Beyond sign language interpreting for communication access
If you’re unfamiliar with hearing loss, you may assume that someone who is D/deaf or hard of hearing knows sign language. You may even assume they would automatically need an interpreter to ensure live communication access at an event or meeting.
It is true that some people who grew up in D/deaf families may have learned American Sign Language (ASL) as their first language. Others become fluent in ASL later in life. But not everyone who has hearing loss uses sign language to communicate. Many people acquire hearing loss due to age, illness, or injury and may not know sign language at all.
If a person with hearing loss does not sign, they communicate in other ways. They may speech-read, use an assistive listening device, and/or have real-time captioning services like CART captioning (Communication Access Realtime Translation) or TypeWell transcription.
What is real-time captioning?
You might think captioning only refers to captions on video or television. What you hear appears as words on the screen, perhaps with a slight delay. This is the essence of captioning -- the process of conveying spoken language into written text.
However, we also caption live events like conferences, business meetings, and classes. Captions at live events create communication access for attendees in the moment. We call this real-time captioning.
The benefits of real-time captioning
Real-time captioning appears in the moment. Additionally, you can save the transcript to access after the event or meeting.
If using real-time captioning, the consumer can receive the captioning transcript directly to their own screen or device. This allows them control over when and how they view the text. Often lecturers refer to slides. Consumers using sign language interpreting may not be able to look away from the interpreter without missing something. If using real-time captioning, the consumer can shift their focus to slides or graphics, then scroll through the transcript for access to the lecturer's explanation.
You can also broadcast real-time captioning on a screen for everyone in the room. This benefits learners or attendees who work best with written words rather than spoken words.
Real-time captioning can be a great alternative to sign language interpreting. But how do you choose which particular type to use? Here are some important differences between TypeWell transcription and CART captioning to consider.
TypeWell transcription vs. CART captioning
CART captioning creates a verbatim, or word-for-word, transcription of speech. This means that CART captioners relay every spoken word they hear into text for the reader to view, without any alterations.
CART captioners have usually trained as court reporters through a legal college or court reporting program. Supplemental training allows them to provide captioning services in real time for communication access purposes. They are often able to capture speech at rates of 180–220 words per minute.
In contrast, TypeWell transcription creates a meaning-for-meaning transcription of speech. Since spoken English -- especially off-the-cuff spoken English -- is usually not exactly grammatically correct or clear, TypeWell transcribers do not create verbatim transcripts like CART captioners do. TypeWell transcribers still convey what they hear as text for the reader to view. However, they omit false starts, speech fillers, and repeated content to ensure clear and complete sentences.
TypeWell transcribers train on the TypeWell abbreviation software and learn specialized transcription techniques. This allows them to keep pace with the average rate of speech.
The graphic below shows examples of transcripts from each service. On the left, a CART-captioned transcript shows the exact words spoken. On the right, a TypeWell transcribed-transcript reflects the facts, content, and intentions of what was spoken. Some users find the shorter TypeWell transcripts easier to read. Others prefer to receive exact wording. (Text examples borrowed from TypeWell.)
A former sign language interpreter, Chanel is a certified ADA Coordinator and has been providing communication access for nearly 30 years. Her free time is spent on street photography, being someone’s crazy aunt, and rescuing standard poodles.