participatory design study confirmed the
findings of earlier work on user experience of Deaf The recommendations of this study are to guide
people. It also suggest that Deaf people’s interface future web developments. One of these is the
preferences resembles the ones found in high redesign of the Finnish Association of Deaf’s web

site, which will commence in the near future. they are concerned with. Nevertheless, agendas
The findings from this research can inform the given by members of the culture are ones that they
development process as Deaf participants found are concerned with, and thus, important to them.
it “hearing”, not engaging, and unpleasant to use. Thereby, it can be assumed that these are the issues
Even minor design changes could enhance the user which contribute to an interface becoming cherished
experience for Deaf people. This includes making by Deaf users.
interfaces more engaging and more intuitive to use.
Based on this design study, this study recommends The participatory design approach was suited for
the following three things: this type of research. It made the whole design
process accessible to community members enabling
• Informative images to illustrate written content the study to transcend it in ways the participant
that now is heavily text driven. The images found buoyant. As opinions were part of the design
should tell stories, and bring about issues that process, the participants’ viewpoints were not left
are important to people with hearing loss. at theoretical level but put into practice. That is,
These issues include sign language, Deaf the design outcome provided a visual example of
people’s cultural history, and being and doing how the cultural features should be implemented
together with other Deaf people. to meet the needs of Deaf users. In addition,
• Dominant signer that is large in size to engage the observations and knowledge gained as well
a Deaf visitor. as the research methods developed in this study
• Clearer visual distinction between different are utilised in in-house training for the Finnish
sections of the site; for example, through use Association of the Deaf.
of colours and icons.
However, more in-depth research should be
Overall, this study has made two contributions. conducted for individual features in order to gain
Firstly, it has demonstrated that the unduly more reliable research results. That said, one should
narrow focus on accessibility has undermined keep in mind that overall user-experience is always
user experience. The narrow focus of accessibility a result of components that rely on each other,
standards and usability-based approaches have and thus, the modification of one may alter the
tended to take a limited view of human needs perception of the other. This is the case especially
underestimating cultural factors. This thesis has for Deaf people who are holistically minded: they
shown that social, ideological, and psychological have the tendency to see foreground and background
issues rising from Deaf culture are as important together, contrasting to the analytical mainstream
aspects for user experience as physiological ones. Western culture that tends to separate individual
The results of this study are consistent with elements from each other.
previous cultural studies, but they have not been
implemented in previous web interfaces targeted 8.4 Future work
towards Deaf users. Secondly, an overview of This design research has been the first step in
design implications was developed into recommen- identifying Deaf culture specific design elements.
dations that were supported by the findings from Future research should be conducted to amend, test,
the design research as well as previous studies. and specify the findings both in theory and practice.
In addition, a few interesting issues – that were out
8.3 Limitations of the study of the scope of this design study – were raised, and
The result of the participatory research is closely that warrants further research.
tied to the opinions of Deaf users and their
experiences with web sites. Still, the involvement • The positioning of the signer within a sign video.
of users does not guarantee the development The workshops indicated that occasionally
of meaningful artefacts. There are two major the signed communication feels more natural
drawbacks of the open participatory method. Firstly, if more than one signer is used, allowing a
the limited scope of this thesis makes it incapable to more natural flow of signing. This was also a
examine each individual feature in-depth. Secondly, feature used in sites that were produced by Deaf
there may be several issues that the study has not designers on experimental sites. More research
touched upon: the participatory design methods should be conducted on cases in which the use
relies solely on participants to bring about the issues of more than one signer is more effective.

• Cross-cultural study on user experience in Deaf
culture compared to other collective cultures.
The literature review on cross-cultural web
design as well as the structure of sign language
showed connections between sign language and
collective cultures. This is in terms of language
structures as well as preferences on visual
styles and interface features. Among others
these included preference on soft information
over hard facts, images over text, and holistic
perception over analytic thinking. Thus, more
in-depth research should be conducted on the
similarity of user experience in these cultures
in order to be able transfer design ideas from
one domain to another. The cross-cultural
comparison might lead one to identify design
features that are yet undiscovered on interfaces
designed for Deaf communities.


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Seesmic (http://seesmic.com)
BBC – My Web My Way
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CinemaSense (http://elokuvantaju.uiah.fi) Tate (http://www.tate.org.uk/collections/glossary/

Deaf Free Camp Europe 4
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Deafstation: Information resource and news Vcom3D (http://www.vcom3d.com)

servise in BSL (http://www.deafstation.org)
Viittomakilialan osuuskunta Via
Deaf Video Production [Kuurojen video] (http://www.via-ok.net)
VIIVI – Viittomakielisen opetuksen portti
Deaf Video TV: Deaf Videos and Vlogs (http://www.viivi.fi)
Vimeo (http://www.vimeo.com)
DEAFVOC – a Leonardo da Vi language
competence project (http://www.deafvoc.fi) Visicast (http://www.visicast.cmp.uea.ac.uk)

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Project (http://asl.cs.depaul.edu)
Wordpress › Blog Tool and Publishing Platform
Facebook (http://www.facebook.com) (http://wordpress.org)

The Finnish Association of the Deaf YLE – Sign Language news by the Finnish
(http://www.kl-deaf.fi) Broadcasting Company (http://www.yle.fi/
Finnish Sign Language TV [Viittomakielinen TV]
(http://www.kl-deaf.fi/nettitv) Youtube (http://www.youtube.com)

Appendix 1

Focus Group
The following 17 web sites were evaluated and
discussed during the focus group session. All of these
sites were accessed on January 13, 2009. They are
listed in an alphabetical order.

Barbican Markku Jokinen

(http://www.barbican.org.uk) (http://www.markkujokinen.org)

Deaf Nation Shouth Creative

(http://www.deafnation.org) (http://shouthcreeative.com.au)

Elisa Sign Planet

(http://www.elisa.fi) (http://www.signplanet.cm)

The Finnish Associatio of the Deaf Signfuse

(http://www.kl-deaf.fi) (http://www.signfuse.com)

Globaloneness Signline
(http://www.globaloneness.org) (http://www.signline.fi)

Headlines corporate news Viittomakilialan osuuskunta Via

(http://www.corpnews.co.uk) (http://www.via-ok.net)

Iltalehti Viivi
(http://www.iltalehti.fi) (http://www.viivi.fi)

Iltasanomat Websourd
(http://www.iltasanomat.fi) (http://www.websourd.fr)
[Retrieved version not available after May, 2009]
Kuurojen Palvelusaatio

Appendix II

Thematic interview

The following themes were used as a basis for

thematic interview used to capture information
which included participants’ Internet usage,
experience, and interface preferences.

1. Internet usage
a) Most commonly visited web sites
b) Favourite web sites
c) Sign language web sites visited
d) Favourite sign language web sites

2. Experience
a) Frustration on the web
b) Engagement on the web

3. Wishes for improvements

a) In terms of functionality and navigation
b) In terms of layout
c) In terms of content

Appendix III

Concent form

In Finnish: In English:


Annan tutkija Suvi Kituselle luvan tallentaa I give researcher Suvi Kitunen a permission to
työskentelyäni. Lisäksi lupaan tutkimuksen aikana record my working. In addition, I promise to give
pitämäni muistiinpanot, valokuvat ja videotallenteet the notes, photos, and video recordings that I have
hänen käyttöönsä. produced during the research to her disposal.

Videotallenteet ja muu materiaali tulee vain Video recordings and other material is only to be
tutkimuksen käyttöön eikä niitä saa esittää muussa used for the purpose of the study and they are not
yhteydessä ilman eri sopimusta. Annan luvan permitted to be shown in any other context without
materiaalin julkaisuun tutkimukseen liittyvissä a separate agreement. I give a permission to publish
julkaisuissa. this material in publications related to this research.

Helsingissä __ /___ 2009 __ /___ 2009, Helsinki

______________________ ______________________
Allekirjoitus Signature

______________________ ______________________
Nimen selvennys Print name

The design research by Suvi methods and applied in the
Kitunen aims to provide development of Knack.fi
design recommendations web site, aiming to serve
for Deaf culture specific web dyslexic Deaf children and
sites taking into consideration their families.
the implications of Deaf
culture and sign language as Overall, this thesis made
a first language on web user two contributions. Firstly, it
experience. So far web demonstrated that the unduly
sites localised for sign language narrow focus on accessibility
users have been merely and usability has undermined
concerned with providing the impact of culture upon
signed alternatives to written user experience. Secondly,
and auditory content but have drawing together ideas on the
failed to take into consideration literature and supported by the
the cultural aspects of findings of the user research, it
signed communication.The developed a preliminary list of
knowledge was gathered design recommendations for
through participatory design future developments.