By: Tatyana Kennedy, Au.D. These days, many people struggling
Captions: The ADA in Action 30 Years Later
By: Tatyana Kennedy, Au.D.
—“Let the shameful walls of exclusion finally come tumbling down”-George H.W. Bush
This July marked the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), signed into law by George H.W. Bush. The Act requires accommodations in businesses and public spaces to ensure that individuals with disabilities are not excluded from services. We now take for granted many of the things that have become commonplace since the passing of the ADA, such as curb cutouts, wheelchair ramps, large print text, sign language interpreters and captioning. The latter is an area of particular interest to the hearing impaired and Deaf communities and has become increasingly important as we navigate social distancing, phone/video conferencing and mask use in the wake of Covid-19. Although Audiologists have been preaching the caption gospel for many years, we would like to revisit this topic on the 30th Anniversary of the ADA to review the multitude of captioning options now available to make living with hearing loss easier and better.
Perhaps the most well known closed captioning service is for television. Audiologists have long encourage the use of closed captions on TV in order to increase speech understanding and create a more enjoyable viewing experience. Closed captions should be available on most modern (post 2002) televisions and can easily be enabled from your TV menu; some TVs may even allow you to change the font, text size and color/background of the caption display.
Closed captioning is also available for video material on the internet such as YouTube, or streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Prime Video. Nowadays, captions are fairly accurate and synchronous with video content, though there is some variability depending on speed of conversation. Our patients report that using captions makes the viewing experience much more enjoyable for the entire family, especially for shows with accents and fast paced dialog.
WHAT OTHER HELP IS AVAILABLE?
Many public spaces make captioning available to their attendees; you may simply need to ask. For example, movie theaters will usually offer an assistive device (in the form of glasses or a device that sits in the cup holder), or offer open captions at pre-scheduled times. In the latter scenario, the captions will appear on the screen for everyone to see. For those slightly more tech savvy, you can download the Subtitles Viewer app, which has subtitles to many movies and shows. When you are ready, sync what you are watching to the subtitles in the app and follow along directly on your phone.
Additionally, live theater captioning may be provided with captions scrolling on a display or alternatively on a hand held device that can be requested at the box office. In these venues, hearing the dialogue may be difficult even with normal hearing, and captioning provides a supplement to get the most out of your viewing experience.
WHAT ABOUT CAPTIONING ON THE PHONE?
Captioned telephones have been around for a long time and are especially helpful these days because they can serve as an amplified phone and/or pair to your hearing aids’ Bluetooth. These phones and the captioning services are available free of charge. Your Audiologist can refer you to the company that provides this service in your area and someone will come out to your home at your convenience to install the device and teach your how to use it.
If you no longer use a landline or simply prefer mobile calls, you can use a number of apps to transcribe your phone calls in real time. CaptionCall has an app available for iPhones and is currently beta testing an Android app. Both the app and the captioning service are free to people with certified hearing loss. Hamilton CapTel offers a similar service and app, as does ClearCaptions, which can be used with both iPhone and Android phones and tablets.
VIDEO CONFERENCING: MODERN DAY CAPTIONING SOLUTIONS
Although video conferencing has enabled many of us to continue our work and social engagements, delayed signals or multiple talkers are still presenting a challenge, particularly for those with hearing loss. Although many captioning solutions are cropping up these days, this article will highlight two which are fairly accurate and free to use. Google LiveTranscribe is an accessibility app for Android that uses your phone’s microphone to create real time captions on the phone. Otter.ai is an app for both Android and IOS which uses a voice recorder to generate a recording of the audio as well as a transcript of the meeting to be saved for later or shared with others.
NECESSITY IS THE MOTHER OF INVENTION
Many of our patients are getting creative and using transcription apps for daily in person conversations. We have previously discussed the difficulty many of us are facing while trying to communicate through masks or at a distance. Google LiveTranscribe and Otter.ai can both be used to provide a visual transcription of your conversations in real time to enhance communication. Patients have reported that these apps are a great supplement while talking with loved ones, during medical visits to better understand their physician, and at the pharmacy.
Thirty years after the ADA came into existence, Audiologists are still finding ways to use captioning in creative ways to help patients in their daily lives. We love teaming up with our patients to come up with innovative use cases for modern technology and sharing them with others. Call us today to help review your communication needs and find solutions beyond hearing aids that will improve your hearing health and your quality of life.
About the Author:
Tatyana Kennedy, Au.D., CCC-A
Dr. Kennedy is an Audiologist with over 15 years of experience creating tailored hearing health solutions for patients with hearing and balance disorders who are looking to lead productive and fulfilling lives. She is a mother of two and a wife of one, an athlete and an avid traveler. She loves all things technology and tells unnecessarily long stories. Dr. Kennedy accepted a full-time parenting position at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic but remains committed to helping people make informed decisions about achieving better hearing and health.