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Audio Output

A user with a hearing impairment may be able to access audio output by manipulating the volume and/or connecting a hearing aid or other amplification device.

Similarly, a user with a visual impairment may wish to manipulate the volume of synthesised speech output to accommodate varied environmental conditions or personal preferences/needs.


When a device uses audio output to provide important information, users can have difficulty hearing the information if they are in a public area. Users need to be able to adjust the volume so they can hear the information.

If the product is in an environment with a high noise level, users may need to adjust the volume so the voice output can be heard.

Audio connectors

When a product uses audio to communicate important information, individuals using personal headphones, amplifiers, audio couplers and other audio processing devices need a place to plug the device into the product in a standard way. This gives the user the ability to listen privately to the information.

Speech output

Synthetic or digitally stored speech can be used for:

For non-speech output, such as acoustic signals to attract attention, use a frequency between 300Hz and 3000Hz. Acoustic signals include: ringing signals and equipment warning signals e.g. error "bleep".

Problems encountered by disabled people and the ageing population using audio output technology

Blind and partially sighted

Some users with visual impairments may find it difficult to use ICT systems without auditory displays (e.g. acoustic signals and speech output), to complement visual information.

Hearing impaired

People with a hearing impairment often have difficulty in understanding synthetic speech output since it tends to have less redundancy than natural speech. The facility to repeat a message is frequently essential rather than just desirable.

Poor quality speech output may prove difficult to understand.

Background noise may prevent users from hearing information or feedback.

Physically impaired

A phsyically impaired user may find it difficult to easily reach the volume control.

Cognitively impaired

Long and complicated instructions may cause confusion to some cognitively impaired users.

Background noise may prevent cognitively impaired users from understanding instructions or feedback.

Ageing population

Some members of the ageing population may have difficulty understanding poor quality speech output.

Background noise may prevent some users from hearing and/or understanding instructions or feedback.

Checklist for Audio Output




IBM (2008) recommend:

Audio connectors

IBM (2008) recommends:

Speech output


Further information



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