Is video conferencing software inclusive enough?

Closed captions can fail to understand foreign accents or provide context

While video conferencing can be a more accessible way for disabled staff to work, captioning tools are only partly inclusive for the hearing impaired, according to a business leader in the space.

Mindaugas Čaplinskas, Co-founder and CEO of GoTranscript, said that video captioning software could make remote working more inclusive for hearing-impaired staff, but current solutions aren’t good enough.

Čaplinksas said closed captions provide more than a written dialogue of what is being said by giving viewers a description of what is happening on-screen. However, accuracy is a problem where closed captions and auto-generated subtitles can fail to provide context, word emphasis, or register sarcasm.

Additionally, these solutions can fail to understand foreign accents, multiple speakers, and specialist vocabulary.

Google is one major company that has made inroads in this space; they recently came up with an idea to enable a person signing to be recognised by the closed captioning systems.

A research paper found that the system would use a virtual audio source to generate a 20 kHz tone outside the range of human hearing but noticed by computer audio systems to make the system aware that a person is using sign language.

Yet, Čaplinksas said it will be some time before similar provisions are launched widely and advised that organisations try and support disability accessibility needs where they can right now:

“Business should not be lulled into thinking that present-day video call accessibility tools are enough to offer inclusivity for people with hearing impairments. The video call has opened up many opportunities for inclusivity, which should not be taken for granted. However, transcribing important meeting information could bring additional benefits to businesses because synchronous transcription is still not up to par with accessibility needs and as more crucial details can be captured and conveyed.

“Live-captioning on video calls is not just inaccurate in such cases; it can also be very difficult to navigate in the conversation. With multiple speakers in the meeting, the issues get more profound, for instance, when there are different accents or when people use sign language, often not recognised by these systems.

“To increase employee loyalty and productivity, it is really important to make sure that any improvements are made with people with hearing impairment in mind – not what hearing people think they need.

“Detailed notes of strategic sessions can help businesses with accountability, accuracy, and, most importantly, inclusivity, as more people will be on the same page and will not have missed important details that transpired in the meeting.”

In this article, you learned that:

  • There can be an accuracy problem with closed captions in video conferencing, where they can fail to provide context, word emphasis, or register sarcasm.
  • Voice-to-text technologies and artificial intelligence-based solutions can misunderstand foreign accents, multiple speakers, and specialist vocabulary.
  • Taking notes of strategic sessions can ensure staff don’t miss out on important details.

Rate This: