CHHA Releases Universal Design Document

CHHA Releases Universal Design Document

Editor: Universal Design is very cool! It’s the idea that a product should be designed so that nearly everyone can use it, regardless of their individual limitations. It ‘s a companion of the idea that it’s much easier to design accessibility in than to add it on.

The Canadian Hard of Hearing Association (CHHA) has recently released a document with guidelines and best practices for folks with hearing loss. You can access the English version at:

and the French version at:

Here’s their cover letter.


Wikipidia defines Universal Design as a relatively new paradigm that emerged from barrier-free” or “accessible design” and “assistive technology. The definition continues by stating that this new concept provides a level of accessibility for people with disabilities. For most people the concept of universal design or barrier free access creates the image of a wheelchair ramp to a building. However, for the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association the concept of universal design is about accessible communication, the ability to be able to understand and interact with the world around them.

Ten percent of the world’s population has some degree of hearing loss making hearing loss the largest disability in the world. These percentages are modest compared to the incidence level expected in the coming decades. Hearing loss has enormous social, economic and emotional impact, affecting individuals, families and all members of the community. Communication breakdown is the primary effect of hearing loss creating issues in interpersonal relationships, educational participation, employment, and socioeconomic status. Societal impacts are far-reaching in terms of healthcare costs, poverty, loss of economic gains, and reduction in quality of life. Self-sufficiency and individual well-being are adversely impacted. Society loses out when a significant portion of its members are unable to communicate and participate effectively; this affects not only the quality of life, it also affects the economic viability of the community.

Upon examination of the rising population of persons with hearing loss it became apparent that a Universal Design document focusing on access for persons with hearing loss would be a much needed and sought after resource tool. With assistance from Human Resource Social Development Canada, Social Development Partnerships Program, The Canadian Hard of Hearing Association has attempted to fill this void with this document; “Universal Design & Barrier-Free Access, Guidelines for Persons with Hearing Loss” created by Michel David and his Advisory Committee; Dr. Charles Laszlo, Dr. Marilyn Dahl, Mr. Colin Cantlie and Mr. Duane Simpson. We believe this resource guide has encapsulated the necessary information required to ensure a “Universal Design” concept for all persons with hearing loss. It is our intent that this document will provide the necessary information required to ensure accessible communication will be prevalent in mainstream society thereby ensuring access for persons with hearing loss everywhere.