The ability to choose is a fundamental principle of accessibility. It’s the freedom to think for yourself and make an active decision based on your personal preferences and needs. For those who are deaf or hard of hearing, they aren’t always given the ability to decide for themselves which accessibility solutions they want to use for communication. Whether they were born with hearing loss or develop it later on in life, their choices for communication are often limited.
At InnoCaption, we know that many in this community rely on real-time phone call captions to have remote conversations with their loved ones, for telework and for everyday tasks, making solutions that provide accurate and immediate remote captioning critical. This has become especially true in 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic has brought on strict social distancing measures and increased the amount of communication we do remotely.
That’s why we want to empower our users and give them the choice of how they receive captioned phone calls: Using our mobile app, those in the deaf and hard of hearing community can decide between using live stenographers or automated speech recognition software (ASR). Both of these options offer different benefits to the user, giving them the ability to get what they need in the moment.
- ASR: An automatic best-in-class speech recognition technology which is beneficial where the other party is a clear speaker with a good connection and normal speech patterns. This solution is ideal if you prefer not to have a live assistant on your call, or the speed of the captions is essential to your accessibility. ASR can also be beneficial in the event of an unexpected call surge where access to a stenographer might be delayed. This technology ensures users can start their phone call conversations immediately, no matter the circumstances, and your privacy remains protected as no call audio is logged for machine learning or any other purpose as regulated by the FCC.
- Stenographers: Where ASR captioning does not meet your accessibility needs, these highly trained professionals have years of training, specialized equipment, and bring a human element to your calls. These professionals bring a higher level of accessibility to calls where the speaker’s voice, connection, or terminology are not proceed well by ASR. Unlike speech recognition software, stenographers bring human understanding to captions and work hard to ensure you don’t miss any important information in your calls. They can also provide captioning of non-verbal sounds on the call, for example if someone is laughing (who wouldn’t want to know that)! A stenographer will provide prompts to ensure you hear everything they do — whether that is a baby crying in the background, or a speaker with poor connection who is fading in and out.
Regardless of which caption mode our users select, they are able to switch between ASR and live stenographers during a single call, giving them the ability to select the captioning mode that they prefer as their accessibility needs may change with different speakers or connections. The options, however, do not stop there. InnoCaption has also recently gone bi-lingual with our ASR solution, now offering captions in Spanish for users who prefer that as their primary language of choice. It’s our hope to continue to build additional language options using the ASR solution for our users who speak other languages to have telecommunications accessibility regardless of the language spoken on their calls.