How You Can Get Involved
You’re encouraged to reach out to the videoconferencing companies whose platforms you are using and educate them about your communication needs. Tell them which features are working well, which ones need improvement, and share any ideas you may have to better meet your needs. If their platform does not have an automated captioning feature – or only provides it for premium paying customers – urge them to remove that barrier to level the playing field for all members of our community at no cost. And, finally, share and advocate for these concerns with your local and state representatives.
Consider signing a petition to have free closed captions for people with hearing loss on video conferencing platforms.
Dear Zoom, Google, Microsoft and other video conferencing providers,
Please make free ASR captions available on your platforms for people with hearing loss immediately. In most cases, the technology exists and is integrated into your platform behind a paywall. Providing this service for free for people with hearing loss would not only improve the accessibility of your product, it is also the right thing to do.
Communicating by video call has become the new reality in our COVID-19 world. Video calls are helpful for people with hearing loss because we can see the other person’s face, which helps with lipreading. But in meetings with many participants, or even in one on one conversations with people using weak microphones or laggy internet connections, video is not enough for understanding. Captioning is necessary.
The gold standard of captioning is Communication Access Realtime Translation or CART, where a live transcriber types what is spoken in real time. But technology is rapidly catching up and now a handful of high quality automatic speech recognition (ASR) options do exist. In these times of change, an ASR alternative can be acceptable for most communications.
What can Zoom do today to improve accessibility?
Zoom provides the option to offer CART through its service, but CART requires the availability of a live transcriber in the meeting and is very expensive. This is unrealistic for most people with hearing loss living in this economic crisis brought on by COVID-19.
Zoom also also allows for integration with Otter, a popular speech-to-text app used effectively by many people with hearing loss for its high quality ASR, but only for paid Zoom accounts. Zoom must remove this paywall for people with hearing loss.
What can Google do today to improve accessibility?
Google has long been a leader in providing accessibility tools for people with hearing loss. It speech-to-text app Live Transcribe is fast and accurate and its Live Caption app brings ASR captioning to digital media. Google falls short when it comes to its video conferencing product, which limits its ASR captioning to its paid G-suite customers. Google must remove this paywall for people with hearing loss.
What can Microsoft do today to improve accessibility?
Microsoft offers free captioning through Powerpoint, Microsoft Stream and its Skype video chat (up to 50 people), but it restricts access to captioning for larger meetings behind a pay wall. Microsoft must remove the paywall for people with hearing loss.
FLASH NEWS- The petition has had some success! LINK
Announced by Google. Google Meet will be a FREE App (previously not free)
The free version of the product requires a Google account, and video calls have a 60-minute cap. But Google said it won't enforce that rule until after Sept. 30.
The free version will also allow up to 100 participants and include features such as screen sharing and real-time captions.
This is perfect for you to use when you want to set up a videoconferencing call to friends and family members!
Free access will begin on a rolling basis in May. Sign up to be notified when it’s available.
Read Google’s full announcement here.
Thank you Google for listening to the Hard of Hearing Community.
TDI's mission: "To promote equal access in telecommunications and media for people who are deaf, hard of hearing, late deafened, or deaf blind."
TDI is a national advocacy organization dedicated to shaping America’s public policy, specifically in telecommunications, media, and technology, to ensure all people who are deaf, hard-of-hearing, late-deafened, deaf-blind, and deaf-plus (with other disabilities) have full access. LINK for info about TDI
Deaf and hard of hearing people must have full and unrestricted access to all wire, radio, optical and other electromagnetic telecommunication systems to be able to communicate with anyone. LINK
Deaf and hard of hearing people must have full and unrestricted access to all public broadcasts, announcements, and other communications in order to be fully aware and navigate through their environment.
Deaf and hard of hearing people must have full and unrestricted access to all types of technology to be able to have a good quality of life.
TDI was known as the Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc. and was established in 1968 originally to promote further distribution of TTYs in the deaf community and to publish an annual national directory of TTY numbers. Now it is a national, not for profit, advocacy organization.