In most ways,members of the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community (numbering approximately 20 million in the U.S.A.)* are very much like other consumers in traditional markets. They own homes and automobiles, have children and pets, a passion for team sports, and travel extensively. Onemore noteworthy fact: Deaf consumers maintain a strong brand-name loyalty.
Most Deaf people are technology consumers, owning a variety of assistive and signaling devices such as hearing aids, flashing alarm clocks and doorbells, and telecommunications devices (TTYs). They are enthusiastic about wireless pagers.
As might be expected, there is a heavy saturation of visual-entertainment products within Deaf households: large-screen televisions with closed-captioning capability, VCR players, and video-game devices. Significant dollars are spent on rental and purchase of closed-captioned movies on videocassette and DVD.
Computers have become almost a standard fixture in millions of American homes. This holds true for Deaf households as well. In fact, the number of computers in Deaf homes has been increasing at a faster rate than in hearing households. Computers have become a primary means of communication. E-mail is much faster and cheaper than using telephone-relay services or calling long distance using TTYs. Videophone technology enables two or more parties to have real-time onscreen signed conversations with each other, so DEaf people are excited about the prospect of increased videophone access.
Though specific demographic data related to computer and Internet use within the Deaf community has not been formally compiled for the past few years, we can say with assurance that the numbers of Deaf/HH people who use the Net regularly are comparable to those of their hearing counterparts. A large number of Deaf households have Internet access, and Deaf people are frequent users of the Net. Their favorite activities are Web-browsing, revisiting favorite sites, and E-mail.
As Deaf computer users are heavily reliant on Internet and Web access (for most, that means daily log-in), it is reasonable to assume that the Deaf community represents a significant Internet market.
*population figures vary between estimates of 20 to 28 million, depending on organization or agency collecting the data
A conservative estimate of 13,650,000 Deaf persons (65% of the total Deaf population in the United States) currently use computers. That number is increasing steadily.