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Access Planning in Progress: Text Transcription Issues

[personal profile] jenett is narrating the process of access planning for an upcoming con over in the [community profile] accessibility_fail community.

One element she's working on is real-time captioning, abbreviated as CART or RTC. SF/F cons provide a peculiarly challenging environment for real-time captioning: we tend to all talk at once; we talk over each other; we use plenty of made-up words, names, and acronyms; and our discussions swoop unpredictably between grade-school humor and post-doc details (sometimes in one sentence).

CART is created by a highly trained steno-captionist (court reporter) who uses a chording keyboard to transcribe what speakers say, sound for sound. Computer software translates this into text, which is projected on a screen behind the speaker. This phonic-based system means that CART transcribers do best when they can program in names, neologisms, and acronyms in advance. Without that advance prep, ER SUE LA LUG WIN and I SACK AS HIM OFF might be showing up in a panel discussion. On the plus side, the CART transcript is verbatim, which creates a good record of the event.

There's another approach to text-based transcription: "meaning for meaning" or "m4m" systems. At present there are two in the U.S.: TypeWell and C-PRINT. Both provide online training which prepares a transcriber in 60 hours or less. The transcriber uses a standard laptop with extensive abbreviation-expansion software, and basically liveblogs the event. The same concerns arise with personal names; the finished transcript is briefer and hopefully meatier. RTC stenocaptionists earn a minimum of $120/hour; TypeWell transcribers start at around $50/hour.

You can read a spirited discussion of the pros and cons of CART and TypeWell in the college classroom at Deafness section at About.com. Jamie Berke has been editing this section for decades, and she totally knows her stuff.

Finally, here's a good elevator overview of the assistive technologies most helpful for people who have hearing impairments.

Sign language interpreters is a whole 'nother post.