Deaf friendly doorbells

Conventional homes are designed for the hearing majority of the population. Doorbells, fire alarms, telephones and baby monitors are all auditory. Without visual or vibrating replacements, a Deaf person will live a much more dangerous life.

Smartphones have made things easier of course but a vibrating phone is of no use outside your pocket. It may be easy for a friend to text when they are at your door instead of ringing a bell but what about strangers making unexpected calls?

Conor Mervyn is an NEC member of the British Association of Teachers of the Deaf. He said that installing visual doorbells and alarms was:

Not that difficult. Many Deaf people contact their social services in their respective local authorities who fit them. It’s more reliable to have a flashing light fixated somewhere (if not all lights flashing, this is a bit more cumbersome and you have to have the switches on which is electrically expensive over time). They also supply baby monitors and fire alarms with vibrating pads under the beds. Budget cuts however means this is becoming harder. 

There are some new things now like ‘Ring’ where you can see who is at the door which may be appealing to Deaf people but many may not understand what is being said but still useful to see who is at the door. There was something coming out with…different colours flashing for different things – text messages, FaceTime call, doorbell etc. This sounds really appealing but I suspect for some Deaf people their house would resemble a colourful disco 24/7!”

Kevin Taylor, Product Technologist for Action on Hearing Loss, said:

“Certainly, ‘smart Wi-Fi doorbells’ that provide a vibrate notification on a smartphone are an increasingly viable option for many people with hearing loss and deafness. They are an example of how mainstream technology and devices provide an ‘inclusive’ solution. In addition, some smart doorbells also have an optional Wi-Fi chime receiver unit (the RING Wi-Fi doorbell has this). This gives an audible chime in addition to the alert notification received on the smartphone. However, so far, we haven’t seen any Wi-Fi chime receivers with a visual alert (or indeed a vibrate function).  

Traditional (non-Wi-Fi) wireless doorbells with loud audible chime, flashing light and vibrate function have been available for many years and are still available. Some are ‘stand-alone’ systems with either a flashing light chime receiver or vibrating pager (or both), while multi-alerting systems include doorbell alerting.

Examples of multi-alerting systems with a doorbell function include the Bellman Visit System, and Humantechnik Signolux system. These have flashing light receivers and vibrating pagers.

A wireless doorbell with flashing light will be around £40 – 60. The cost of multi alerting system with flashing light receiver, it really depends on what is included in the system – but a rough estimate is £100 – £250.”

As budget cuts get worse, the Deaf community will need to use apps as a cheaper alternative to hardware. Even £40 is a lot of money in a period of austerity.

Edmund West is an autistic freelance journalist who has been writing articles since 2007. He also works with Autistic adults and has an MA in history. He has written for several magazines: Press Gazette, Wired, Military History Monthly, History Today, etc.