There’s a lot of talk about inclusion and accessibility in the workplace these days. Live captioning is part of that discussion. It’s great that businesses are providing captioning support for conferences and meetings, and one-on-one for employees or clients who are hearing-impaired or have English as a second language, but are businesses being deliberate enough with their approach? Don’t you want to get the most you can out of what you’ve paid for? Below are a few simple ways to be more deliberate, and therefore effective, in providing captions for your employees or conference and meeting attendees.
Presenters need to consider the rate at which they speak or present their material. This is important for everyone in the room because if the delivery rate is too fast, people will start to struggle to absorb the information and switch off. This is an even more important factor for a hearing-impaired person because they have to be able to read and comprehend the captions on the screen. Consider your delivery rate and if you’re a fast speaker, be conscious of trying to slow it down a bit.
Consider Adding More Breaks
Reading and comprehension, particularly of jargonistic content, requires a lot of processing by the eyes and the brain. Whilst a hearing person can look around the room and refocus their eyes while also listening to the presentation, a hearing-impaired person is focussed on the screen, sometimes for hours, without a break. It’s exhausting! I’ve had clients who have expressed that they felt they wanted to “climb the walls” after a long conference or training day. Being serious about inclusion and accessibility means being serious about making things better for the person we’re making it inclusive and accessible for. So please consider adding a few extra short breaks in a long presentation or long days.
The more information the captioner has before the event, the better the captions will be. Help us to be able to identify speakers, use jargon correctly, spell words and names correctly and so many other things. The more we know and understand, the better the quality of the captions and the more those using the captions will be able to understand and follow. Being deliberate means, where possible, providing prep material like agendas/itineraries, attendees, speeches and PowerPoint presentations.
Let People Know It’s Being Captioned
So many times I go to events and someone comes up to me and says, “I didn’t know this was being captioned. It’s such a relief to see you here.” And I have also had an occasion where I’ve been told by a person that they will not attend an event because captioning won’t be provided. If you’re going to engage a captioner, make sure you let the intended audience know so they can plan to come along. Tell everyone about it.
These suggestions certainly aren’t exhaustive but will help to make your audience's captioning experience better. Be deliberate about how you provide captions so that those using it can have the best experience and you can get the most bang for your buck.