Deaf and hearing people can encounter challenges when communicating with one another in everyday situations. Problems with verbal communication are often seen as the main cause, however, challenges also arise from sensory differences between deaf and hearing people. These differences create differing perceptions of the world, and the resulting sensory gap can foster misunderstanding. Proposals for innovative communication technologies to address this gap have been met with criticism by the deaf community. Such technologies tend to be designed to enhance deaf people’s understanding of the verbal cues that hearing people rely on, while omitting the many critical sensory signals that deaf people rely on to understand (others in) their environment – signals that hearing people are not attuned to. In this perspective paper, sensory augmentation which technologically extends a person’s sensory capabilities is proposed as a means of bridging this sensory gap: 1) by tuning into the signals deaf people more often rely on, which are commonly missed by hearing people, and vice versa; and 2) through the use of sensory augmentations which enable deaf and hearing people to sense signals that they are not normally able to sense. Before we can realize sensory augmentation’s potential to bridge the sensory gap between deaf and hearing people, we will need to work through usability and user-acceptance challenges. Addressing these challenges requires a novel approach to the design of the new technologies. We contend that this calls for a situated design approach.
Alwin de Rooij, Michel van Dartel and Emiel Krahmer
Avans University of Applied Sciences, Netherlands
Department of Communication and Cognition, Tilburg School of Humanities and Digital Sciences, Tilburg University, Netherlands
Caradt – Centre of Applied Research for Art, Design & Technology, Avans University of Applied Sciences, Netherlands