Hearing Access: Zoom is Beta Testing Integrated Auto Captions

Another day, another Zoom meeting. Or make that two or three Zoom meetings. Much of the world continues to operate remotely, meaning virtual communication remains critical — and without captions, these events are very challenging for people with hearing loss. Several options now exist for free auto-captioned remote conversation including Google Meet and Skype, but Zoom, the most popular platform, remains un-captioned, except via third-party add-ons in their premium plans. This is a big problem for people with hearing loss.

About a month ago, I penned an open letter to Zoom and other video conferencing companies asking them to make the high quality auto speech recognition (ASR) captioning available in their premium plans free for people with hearing loss. The gold standard of captioning is Communication Access Realtime Translation or CART, where a live transcriber types what is spoken in real time, but this is not always available or cost effective for personal use. Hence the need for free ASR captioning.

My post turned into a petition that has garnered more than 34,000 signatures. I am extremely proud of how the hearing loss community has come together to advocate for its needs in this time of crisis. I’ve been asked how long I will keep the petition going. The answer: Until we get the results we need. Sign or share the petition here.

Zoom-meeting-ASR-captions

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What Patients Want from Audiologists During COVID-19

COVID-19 has disrupted operations for both audiologists and people with hearing loss. Many clinics are closed, or open only for curbside service. But hearing health care doesn’t stop, even during a pandemic. In my latest article for Phonak Audiology Blog, I discuss what patients want from audiologists during COVID-19. An excerpt is below. To read the full article click here. 

A Hearing Loss Patient Wishlist During COVID-19

The world has changed, driven by the required social distancing caused by COVID-19. All of our lives have been disrupted but hearing health must remain a priority. While many audiologist offices and clinics are closed, there are still ways you can continue to support your patients from a distance. Whether it is supplying spare batteries, offering remote advice, or providing communication tips, your patients continue to rely on your expertise, advice and care.

How can audiologists best support people with hearing loss during this time of physical distancing? Here are my suggestions.

Man holding a sign that reads My COVID-19 Audiologist Wish List

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Hearing Loss Advocacy: Captions Are Our Ramps

Last week’s post was an open letter to video conferencing companies like Zoom and Google, asking them to provide free auto captioning for people with hearing loss during this time of physical distancing. In most cases, auto captioning is available on these platforms, but it is hidden behind a paywall for premium paid accounts. There was so much support from readers, I started a petition on Change.org to capture the response.

The results have been tremendous. As of this writing, 8,000 people have signed the petition, and the number continues to grow. I have begun sharing the petition with the companies. If you have not signed already, will you help me to show more support by signing and sharing the petition? Together we can make change happen!

SIGN OUR PETITION ON CHANGE.ORG 

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Hearing Loss Access: Zoom & Google, Make Free Captions Available Now

People with hearing loss have trouble communicating in many situations leading to isolation and loneliness during normal times. Today, amid COVID-19, things are even tougher. In-person conversation has moved online, leaving many people with hearing loss few options for connecting with family and friends, especially seniors who are most at risk for developing virus complications.

Free automatic speech recognition (ASR) captioning for people with hearing loss on video conference platforms like Zoom and Google could make all the difference. Today I pen an open letter to these companies. Please share my words and add your own. Together, we can bring about the change we need to remain engaged and productive in today’s challenging times.

Computer displaying a video conference call.

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Uniting as a Hearing Loss Community While Social Distancing

COVID-19 has brought many inconveniences and frustrations to our daily lives, but there have also been some positive side effects — like bringing the hearing loss community closer together. On Saturday, March 28, 2020, more than 80 members of the hearing loss community met on a virtual Zoom call. The group discussed ideas for coping with the burden of social isolation, described our favorite technology hacks for communicating, and shared our stories of illness and recovery. We provided one another the support, understanding and camaraderie that we all are seeking at this time of social distancing.

Images of faces and smartphones in boxes

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