It’s wonderful that Apple’s latest iOS now includes built-in auto-captioning. It has been a long time coming, and more work is needed, but it is great to see accessibility for people with hearing loss finally taking center stage. One of my favorite ways to use this capability is on FaceTime.
For most conversations, I use Zoom—especially if I am at home and can access it from my computer. But when I am on the go and using my iPhone, I prefer FaceTime. It’s a quicker and easier way to communicate while still enjoying the benefits of seeing the person’s face for speechreading cues. And the captions just make it better.
Why Two Way Captioning Is Important
But the first time I used the auto-captions with FaceTime I was confused. The captions worked when my communication partner spoke, but not when I did. Had I done something wrong in the setup? Nope. That is just how FaceTime captions work. Unfortunately, this one-sided feature creates several issues.
It’s hard to tell if the captions are working properly
Was the pause in the transcription due to a speaker change or some other factor? I couldn’t be sure so I was constantly worried if the captions were actually working.
You cannot correct errors you cannot see
Auto-captions are far from perfect, but if you can’t see the real-time transcription errors, you cannot correct them. Dual side captioning would help prevent miscommunications.
Group FaceTime calls won’t work
Imagine you are calling two people with hearing loss who happen to be together. They may have trouble understanding one another because without the benefit of captioning. Group FaceTime calls won’t work as well unless each person is on their own device.
Full transcripts are not available
If you are recording a call for future reference, only your communication partners’ captions are saved. leaving an incomplete record of the call. This is less than helpful when trying to recall the full exchange later.
Communication is a two-way street so why not caption both sides of the conversation? I hope Apple will consider amending this feature in a later version.
Readers, would you prefer that FaceTime show captions for both sides of the conversation?