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MAG Guide Vol. 8

Making Meetings Accessible for People Who Are Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Captioning technology was developed specifically to make television accessible to people who are deaf and hard of hearing. There has been widespread interest in using this technology to provide similar access to meetings, classroom teaching, and conferences.

Some organizations and institutions have developed relationships with court reporters and use equipment and methods designed for broadcast stenocaptioning to make meetings fully accessible. Other less expensive methods rely on volunteers and use computers to display text on overhead projectors or individual computer screens. Let us know if your community has developed other ways to provide access to meetings that should be included in this summary.

Stenographic Captioning
Stenographic captioning (real-time captioning) provides simultaneous, word-for-word transcription of a speaker's words. This method requires the highly developed skills of court reporters who have been trained to use specially developed software to create captions. Known as CART (Computer-Assisted Realtime Translation), this method is the only way to provide a complete transcript of a live event as it happens.

Court reporters type the speaker's words as phonetic symbols on a stenographic keyboard that is attached to a computer. These keystrokes are converted into English words by special "translation" software. A video camera simultaneously projects the image of the speaker onto a viewing screen or wall. The captions are inserted into the video signal through an encoder and appear on the screen beneath the speaker. (Alternately, the real-time text alone can be displayed using projection devices outlined in computer-assisted note-taking below.)

The software used is similar to that developed for real-time captioning of television programs. Court reporters who provide CART services typically have their own laptop computers and software to perform this "translation to text" function. Some CART providers also have the necessary equipment to project or display the text they create.

This process requires the skills of court reporters who have been trained to use a stenographic keyboard and special computer software. Some court reporters offer their services on a volunteer basis, while others work for a fee. The National Court Reporters Association can provide referrals.

This method provides accurate and complete information if fully trained and highly skilled court reporters, who can achieve a 250 word-per-minute reporting speed, are involved. Words are transcribed with few errors, after a short delay, and are easily visible to large audiences. It should be noted that the equipment and software are expensive.

For more information, call or write:
National Court Reporters Association
8224 Old Courthouse Road
Vienna, VA 22182-3808
Phone (voice): 703-556-6272
TTY: 703-556-6289

Computer-Assisted Note-Taking
Many people have begun experimenting with different versions of computer-assisted note-taking. Most methods utilize volunteer typists and rely heavily on abbreviation and summary phrases. Various combinations of hardware and software are possible.

Typists enter a summary of the speaker's words on a computer. Depending on the equipment available, the typist's notes from the computer can be displayed in a variety of ways. The text can be projected onto a wall or viewing screen by connecting the typist's computer to a liquid crystal display (LCD) panel and then placing the LCD on top of an overhead projector. A number of LCD panels are available on the market, ranging in price from $500 to $2,000. The typist's computer can also be connected to other computer or television monitors and displayed on individual screens.

Any inexpensive word-processing program on the market can be used, but it is ideal to use a software package which can display large type for viewers who are low-vision.

Typists should be fairly skilled at speed and accuracy. A team of typists is recommended for lengthy meetings or discussions involving technical information.

Equipment, software, and personnel are relatively inexpensive. Typographic mistakes and incomplete information are the norm and somewhat unavoidable. Even the most skilled typists cannot type 250 words per minute -- the average rate of spoken conversation.

The organizations below offer specific information about methods in use by their staff and/or members:

Technology Assessment Program
Gallaudet University
800 Florida Avenue, N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20002
Phone (voice/TTY): 202-651-5257

Self Help for Hard of Hearing People, Inc.
7910 Woodmont Avenue, Suite 1200
Bethesda, MD 20814
Phone (voice): 301-657-2248
TTY: 301-657-2249

Association of Late-Deafened Adults
1131 Lake Street, #204
Oak Park, IL 60301
Phone/Fax: 877-348-7357
TTY: 708-358-0135

For more information about captioning, Contact us.

Caption Services Description Services NCAM