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Who Said What?

Have you ever missed something someone said on a virtual call or had to ask for a repeat because the dog barked, or the delivery driver came by? If you have, you are one of the millions of people worldwide who would benefit from having live, real-time transcripts as part of your virtual meeting!

Not just for those with a hearing loss, or those for whom English (the most common language spoken on calls in the United States) is not a first language, automatic transcriptions can be useful for many of those taking part in virtual meetings. This post will help you to make your meetings more accessible and easier to understand, for all of your participants.


If you are using a platform not listed, I encourage you to reach out to them and ask when they will have an option for automatic captioning, to consider budgeting for having a real-time live transcription captionist on the phone, or to move to another platform. Of course, this is also not meant to be a comprehensive list of platforms, nor an advertisement for any particular company’s product. Other products may also offer captions, please take a moment to look before your next meeting.


Zoom

To use captioning in Zoom, no paid account is needed. There are three options for generating the transcripts:

  • Auto-generated captions (“Automatic Speech Recognition” or ASR)

  • Manual Captions (assign someone in the meeting to type during the meeting)

  • Third-Party captioning (external provider who uses API token)

For most individuals, ASR captioning will be sufficient. However, be aware that, because these are machine-generated, they will not be 100% accurate. If a deaf/Hard-of-Hearing (HoH) user requests captions, confirm with them that this will suffice, or be prepared to use options 2 or 3 to generate more accurate captioning. In order to enable these, you must have access to the Zoom account so you can login via the website. If you are not the holder of the account, please meet with the holder before the meeting begins. You cannot update the settings during the meeting.

To enable ASR captions, log into the Zoom account website, then:

  • Click “Settings”

  • Click in the Meeting Tab.

  • Click “In Meeting (Advanced)” (or scroll down to that section)

  • Under “Closed Captioning, click the slider button to turn on (should be blue). If necessary, click on any pop-up windows to confirm your choice.

  • Select the checkboxes listed:

  • Optional: Select “Save Captions” to allow participants to save fully closed captions or transcripts. This will allow all attendees to have a record of the conversation following the meeting.

  • You should see a green box pop-up near the top of your screen that confirms settings have been changed.

For each meeting, the host will need to “Start Live Transcript”. In order to do this, near the bottom of the host screen, there will be a button labeled “Live Transcript”. Under that, click “Enable Auto-Transcription”. Attendees will be able to active it for their own screens by clicking the small up-arrow in the “Live Transcript” button.


If there is no “Live Transcript” button for the host, it must be enabled via the website as described previously. Alternatively, a participant can request the host to enable the transcription and hosts will have an option to do so via a pop-up.


It is important to note that, as of January 2022, Zoom does NOT allow ASR captioning in the breakout rooms. Options 2 or 3 must be used to provide a transcript and real-time captioning.



Microsoft Teams

No paid account is required for captioning in MS Teams, however, they only work on the desktop version. There are two ways to get live captioning in Teams:

Again, for most individuals, the ASR captioning will be sufficient, but please verify before your meeting with anyone requesting accommodations.

Unlike Zoom, MS Teams ASR does not need to be controlled by the host. Each individual participant can turn on or off captions from the meeting controls. Select the “…” at the top of the screen (desktop version) and then select “Turn on live captions”. The spoken language can be changed as participants need, using the “… “ at at the bottom of the screen or to the right of the caption settings. Captioning transcripts are not saved automatically. If a transcript of the meeting is needed, turn on the “Start transcription” feature under the control menu (“ … “).



For breakout rooms, ASR captions will need to be enabled the same method as was done for the main room, but will be automatically generated.



Webex

Cicso® Webex uses their “Assistant” feature to provide real-time transcripts and closed-captioning. This is not a feature of the Basic plan and requires adding their premium meeting feature to enable. Additionally, Assistant is not available for webinars in webcast view, Webex for Government, or meetings joined/started from a space in the Webex App. Additionally, the video platform must be upgraded to version 2.0 with joining meetings from video systems enabled and at least version 41.7 update for the Webex platform. Note that “Closed Captions” must be Enabled:

1. Click “Meeting”

2. Click “Options”

3. Click “Enable Closed Captioning”


However, these captions are only for a meeting participant actively typing the transcript. For example, a CART captionist could add captions for participants this way. If the host would like to utilize ASR captions, it must be done via the Assistant. Hosts can get a transcript of the meeting by recording it or saving the transcript at the end of the meeting.


Once Assistant is activated, ASR captioning can be turned on for the meeting by the host and participants can then see the transcript in real-time.



 

As you can tell, there are many tools available to make your virtual meetings more inclusive. Offering captions is just one way, but other things that can be done include having the camera on while the speaker is active. This offers those who lip-read, or who depend on visual cues for communication, more options to follow the conversation. For those who may use sign language, make sure the translator can be “pinned” or “stared”, both in the main room and breakout rooms. If you have more than one individual who uses sign language, ensure they are appropriately accommodated for in the break-out rooms, including having more than one translator if needed. Do not assume every user can understand American Sign Language (ASL), but instead in advance of your meeting, state the accommodations that will be made, and provide an active email address or communication method for requesting additional needs.


Furthermore, for those who are blind or low-vision, providing an oral description of the speaker(s) when starting the presentation can help the environment seem more welcoming. One of the best ways to be an ally is to support others. Whether or not you directly need these sorts of modifications, by requesting colleagues offer captions on all video calls, or as a meeting planner, taking a moment to think in advance about ways to make your meeting accessible, simple actions can help make businesses more inclusive and welcoming for everyone.

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