To prevent the further spread of COVID-19, multiple establishments have taken various precautionary measures. Physical interaction is limited. People are encouraged to avoid public transportation and crowded places by working at home. Similar means are being done by schools by postponing physical classes and opting for a virtual solution. As a result, the use of video conferencing has increased as more companies and schools decide to move to an online format. 

Transitioning online can be difficult especially for the deaf and hard of hearing community. This is why making virtual meetings accessible for everyone is important. Fortunately, technology has advanced, and tools that offer real-time captions now exist making a huge difference to video conferencing. These captions are synchronized with the video so the viewer can read the text at the same time the action itself is happening on the video.

So, how exactly do captions improve video conferencing accessibility? Here are three ways:

 

1. Work at Home and Online Classes

As mentioned, companies are highly encouraged to work at home and conduct discussions online as a safety measure during the pandemic. The same goes for schools across the country who have started to hold online classes to reduce the spread of infection. Unfortunately, this new setup can be difficult and employees and students may have a hard time adjusting, especially people with disabilities. This can prevent them from working to their full potential.

A way to solve this is through real-time captions, enabling people with hearing disabilities to communicate with their classmates or coworkers more effectively through video conferences. Live captions can help them read what people are saying in real-time and make it easier for students to participate in online classes in the comforts of their own homes.

 

2. Alternative for Other Accessibility Tools

Companies and institutions have to find a way to provide the necessary accommodations for the deaf and hard of hearing according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Providing access to people with hearing disabilities can be expensive. Organizations have to expend a lot of effort such as hiring sign language interpreters as well as purchasing listening devices. It also requires a lot of time to ensure that everyone is accommodated. Unfortunately, not every organization or institution can afford these accessibility tools, especially during these trying times. 

To solve this, companies or institutions can use captions as an affordable alternative to ensure that the deaf and hard of hearing can participate even without other aids. There are transcription services with extra closed captioning service for videos, giving a big advantage to deaf and hard of hearing people. 

 

3. More Inclusion and Independence for People with Hearing Disabilities

Although accessibility tools such as interpreters and note-takers enable people with hearing disabilities to work more effectively, it can also make it difficult for them to establish a deeper connection with their coworkers or classmates. This can cause them to feel isolated or excluded. 

 

Fortunately, with live captions, the deaf and hard of hearing can communicate directly with others and respond in real time. As a result, they will feel more included and their relationship with others will also improve.