Georgia Tech Research Institute

Audio Output (4 of 7)

Issue: Non-verbal audio output is not meaningful.

Some kiosks use only simple non-verbal audio output (i.e., beeps or tones) to communicate information to users. These tones may not be meaningful in the absence of accompanying visual information, such as an on-screen message or graphic. Users with visual impairments may not have access to visual information, and may therefore have difficulty interpreting the meaning of non-verbal audio output. Users with cognitive impairments may also have difficulty figuring out the meaning of non-verbal audio output.

Populations Impacted: Users who are blind; users with low vision; users with cognitive impairments.

Potential Solutions:
  • When possible, select sounds with characteristics that convey meaning. It is difficult to convey meaning through simple sounds in a way that is universally understood, but it may be possible in some situations. For example, a "positive" sound (a "ding" or a rising tone) could be used to indicate that input has been accepted, and a "negative" sound (a "buzz" or a descending tone) could be used to indicate that input has been rejected.

  • Consider using non-verbal sounds only to convey very simple information. For example, a "click" sound could be used to indicate that a keypress has been accepted. The information is conveyed by the presence or absence of the sound, and not by the characteristics of the sound. When using sounds in this way, ensure that the sounds are temporally matched with the associated event, so that the relationship between the event (for example, a keypress) and the sound is clear.

  • Use verbal messages to convey information. When detailed information needs to be conveyed via sound, use verbal information to explicitly and unambiguously convey the information. This eliminates the requirement for users to interpret the meaning of the sound, and also serves as a redundant means of providing the information, which benefits users with visual impairments.

Applicable Guidelines:
ADA-ABA - 707.5
Section 508 - 1194.31(a), 1194.31(b)
HFDS -,,,