Q&A about captioning from NDC

Closed Caption feed on TV screenThe National Deaf Center on Post Secondary Outcomes (NDC) has recently been publishing a number of valuable resources regarding accessibility accommodations for people with deafness or hearing impairments. The latest comes in the form of a Q&A (questions and answers) with section that was particularly helpful. We picked this one to share, but please view the full resource and consider signing up for their newsletter.

Read the entire NDC Q&A resource

Captions – automatic, closed captions, real-time, transcription: What do these all mean?

Automatic captions – Also referred to as speech-recognition, automated captioning, or auto-captions, are generated by a computer with Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) technology. These captions tend to lack punctuation, speaker identification, and require a human to fix mistakes.

Many platforms include this feature, such as:

  • Video streaming platforms (i.e. YouTube automated captions or Microsoft PowerPoint Translator)
  • Apps (i.e., Translate or Otter.ai)
  • Learning Management Systems (i.e., Blackboard, Canvas)
  • Live video streaming services (i.e., Zoom, Google Meet)

Captions – Also referred to as open/closed captions or subtitles. These are captions for pre-recorded video content that are time-synced and embedded into the media. Accurate and edited captions provide equivalent access. Captions also provide auditory information that ASR technology may not be able to identify.

Real-time captioning – Also referred to as live captioning or speech-to-text services.  This service is provided by a qualified speech-to-text professional.  Examples: Live captioning for news broadcasts or by a third-party vendor streamed into Blackboard for a synchronous online class.

Transcribe/Transcription – Also referred to as a transcript. This process involves converting audio into a plain text document. Transcripts are commonly used for stand-alone audio, such as podcasts or presentations without video. They are also used as the first step towards creating captions for media. Transcripts can be auto-generated using ASR or by speech-to-text professionals.


May 2020 Webinars

Maine CITE is offering the following webinars in May:

Learn About the Talking Books Program

Headphone and book

May 5, 2020
1:00 – 2:00 PM ET

In this free webinar, learn about the Talking Book Program available through the Maine State Library. The Talking Book Program is administered by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) and provides free library services for eligible patrons, including download of digital books, and free matter mailings. Use this link to register and to learn more about this webinar “Learn About the Talking Books Program”…

AT to Support Successful Employment

computer keyboardMay 12, 2020
1:00 – 2:00 pm ET

This webinar focuses on the exploration of AT devices to support individuals with disabilities to return to, or maintain, successful employment. Attention will be given to AT services, devices and apps to support successful employment, as well as funding resources.

Use this link for more information and to register for this webinar: “AT to Support Successful Employment”…

The following list of May 2020 (and some in June) webinars on the topic of assistive technology and accessibility is generated by the Accessible Technology Consortia funded by the Center for Accessible Technology. Thank you.

Captioning Livestreams and Remote Learning Sessions from ATIA
May 5, 2020 at 12:00 pm ET

How to access free online learning while on furlough from AbilityNet
May 5, 2020 at 8:00 am ET

Accessible Remote Working Environments Webinar Series: Inclusive Meetings and Teams Accessibility Features from PEAT
May 5, 2020 at 3:00 pm ET

How to get the most from your smart speaker when working or studying from home from AbilityNet
May 19, 2020 at 8:00 am ET

Tech for Teens Club : Building Websites from PACER
May 2, 2020 at 11:00 am ET

OverDrive and Snap&Read—Millions of Free Digital Books Now Accessible from DJI
May 5 at 1:00 pm ET

Aided Language Input, Attributing Meaning, Core Vocabulary and Pre-symbolic Communicators from ISAAC
May 5, 2020 at 7:00 pm ET

Supporting Students and Each Other During School Closure from SETC
May 6, 1:00 pm ET

Explore, Experiment and Enrich with Inquiry-based Science Activities for Young Learners from AbleNet
May 12, 2020 at 12:00 pm ET

Supporting Communication in the Home Setting: Language & Literacy from ATIA
May 13, 2020 at 12:00 pm ET

Innovative Approaches to Providing AT Services During COVID-19 from ATIA
May 14, 2020 at 12:00 pm ET

Bookshare and EasyReader, The Solution That Will Keep Your Students/Children Reading During The Extended Break from ATIA
May 14 at 2:00 pm ET

Switch Access Beyond Cause and Effect: Stepping Stones for Effective Learning – Part 2 from AbleNet
June 2, 2020 at 1:00 pm ET


Tips for Hosting Accessible Meetings with Deaf Participants

Accessibility pictogramThe National Deaf Center on Postsecondary Outcomes (NDC) has hosted a valuable set of tips for hosting meetings where some of the participants may be deaf or hard of hearing. They note, “besides running a better meeting, effective communication between hearing and deaf people has other benefits for career success. Research shows it strengthens relationships, increases well-being, and fosters meaningful participation in the workplace.”

Among the tips are recommendations regarding:

  • the use of captioning for any videos shared in the meeting,
  • the importance of providing the right accommodations – including in-person American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter, remote ASL interpreter, remote speech-to-text services, large print materials, and presentations slides as handouts with presenter notes, and
  • establishing some meeting ground rules, including taking turns, and identifying yourself before making comments.

The complete list of tips (PDF) may be downloaded from this link to the NDC website

In need of further assistance? Connect with the NDC Help Team


Give IT Get IT provides PCs for Maine citizens

From MaineBiz Magazine

Person using laptop computer

An organization that refurbishes donated computers and provides them at low or no cost to people who need them is stepping up its efforts to help Mainers who are offline during the pandemic.

Waterville-based give IT. get IT., a nonprofit formed last year out of a merger between PCs for Maine and eWaste Alternatives, is increasing its capacity to recycle retired technology from Maine businesses, refurbish it, and then distribute it to technologically isolated Mainers.

“We were planning to launch give IT. get IT. in March, before COVID-19 forced businesses of all sizes to completely alter their operations,” co-founder Chris Martin said in a news release. “With so many Mainers now facing isolation due to shelter in place mandates, the need for give IT. get IT.’s services has never been greater or more urgent.”

PCs for Maine was formed in 2002 to provide computers and free technical support in Maine, and other parts of northern New England. The merger with eWaste Alternatives added the recycling function.

The pandemic has created more reliance on technology throughout the state, particularly for education and work, and the need  for computers in the home has increased. Of the estimated 70,000 Maine households that don’t have access to the internet or a personal computer, half have students who need to participate in online classes. “This represents a significant threat to Maine’s future workforce and economy,” the nonprofit said.

Read the complete article on MaineBiz magazine

Give IT Get IT website

Photo credit: Image licensed through Creative Commons by Pexel.com

MDOE provides guidance on grading during emergency distance learning

The following announcement comes from the Maine Department of Education:

Unified Message and Recommendation Regarding Grading Practices During Emergency Distance Learning

As many School Administrative Units (SAUs) and schools move into a new phase of implementation of emergency distance learning, focusing on long term practices, many are now wading through conversations around the assessment and evaluation of learning. Some SAUs have already come to decisions around how student learning will be evaluated, if at all, and those plans vary widely, from feedback only to maintaining regular grading practices. We, the Department of Education, Maine School Boards Association, Maine School Superintendents Association, Maine Administrators of Services for Children with Disabilities, Maine Education Association, Maine Principals Association, and Maine Curriculum Leaders Association, have a deep conviction that any learning evaluation policies or practices must come from a stance of equity and compassion.

We strongly recommend that SAUs take time to thoughtfully design grading policies and practices that do no harm. Operating from a stance of equity and compassion means beginning with those most marginalized in mind when making decisions.  Even during times of regular school instruction, each and every district in the state of Maine had learners dealing with homelessness, food instability, poverty, substance use disorders, and domestic violence, among other stressful and traumatic life situations.  Now we see those situations intensifying, and new situations emerging in families that were once stable.

Any evaluation of learning must take into account the reality that many of our learners are in these circumstances. Learning in any of the circumstances noted above is almost impossible, and no student should face a failing grade, or other evaluative suffering, as a result. We encourage SAUs and regions to discuss and determine a system that holds harmless students for whom conditions are outside of their control and as best as possible prevents any further learning inequities.

Corona Virus Statistics Website Accessible for the Blind and Partially Sighted

From Cool Blind Tech:

A Boston-based software developer wanted to make COVID-19 stats accessible

He created a website that would be easily readable by electronic braille readers and other assistive devices used by the blind and partially sighted.

Tyler Littlefield, a software developer based in Boston, has created a database of COVID-19 statistics meant to be accessible to the visually impaired.

Called CVStats.net, the site organizes up-to-date COVID-19 data in simple charts specifically designed to be legible to a range of aid devices the visually impaired use to access websites.

For Littlefield, and many other people with visual impairments, trying to stay updated during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge because many of the commonly shared charts and graphs are inaccessible, including those from the CDC and Department of Public Health.

“For many people with various types of disabilities, graphics and the information conveyed in them is hard to read and understand,” Littlefield told Vice.

“I believe in the idea of open data, data that everyone can access to help make informed decisions. Finding this lack, I created CVStats to present the data to users in a straightforward way, free of ads, click-through news articles and graphics.”

One of the main obstacles in making COVID-19 information more accessible are the conventions of modern web design. With a profusion of autoplay videos, pop-up windows, and animated inserts, many modern websites make it difficult for braille embossers to scan a webpage and convert its content into a braille printout.

“Clutter is the enemy of tactical legibility,” Naomi Rosenberg of the accessibility firm Lighthouse told Vice.

“For each of these, a blind reader is at the mercy of the designer, writer, or educator to produce quality graphics, concise image descriptions, or properly formatted tables,” Rosenberg said.

One possible alternative to visual graphs are ‘sonification curves,’ which translate graph lines into rising and falling sounds to try and convey a similar sense of magnitude, something that an aid device won’t be able to do without simple and accessible data.

Another challenge, according to Sassy Outwater-Wright, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, is that many healthcare facilities don’t post clear or accessible information about their policies.

For instance, some drive through testing sites only allow private vehicles, not taxis or other commercial vehicles, which would be important for a visually impaired person who can’t drive themselves to know before planning a visit.

“The moment that I heard everything was going drive-thru I kind of had a cringe moment because, other than in the hospital, there’s really no other way to access that testing, and for many in our community, including myself, who are immunocompromised, that puts us at a much higher risk,” Outwater-Wright said.

“We don’t get the benefit of staying in our car, we don’t get the benefit of trying to continue to social distance. We have to go in.”

For more information see Motherboard on Vice.com…

ZoomBombing and What You can Do to Make Your Zoom Meeting Safer

I was asked to talk about recent security concerns regarding the videoconferencing application Zoom and prepared the following. – John Brandt

Take a Deep Breath

The new term, ZoomBombing, was coined just a few weeks ago and the concern and social media rant about the security of the world’s most popular videoconferencing application has since, pardon the expression, gone viral.

My reaction to the news has been to slowly and carefully tell everyone who has asked to take a deep breath and try not to overreact.

Here’s what happened.

Someone reported on social media that during one of their Zoom Meetings someone “uninvited” came in and “took” over the room. Within minutes numerous other reports were made on other social media platforms, and within hours the term ZoomBombing was born. The term is an adaptation from the term PhotoBombing in which someone intentionally or unintentionally appears in one of your photographs. While that term appears to have its origins in the late 2000s, someone correctly stated in one description that photobombing has probably been around as long as photography.

Within days, concerns were raised by writers of technology news, as well as journalists that resulted in folks digging deeper. These sources soon found other “security issues” and on March 30th the FBI was making announcements and sending out warnings. Apparently, things were getting out of hand; emphasis “apparently.” Within a few more days editorials and articles with headlines like “‘Zoombombing’ Becomes a Dangerous Organized Effort” appeared in the New York Times.

Zoom Technologies Reacts

I’m reminded of the scene in the film, It’s a Wonderful Life, when there’s are run on the bank and one of the characters asks, “How does something like this happen…?” Jimmy Stewart’s character, George Bailey, gravely concerned that his fragile “Building and Loan” will teether as well, wisely replies, “How does anything like this ever happen…?”

How this security nightmare happened is not important. What is important is the response.

Let us remember that in early February 2020, Zoom was a widely popular videoconference platform deftly designed to allow businesses and organizations to communicate with their staff and employees in an open and easy-to-use desktop application. It was the digital/virtual equivalent of the office meeting room allowing folks at distance locations to “sit around the table” take turns discussing the topic, share slides and demonstrations on the office “whiteboard,” and even allow for side discussions and breakout rooms. The pricing was reasonable (including a free trial version) and Zoom had made sure it was accessible to people with disabilities including adding the capacity to offer live captioning by anyone in the room or by a professional CART transcriptionist. Thus, in the relatively short history of the company, Zoom had managed to beat out the competition and by December 2019 was serving up online meetings to approximately 10 million users.

Then, when Coronavirus COVID-19 hit America hard, and businesses, schools and organizations were forced to close their doors and move operations to kitchen tables and living room couches, this perfect virtual tool suddenly became the answer to everyone prayers.

And then things got interesting real fast.

According to Zoom Founder and CEO Eric Yuan, in March 2020, Zoom was serving up online meetings to 200 million participants each day including to over 90,000 schools in 20 countries. Within hours of the first reported ZoomBombing incident (on or about March 17th) there were tech articles published describing what had happened and telling folks what easy steps they could take to “secure” their Zoom meeting. The most obvious recommendation was to NOT publish the link to your Zoom meeting on social media. BTW, the first case of ZoomBombing appears to have happened to some people who were holding an online WFH Happy Hour which had been advertised widely on social media. But the buzz saw of social media probably facilitated hundreds of copycat bombings.

On March 20th Zoom published their first blog post to users addressing the issue and again instructing users how “protect” their meetings.

But the idea for ZoomBombing spread much faster than the advice on how to prevent it. Lots of false information was spread and hysteria followed.

Soon there were reports that whole institutions had shut down Zoom and at least one state’s IT department chose to block all traffic to Zoom on state-own devices.

This will all shake out and we will no doubt forget about it in a few weeks. But if you are going to be using Zoom, or ANY video conferencing platform to operate your business, teach/train or facilitate meetings, you need to do your homework and make sure you know how the system works and what you need to do to “stay safe, stay healthy.”

Here are five recommended actions:

  1. Learn how to check and change your account settings. Non-enterprise accounts were all recently locked down by Zoom to require passwords for all meetings and add a “waiting room” before participants can enter. If you have an enterprise account, you need to check with your IT folks. Note that some additional security features were recently added but you need to have the latest version of the Zoom client. Check to make sure you have the latest version.
  2. Use Passwords for all meetings/webinars. The need for the waiting room is probably overkill for most meeting but might be appropriate for webinars.
  3. Have a staff person who serves as a Producer. This is a person in the meeting whose only job is to make sure everything is working correctly and can address any problems that arise. Whoever schedules the meeting is automatically the Host of the meeting and only the Host can change the settings for the meeting room. Understand that many of these setting need to be made before the meeting starts. The Host can also assign someone else as the Alternative Host. Note that in Zoom Webinar, the Host has some special privileges that are needed to run the meeting. The Host can also control microphones and who can access the Share Screen functions.
  4. Avoid using Personal Meeting ID (PMI). This a special feature in Zoom where you can use the same meeting credentials for all your meetings. Zoom suggests using your office phone number as the meeting ID this way everyone attending knows what the login information will be. Don’t do this.
  5. Don’t have “open” meetings. As described, the first case of ZoomBombing was for an online office Happy Hour for employees working from home. The link to the Zoom Meeting was shared widely, it was literally an invitation for “party crashers.” Also don’t use the same Meeting ID and let Zoom chose a random number as the password.

Remember – Take a Deep Breath.

UPDATE: I learned of an additional security feature after I posted this article. There is a setting in both Zoom Meeting and Zoom Webinar that prevents any HTML code written into the Zoom Chat from being executed from the Chat. This “locking” feature blocks all code including malicious, executable code or links to “bad” websites. The posted links will still appear in the Chat (as text) and can be copied and pasted into your browser, but they cannot be executed from within Zoom. For the time being, it is probably wise to keep this security feature turned on and to discourage participants from posting links in the Chat. Any important links/resources can be provided to participants from another source such as a digital “handout” or from your website after they have been vetted.

For more information

How to Keep Uninvited Guests Out of Your Zoom Event

A Message to Our Users from Zoom CEO Eric Yuan 


rev: 4/10/2020

Relay Conference Captioning

The following information is provided by Debra Bare-Rogers, Advocate, from the Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS).

Attending virtual event, is a great opportunity to connect. For attendees with hearing loss, this can bring challenges. Free resources are available to make online meeting participation more accessible. In Maine, deaf and hard of hearing individuals can use Relay Conference Captioning.

What is Relay Conference Captioning?

RCC (also called Sprint Teleconference Captioning) offers live and high quality captioning for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing individuals to participate in meetings (in-person or remote), phone calls, videoconferences and multi-party teleconference calls. There is no cost to use this service.

Please use this link to see a demonstration of how RCC works

How to use RCC

Schedule an RCC event at least 12 hours before the meeting time.

  1. Use this link to go to the Maine Relay Conference Captioning Event Request form. Complete the form and submit the form.
  2. You will receive an email from Relay Conference Captioning confirming your request along with a link to the captioning.
  3. At the start time of the event, (using a computer, laptop or smartphone) login by clicking on the link provided in the confirmation email. Captioning will appear in real time during the call.
  4. NOTE: During the event, if you have a question or comment you can use the text box in the bottom right corner and the captioner will speak into the call on your behalf.

If you have additional questions about RCC and other relay resources available in Maine. Debra is available via Zoom to provide 1:1 virtual appointments, staff presentations and webinars. Contact her to schedule a meeting.

Debra Bare-Rogers

Disability Rights Maine
1 Mackworth Island, Bldg. C
Falmouth, Maine 04105

Phone: 207-797-7656 x 113 (V/TTY)
Toll Free: 800-639-3884 (V/TTY)
Fax: 207-797-9791

TRS includes Maine Relay Services, captioned telephone services (CapTel or CTS), and 711.

Survey to collect data around learning from home

The following request/announcement comes from colleague and fellow Maine educator, Jim Moulton:

COVID-19 has dramatically altered school and learning around the world. In an effort to capture, reflect, and share the unique perspectives of students and parents as they experience learning from home in Spring 2020, two brief surveys have been created. Again – our intention is to capture, reflect, and share the unique perspectives of students and parents as they experience learning from home in Spring 2020.

The stories and experiences, collected anonymously through the surveys, will help to inform and improve current and future learning-from-home strategies. Furthermore, it is our hope that students and parents may appreciate having a place and opportunity to anonymously reflect and share their experiences during this unprecedented time.

Please share broadly with learners and families involved in learning from home due to COVID-19.

Schools and districts are encouraged to use these reflective surveys system-wide, but should contact us for best options for capturing and using the data with their local community.

If you have questions about the surveys or would like to reach out to discuss, please use the following contact information:

Jim Moulton – jim@jimmoulton.org

Jim Moulton is a former elementary educator who has been working in the field of educational technology since the mid-1990s. He has worked with educators around the world, contributed to Edutopia’s Spiral Notebook blog, and spent a decade as part of Apple’s Education Team.

Dr. Damian Bebell – bebell@bc.edu

Dr. Bebell is an educational researcher at Boston Colleges’s Lynch School of Education and Human Development. An example of his research can be seen at Drawing On Math and a current article Beyond Academics: Success and the Purpose of School.

eLearning Teaching Tips webinar from edWeb

The following announcement comes from edWeb  who is sponsoring this free webinar…

e-Learning Teaching Tips: Support for Educators During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Thursday, April 9, 2020
3:00 pm ET


Candice Dodson, Executive Director, State Education Technology Directors Association (SETDA)
Ashley Webb, Graphic Design Teacher and Instructional Coach, Mountain Heights Academy, UT

Program Description

In support of the SETDA Coalition for eLearning, SETDA will collaborate with teachers that have extensive experience teaching online to share tips for best practices for online learning. Teachers are being asked to transform the way they teach and to meet diverse learning needs, and they need support. Join this edWebinar to hear from experienced teachers, ask questions, and share your examples as we all work to support students in this time of need.

This edWebinar will be of interest to preK through high school teachers and school leaders. There will be time for questions at the end of the presentation.

Use this link to learn more about this event and to register…