Zoom joins forces with Otter.AI to improve accessibility

Closed Captioning logoFirst reported in summer of 2019, a partnership between videoconference giant Zoom and accessibility company Otter.ai to provide live captioning to Zoom meeting has finally been completed.

As reported by the trade publication, ZD Net, Otter.ai will now provide live captioning for Zoom meetings and webinars for Zoom Pro customers. Otter.ai has provided live captioning for meetings through the use of a smartphone app or web-based application for several years and recently introduced Live Notes, “a new feature that enables users to open a live transcript of the call during a video conference, in a separate shared file, which transcribes what is being said in real time” according to ZD Net reporter Daphne Leprince-Ringuet. She goes on to note that with the new service built into Zoom meetings, “captions will appear directly within the call, with a couple of seconds of lag, and presumably will be accurate enough for key information to consistently come out in the form of plain text.”

“Based on a sophisticated algorithm, Live Notes can separate human voices to identify different speakers and includes their name in the transcript to indicate that a given participant has started intervening,” the article also reports.

The rush to provide live captioning has been accelerated in recent months as COVID-19 restrictions have forced nearly all business meetings and academic activities to virtual space. Workers and students with disabilities who need the accessibility accommodation of live captioning have had limited options. Google‘s suite of free office suite applications have provided live captions using the system’s Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) for some time. But the quality of Google’s ASR has generally been below par and lacks the accuracy of CART transcription provided by a trained CART professional.

Microsoft has also incorporating live captioning into its Office 365 suite of services including MS Teams, their direct competitor for Zoom Meeting. Accessibility professionals around the country have commented that Microsoft’s solution, which uses ASR and artificial intelligence (AI), is generally better than Google, but still not as good as CART.

With the including of Otter.ai into the Zoom Meeting solution, the competition to improve auto captioning has been ratcheted up a notch. One can only hope people with disabilities are the beneficiaries of this partnership.

In Zoom, live captions are available now for Otter customers paying for a Business plan, as well as for Zoom Pro customers.

Read the ZD Net article…

Zoom Meeting website

Otter.ai website

“Captioning Video” resources revised and expanded

Closed Captioning logoUpdated: 10/16/2020

Captioning video is a very hot topic so we are regularly updating this resource. Please check out all the new stuff and let us know if you have any other resources to add!

 

For many years, Maine CITE had provided a resource about captioning video content. The information was very popular and bookmarked by many. As the accessibility guidelines have expanded in recent times, we have expanded the “captioning video” resource as well and have updated information about resources where you can find software and services to help you make your content accessible.

Audio DescriptionWhere we initially discussed only the need to caption video, we have expanded the Captioning Video page to also include information about “description,” an accessibility requirement that makes video content accessible to people with blindness or low vision. We have also added information about how to create accessible audio-only content (e.g., “podcasts”).

Visit the newly revised Captioning Video (and more) resource…

 

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.

 

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

 

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
drogers@drme.org 

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.

Accessibility Tips for Teaching Online

Ordinarily, we would simply link the following article from the National Deaf Center entitled “5 Tips for Disability Service Professional to Provide Accessibility in Online Classes.” But in reviewing the PDF they produced as the handout, ironically it was not accessible. So, because it is important information, and does not bear any copyright mark, we are replicating it here.

The following comes from the National Deaf Center. Please contact them if you have questions about this content.

5 Tips for Disability Service Professionals to Provide Accessibility in Online  Classes

Disability service professionals are on the front lines — bringing their specialized knowledge, unique strengths, and necessary insights — to ensure that all classes are accessible to deaf and hard of hearing students as colleges and schools move them online in response to the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

These five tips from the National Deaf Center on Postsecondary Outcomes at the University of Texas at Austin can help them address access issues for deaf students who use assistive listening technology, American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters, speech-to-text services, captioned media, and more, as well as provide guidance to students, faculty members, and administration and leadership.

Tip 1: Communication is Key

  • Make sure accessibility is addressed on all levels of your institution . Your input is essential during this transition to online classes.
  • Share these 10 Tips for Educators with all faculty members, adjunct instructors, and anybody teaching online at your institution.
  • Inform current students how they can update their accommodation plans with your office. What may have worked for deaf students in person may not work online.
  • Students who may not have had accommodations before may need them now. Research shows only half of deaf college students file documentation or request accommodations. Let all students know how to connect with your office for support if they experience any unexpected challenges.

Tip 2: Remain Flexible When Re-evaluating Accommodations

  • It won’t be a ‘one-size-fits-all’. Deaf undergraduates encompass a range of identities , vary in communication preferences, and 50% have additional disabilities.
  • Accommodations for synchronous (everyone online at the same time) versus asynchronous (at your own pace) style courses will vary and may require more than one accommodation.
  • Consider the most common accommodations used by deaf students and how they can continue in online courses.

Tip 3: Don’t Cancel Service Providers

  • Consistent service providers are critical for deaf students. The classroom providers assigned to the face-to-face version of the course should continue providing services in the online course. Vocabulary and other signed concepts may already be established between the student and the interpreters, while speech-to-text professionals may already have a dictionary of specific terminology prepared.
  • Interpreters and speech-to-text professionals cannot be replaced by auto-generated captions for real-time communication needs. This does not provide equal access.
  • Consider having on-call interpreters and speech-to-text providers available during business hours to provide services for office hours, tutoring, student group meetings, walk-in advising appointments, or other ad hoc needs. These services can be available remotely. Ask your service provider for ways to meet this need.

Tip 4: Prepare Protocols for Captioning Media

  • Establish a procedure and priority list for videos, pre-recorded lectures, and other media in need of captioning. The courts recently ruled that appropriately captioned media provides equal access to students as required by law. Be wary of relying on any program that uses auto-generated captions for videos.
  • Provide faculty guidelines on where to find existing captioned videos. This will help reduce the influx of requests needed. Ask if the library or other departments can assist with finding accessible instructional materials.
  • If you need to caption a video or pre-recorded lecture, consider using a combination of both in-house staff or contact a captioning vendor. Staff can follow industry standards and use DIY captioning resources.

Tip 5: Manage Technology, Equipment, and Troubleshooting

  • Service providers may need to be granted access to your college’s learning management system (LMS), such as Canvas or Blackboard, or other videoconferencing and online resources. Work with your institution and service providers on how to access platforms.
  • If students or service providers need additional devices or access to software, plan on allocating resources to temporarily loan equipment. Ask students and providers what devices they may have available for accessing online coursework (computer/laptop, tablets, smartphones, etc).
  • As a backup, ask faculty to record virtual meetings and lectures, in case issues with internet connection, technology, or accommodations arise.
  • When online classes begin, check in with deaf students after the first week in case there are unanticipated barriers
  • Share these tips with your colleagues, administrators, and faculty. Let them know how you are planning to make your campus accessible, and how they can too. Now is the time to come together as a disability services community, support each other, and make sure everyone is involved in ensuring  accessibility.

Have Questions? Contact NDC Today!

The National Deaf Center provides year-round support to faculty, disability services professionals, deaf students and their families, and service providers. We are here for you! 

 

State provides guidance on new Hearing Aid mandate

Regarding the recently passed and enacted legislation related to 24-A M.R.S. § 2762, a law which requires health insurance carriers in Maine to provide hearing aid coverage in all individual and group health plans, the Maine Bureau of Insurance in the Department of Professional and Financial Regulations has published the following Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) documentation:

New Hearing Aid Mandate, Effective January 1, 2020

Q: I have insurance and I need hearing aids. Does this new law mean my insurance will cover the cost now?

A: It depends on several factors:

Type of Insurance

The following types are required to provide the benefit:

      • Fully funded major medical policies, including ACA coverage;
      • Short-term limited duration policies

These types are exempt from all State health insurance benefit mandates:

      • Medicare products, including Medicare Supplement and Medicare Advantage plans (federally exempted by Social Security/Medicare);
      • Self-insured plans, except state or municipal governmental and multiple-employer welfare association (MEWA) plans;
      • Plans other than comprehensive major medical or short-term limited duration: accidental injury; specified disease; hospital indemnity; dental; vision; disability income; long-term care; other limited benefit health insurance.

Benefit Details, Deductibles, Cost, Networks, and Renewal Dates

Coverage amount:

      • Up to $3,000 per hearing aid for each hearing-impaired ear; and
      • Available every 36 months.

Deductibles: You should be aware that you could still be responsible for all or part of the cost if you have not yet met your annual deductible at the time you purchase a hearing aid.

Cost:  If you purchase a hearing aid that costs more than $3,000, you should assume you will need to pay the amount over the $3,000 out of your own pocket, even if you have met your deductible – unless your policy specifically provides a greater benefit.

Network:  You could also be responsible for all or part of the cost if you use a provider who is not part of your plan’s network.

Renewal dates:  If you have a group plan that is required to provide this benefit, but it renews later in the year, the benefit will not be included in your coverage until that time.

Q: I know I have hearing issues. Do I need to go to my primary care office before going to see a hearing specialist and getting a prescription for hearing aids?

A:  Whether you are able to self-refer to a specialist and whether pre-authorization is required to purchase a hearing aid would depend on your policy contract.  Check with your insurer and/or your employer’s benefits department.

Q: Will my insurance cost more because of this mandate?

A:  The cost of providing the new benefit is built into the premium and should be very minimal (the Bureau’s 2014 report estimated that the cost per policyholder could be $.47 per month).

If you have questions beyond this FAQ, please contact the Maine Bureau of Insurance

Groups Call on the FCC to Improve Quality of Live Captions

Deaf and Hard of Hearing Consumer Groups and Researchers Call on the FCC to Improve the Quality of Live Captions

Closed Captioning logoOn July 31, ten national organizations, including the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), and the Association of Late-Deafened Adults (ALDA), petitioned the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to address long-standing quality problems with captioning for live television programming. The petition was supported by the American Association of the DeafBlind (AADB).

As the petition explains, consumers routinely report serious problems with the accuracy, timing, completeness, and placement of captions on live programming, including local news, sports, and weather. The petition asks the FCC to build on its existing standards for the quality of captions by setting metrics for acceptable quality of live captions. The petition also urges the FCC to provide guidance for new captioning systems that use automatic speech recognition, which have the potential to provide captions with improved timing and lower cost but also routinely cause significant accuracy problems. Consumer groups and researchers also will be submitting additional feedback to the FCC, including an analysis of hundreds of consumer responses gathered by HLAA in a recent survey.

The FCC has asked for comments from the public about the petition. If you’ve had experiences with captions for live TV programming that you’re willing to share with the FCC, you can do so online.

Submit your comments to the FCC by September 13

Use this link to read the petition

Use this link to enter your comments online and remember to enter 05-231 in the “Proceeding(s)” field to make sure that your comment is added to the record.

 

Bed-shaker smoke alarms for families

Child wearing hearing aid

Maine Hands and Voices is partnering with the American Red Cross to provide bed-shaker smoke alarms and education for families with children who are deaf or hard of hearing.

If you are the parent or caregiver of a child who is deaf or hard of hearing and would like a FREE bed-shaker smoke alarm installed in your home along with fire safety education, please visit the website and complete the request form.

f you are unable to access the form, you may also message Maine Hands and Voices Facebook page or contact Darlene Freeman by call or text at 207-570-5691.

 

Photo credit: Image licensed through Creative Commons by Pittsburgh Association of the Deaf 

Free Accessible Educational Videos Available

Closed Captioning symbolThe Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP) provides access to over 8,000 accessible educational videos on DVD and online streaming. Families, educators, and other professionals who have at least one qualifying student qualify for membership.

Registration is easy, and it takes only a few minutes to fill out the form and verify email. Please use this form to sign up…

There are no costs associated with any of our services.