In 2020, phrases such as “Can everyone see my screen?” and “I think you’re frozen.” have topped the list of this year’s overused expressions. Zoom’s 300% rise in usage compared to 2019 earned it its well-deserved place on Oxford Language’s “Word of an Unprecedented Year” report, but more importantly, into the homes of millions of Americans during lockdown.
Aside from those that fell victim to the episodes of “Zoombombing,” this tool, and other video conferencing services like it, has been widely praised, mostly for their ability to connect friends, family, and loved ones during the pandemic. Zoom has been a lifeline for many during the last ten months, especially those with preexisting conditions that have been further limited by social distancing measures. But those in the hard of hearing community have been having a different experience.
While using online video conferencing tools, it is not uncommon to experience things like time delays, pixelated videos, and choppy audio. These seemingly small hiccups during calls create major barriers to communication for individuals that read lips, view sign language, and utilize facial expressions and body language to hold fluent discussions.
With so many aspects of life now taking place from home, the demand for video applications like Zoom has trickled into many of our day-to-day tasks as well. This means that those small issues that are experienced during video calls like problems cause a ripple effect of disruptions when it comes to vital daily activities such as work, school, and telehealth. Not to mention the interactions that keep us the most sane like virtual happy hours and holiday celebrations.
According to the National Institute for Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, “approximately one in three people in the United States between the ages of 65 and 74 has hearing loss, and nearly half of those older than 75 have difficulty hearing.” Unfortunately, this is also the age group that is considered high-risk for severe illness with regard to COVID-19, and are seemingly experiencing the most isolation. Consequently, the same people that could benefit the most from tools that enable connection while keeping a safe social distance are the same individuals facing these barriers to communication that are imposed by the most widely used video conferencing tools.
Our Co-CEO Joe Duarte, who has always lived with hearing loss himself and is now a bilateral cochlear implant user (or recipient), ,experienced the challenges that those with hearing loss were facing. He saw the increase in isolation that was resulting from this community’s inability to leverage a tool that was being utilized as a lifeline for connection with friends and family by millions across the country.
As a result, building a version of InnoCaption that could be utilized on desktops and laptops became mission-critical, and shortly after, InnoCaption released DeskView. The DeskView feature enables the live captioning on your mobile phone to be mirrored onto your computer screen during video calls. This means that whether your video conferencing tool of choice is Zoom or Google Meets, you’ll be able to see live captions displayed on your screen during the call. DeskView provides users a way around the challenges imposed by video calls, and provides greater accessibility to the tens of millions of American with hearing loss.
While no accessibility technology tool can do away with all of the challenges of the pandemic, we’re proud to make our contribution through a telecommunications solution that can help diminish the detrimental impacts of isolation during this unprecedented year.