Including Live Captioning
It’s a best practice to offer captioning in all meetings you host.
People who are deaf or hard of hearing often require live captions to participate in meetings. It’s worth noting that hearing loss is common among people of working age and is the most prevalent service-connected disability among American veterans. People with other disabilities may also need captions for focus and concentration.
Captions offer additional broad benefits to all participants, regardless of disability, including:
- Captions have been proven to increase comprehension, improve focus and create better learning outcomes.
- Captions create a full transcript that is available after the meeting, reducing the need for notetaking during the meeting.
In addition to captioning, you should also offer a transcript during the meeting. Screen readers and refreshable braille readers work with transcripts, but they do not work with captions. You also do not want to replace captions with a transcript because it can cause cognitive overload for some viewers. Most captioning providers offer transcripts through a link associated with the event. Attendees can open the link and view the live transcription.
What Type of Captioning Do You Need?
Here are the captioning options that are currently on the market.
Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART)
Recommended use: Live external events, especially when in response to accommodation requests; meetings where an employee requires CART to participate effectively
What it is: A certified CART provider joins the meeting and transcribes speech into a live text stream using a specialized keyboard. When possible, the captioner also reviews materials ahead of time to ensure accuracy for the pronunciation and spelling of jargon and names. You should make it a priority to send these materials to the captioner ahead of your meeting.
Human-generated CART is the gold standard for accuracy. If an individual requests captioning as an event accommodation, it is what you should always provide.
Be sure you don’t confuse CART with “respeaking” or “voice writing.” These terms refer to a different product that is generally not recommended.
See guidance below for finding a certified CART provider and adding it to your meeting platform.
Recommended use: Internal and ad hoc meetings
What it is: A computer instantly translates live speech to text from a microphone, without any human intermediary.
Automated, AI-enabled captions have made impressive strides in recent years. Currently, CART is still the best option for any scheduled event, but automated captions are useful in many situations.
Avoid confusing automatic captions with “respeaking” or “voice writing.”
- Automatic captions are generally more cost effective than CART.
- Some platforms include automatic captions by default, making them an effective choice for impromptu meetings.
- They offer a quick backup option when there are technical problems with CART.
- Currently, automated captions do not yet match the accuracy CART provides, particularly for jargon and specialized terminology. Attempting to use them for large-scale events may result in substandard captions—and potentially damage your brand.
- Automated captions can vary widely in quality, and industry standards have not yet been established.
- Automatic captions tend not to work well for people who have accents or for non-native English speakers.
What it is: A human repeats the words of a speaker into a microphone, which is connected to AI-powered speech-to-text technology.
- Respeaking is often presented as an economical alternative to CART, but these vendors generally save that money by hiring voice writers with insufficient training to deliver an accurate verbatim transcript. This often results in low quality accuracy and lag time.
- Talented verbatim voice writers do exist—but are rare. They also typically charge equivalent prices to stenographic CART that reflect the thousands of training hours they’ve dedicated to teaching the computer the individual patterns of their voice and learning how to make their speech consistent.
It’s important to set up an account with a CART provider ahead of time, so that it’s readily available when needed.
- The Hearing Loss Association of America maintains a list of remote captioning providers.
- Federal government employees can obtain free captioning through the Federal Relay Service.
Integrating CART into your Platform
Meeting hosts can secure CART to play in a window adjacent to the speaker, or the platform you are using may include the option to seamlessly add captions below the presentation screen. You’ll need to work with the captioner to set up these arrangements in advance of the meeting.
Share the participant list and meeting materials with captioners ahead of time so that they are prepared to anticipate participant names and any specialized jargon.
Share the captioning link with participants in advance of the meeting and in the meeting chat before starting. It’s important to share this even if you provide integrated captioning in case of technical errors or lags.
At the beginning of the meeting, remind speakers to speak slowly, clearly and one at a time to assist the captioners and interpreters. Additionally, it can help the captioner, interpreter and participants if speakers have their cameras on while speaking. There are exceptions to this. For example, if a speaker prefers not to be on camera or tends to move a lot, which may make lip readers dizzy. In these cases, it is fine for speakers to keep their cameras off.