Coming to You Live!

Videoconference meeting

Most of you probably know that if you post a video online you must provide closed captions for the audio track [WCAG 1.2.2 Captions (Prerecorded) – Level A]. But as we scramble to provide access to live meetings via Zoom or similar platforms, we need to look at the standards for captioning live meetings.

Guideline 1.2.4 Captions (Live) – Level AA states:

Captions are provided for all live audio content in synchronized media.

If we dive into the intent of that standard, we see that if you are meeting with a small team of your co-workers on Zoom and none of you have identified a need for captioning, you are okay. However, if you are broadcasting your monthly board meeting and it is open to the public, you are obligated to provide captioning for the meeting.

But how do you do it?

At this time, Zoom does not have a built-in automated solution for live captioning (they say they are working on it, though.) If you look into adding captions to Zoom, you find that turning on the Closed Captioning option allows “the host to type closed captions or assign a participant/third party device to add closed captions.”

I’ve spent quite a bit of time researching automated solutions for live captioning, but most of them are intended for television-style broadcasting and are out of our price range. I’ve also tried typing captions, myself, during a meeting. I think I lasted less than a minute – my very average keyboarding skills were definitely not up to the task!

Finally, I researched using live captioning services and was pleasantly surprised by what I found. The pricing is reasonable, and you pay per use with no obligation. That means you don’t pay for time you don’t use. The captioners are trained as court stenographers and are able to keep up with the conversation. They encourage users to submit names and specialized terms ahead of time so the captioner knows how to spell them. We used live captioning for our last ESD 113 board meeting, and it went very well.

Another option for those who use Google Slides is to turn on captioning when presenting from Google Slides. To do that, while in presentation mode press SHIFT-CTRL-C (Windows) or SHIFT-CMD-C (Mac) or hover over the built-in tools at the bottom of the screen to turn on captioning. Everything you say will be presented on the screen. There isn’t any punctuation, but if you want students to be able to follow along more easily, this could be a no-cost solution for you. I don’t believe there is a way to edit the captions (if anyone can correct me on this, please do so!). Some versions of Microsoft Powerpoint offer the same functionality. Look for the subtitles settings on the Slide Show ribbon.

Captions are useful, even for people without identified auditory disabilities. I often turn them on and find that they help me follow the conversation. They are also useful when you are in a noisy setting, or when you don’t want to have the sound turned on. And did you know that 35% of people over the age of 65 have some level of hearing loss? While senior citizens may not be your target audience, please realize that they don’t wake up on their 65th birthday unable to hear. Loss of hearing develops gradually over time and is often a hidden disability.

I’m happy to share what I’ve learned about various captioning services. You can contact me directly at cjouper@esd113.org for more information.