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Posts By: Richard Burman

Major Accessibility Lawsuits: Some Key Takeaways

The Rehabilitation Act (1973) and the American with Disabilities Act (1990) have been the gatekeepers of inclusion and accessibility for decades now. You must be thinking – if these federal laws were passed before the web and streaming media became mainstream, can they still be relevant in ensuring accessibility in such spaces?

Fortunately, laws tend to evolve with the changing demands of society. For example, Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act (an amendment) rules that all information and communication technology used, procured, and disseminated by the federal government and its agencies (including federal-funded educational institutions) should follow accessibility guidelines, that is, this information should not exclude individuals with disabilities (1 in 5 people in the US have some form of disability). Moreover, Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) seeks to prevent discrimination by making “places of public accommodation” accessible to people with disabilities. A law complementary to the ADA is CVAA, which was passed on October 2010 and mandated the updation of anti-discriminatory guidelines to include compliance regulations for all aspects of modern technology

Let’s look at how major accessibility lawsuits are changing the landscape for inclusivity on the web.

1. The National Association of the Deaf v. Netflix

According to CNBC’s All-American Economic Survey, 51% of American media streamers subscribe to Netflix, which pushes it in the domain of  “a place of public accommodation.” In 2010, the National Association of the Deaf sued the streaming giant for failing to caption its “Watch Instantly” movies and TV shows. They alleged that Netflix was in violation of the Title III of the ADA, pointing to the 36 million Americans who are deaf or some hearing disability. Previously, they had petitioned through blogs and letters to persuade Netflix to caption these content.

Netflix tried to leverage the fact the CVAA  had not passed its deadline, making it non-obligatory for Netflix to include closed captions for their “Watch Instantly” content. However, the presiding judge of the case made a landmark ruling, and Netflix settled with the following legally binding decree: that they would caption 80% of their content by 200 and 100% of their content by 2014.

2.  Amazon Video

While Netflix was “unwilling” to comply to the NAD’s request before the lawsuit, Amazon Video was a little more agreeable in making entertainment on their platform accessible (and without a lawsuit in this case). As a result, they captioned all content available through Prime Video in 2015 and agreed to caption 100% of the uncaptioned 1,90,000 titles on their platform by the end of 2016.

NAD attorney Namita Gupta stated that the Amazon settlement would hopefully convince potential media streamers to close caption their content to boost accessibility. Howard Rosenblum, CEO of the NAD, also commented that “The NAD is thus thrilled by Amazon’s decision to make its online entertainment experience more accessible to deaf and hard of hearing customers who also look to Amazon to fulfill their needs for comprehensive goods and services.”

3. The American Council of the Blind et al. v. Hulu

American Council of the Blind, Bay State Council of the Blind, and a blind Massachusetts couple filed a joint lawsuit against Hulu, another leading video streaming platform with 12 million subscribers because its content lacked audio descriptions (a separate audio track that provides detailed narration) for its low vision and blind subscribers. Moreover, their web content wasn’t screen reader accessible – another violation of ADA Title III.

Kim Charlson, president of the American Council of the Blind stated “Movies and television are pillars of American culture. As delivery of such media transitions to video streaming services, it is critical that these platforms be accessible in order to ensure the inclusion of blind and visually impaired individuals in contemporary society.”

Hulu agreeing to add audio tracks for the video content on their platform is another push toward inclusivity on the web.

4. The National Association of the Deaf v. Harvard and MIT

Both  Harvard and MIT were early adopters of edX, a program that hosts university-level courses for a wide demographic of students. However, in February 2015, Harvard (and later MIT) was sued by the NAD for failing to add closed captions to their online video content, thus alienating students with full or partial hearing disabilities. Students found that many of the videos were using AI-generated captions with a high rate of inaccuracy, thus affecting comprehension of the course content.

Overall, this lawsuit raised questions how universities can delegate resources appropriately to create accessible content and made it clear that the NAD expected all universities to caption content to make learning equitable.

Key Takeaways from the Lawsuits

Accessibility on the internet has gained momentum in the past few years with the major accessibility lawsuits setting precedents for how the web space can be made more inclusive to individuals with disabilities. Here are some key takeaways to strengthen the bottom line of your web content.

  • Make accessibility a proactive rather than a reactive measure.
  • While accessibility laws regarding web content and media are slightly foggy, expect them to become more detailed and binding in future
  • Make accessibility a priority to make inclusivity a priority
  • Accessibility is great for business: you’ll be tapping into a wide user base with good spending power. (The total after-tax income of working-age adults with disabilities is about $490 billion!)

Final Thoughts

There are many perks of being an early adopter of accessibility guidelines for the web. First, in a rapidly digitizing world, investing in accessibility is clearly the right thing to do. Moreover, you stand a chance to rise above your competition and become a market leader in your industry, whether you’re an e-learning company, a vlogger, or own an e-commerce store. Lastly, your accessibility efforts of including closed captions and transcripts will also boost your digital marketing endeavors.

Let’s talk!

Transcripts and closed captions for STEM content: What to consider

The benefits of closed captions and transcripts as learning aids have been extolled by more than 100 studies. Typically, STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and medical) content focuses on real-world issues and problems and is characterized by the open invitation to enquire, explore, and learn. Essentially, transcripts and captions make complex STEM content accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing community, more immersive to regular learners, as well as more approachable to laymen.

In this article, we’ll explore what STEM content creators and publishers should consider before integrating transcripts and captions into their workflow.

Which STEM content should you transcribe and caption?

1. Video extracts and video bytes

Video is a powerful medium that helps to instantly engage and inform viewers. So when businesses world over are leveraging videos as marketing content, why should the STEM industry be left behind?

Video extracts are short multimedia presentations of the key findings of a research paper specifically intended to increase the reach of a study. Video bytes, on the other hand,  are typically shorter and break down complex STEM material to make it accessible to stakeholders beyond academia, for example, journalists and popular science writers. So, adding closed captions will definitely boost the reach and comprehension of such STEM content.

2. Classroom lectures, E-learning videos, and other publicly consumed STEM videos

According to an Oregon University study, 98.6% students stated that they find captions and transcripts a helpful aid. Essentially, transcripts and captions help to improve comprehension, boost retention, and make the learning material more scannable for important data. Moreover, a Curtin University study noted that “Students who utilize captions as part of revision frequently re-engage with course content.”

Prioritize these three aspects

1. Accessibility and legal compliance

To make education inclusive and accessible, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act make it mandatory for government-funded organizations to add closed captions to their video material. In fact, advocates for the deaf and hard of hearing community filed a lawsuit against Harvard in 2015 because “Much of Harvard’s online content is either not captioned or is inaccurately or unintelligibly captioned, making it inaccessible for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.”

While it’s compulsory for government-funded educational video producers to add closed captions to their content, private enterprises should also consider including transcripts and closed captions to enable individuals with disabilities to pursue their love for learning at their own pace and with high-quality aids.

2. Accuracy

Transcripts and captions simplify comprehension of complex STEM content and help students pick up technical terms and complex formulae accurately. Moreover, these terms, subject-specific notations, and formulae should be consistent throughout the transcript and in the closed captions. Therefore, ask your potential online transcription and closed captioning partner about the level of accuracy of their outputs as well as their workflow in detail. Ensure that the transcription and closed captioning plans you opt for have a manual step in the workflow  – while automatic speech recognition (ASR) is a good starting point, the error count is quite high in such outputs.

3. Confidentiality

Plagiarism is a big deal in any industry that produces content, but more so in academia. Researchers want to ensure that their hard work is shared with colleagues as well as other relevant stakeholders through proper channels. Educational content creators also want to ensure that their proprietary course content is secure before they publish it. Accordingly, confidentiality should be another important checkpoint when you hire an online transcription and closed captioning partner.  A professional service provider will be happy to encrypt your files on their server at every step of the process as well as sign a non-disclosure agreement to protect your valuable data.

Challenges and possible solutions

Specialized language service providers cater to a wide range of industries, each with its unique set of complexities. And, the STEM content production industry is no different. Here are some common challenges (and their possible solutions) in transcribing and captioning STEM content.

1. Complicated content

STEM content is highly technical and needs the intervention of subject matter experts (SME) to produce accurate transcripts and captions. This rules out ASR as a solution because the error margin is quite high in such outputs.

Solution: Ask your potential vendor whether they employ SMEs to ensure that the outputs are technically accurate and true to the source. Moreover, when SMEs work on your files, the turnaround time is also lower because they are familiar with the content and don’t have to disrupt their core workflow and Google every technical term to ensure accuracy.

2. Technical challenges

Lecture capture has been proven to increase student attendance in classrooms. However, the audio quality may be hampered if the right recording equipment is not used. Poor audio quality can seriously affect the quality of output of transcripts and captions, and such recordings do take longer to be transcribed and captioned.

Solution: Choosing the right microphone can simplify the process and improve the quality of recording to a large extent. For a large lecture hall, choose an omnidirectional microphone to capture sounds from all directions and a unidirectional one for small study groups or for one-on-one discussions.

3. Long and complex workflow

Producing transcripts and captions with 99% accuracy is a detailed 3-step process that is best handled by industry veterans. Moreover, as a STEM researcher, you need to spend more time in your lab or reading other research papers rather than learning a new, highly technical skill.

Solution: Outsource your transcription and captioning requirements to a professional provider so that you can concentrate on what you love the most: solving real-world problems through scientific breakthroughs.

Final Thoughts

At iScribed, we face the challenges of transcribing and captioning STEM content head-on by providing unique solutions for discrete project requirements. We’re happy to sign an NDA to protect your findings and have a proven record for producing transcripts and captions with 99% accuracy. Let’s talk!

Verbatim vs. Non verbatim transcription: Which should you choose and why

Before you choose an online transcription service, it’s imperative to know what problem you’re trying to solve by integrating transcription in your workflow. Why? Simply because this will help you narrow down the type of transcription service that can help you solve your problem on time and on budget.

Clients reach out to us all the time regarding this, so we decided to create a quick guide for choosing the right transcription service for your business.

This guide is for you if you asked yourself the following questions soon after landing on our website:

  • “Is there more than one type of transcription service?”
  • “What exactly are the differences between verbatim and non-verbatim transcription?”
  • “Why do I need a verbatim transcript?”
  • “When do I need a non-verbatim transcript?”
  • “Will I lose out on information if I choose a non-verbatim transcript?”

Ready? Let’s dive in.

Verbatim and Non-verbatim transcription: What’s the difference?

Verbatim transcription

Verbatim transcription is the art of converting the speech in audio or video files into a textual format that exactly reflects the media file.

Now, what do we mean by “exactly reflects the media file?”

Verbatim transcripts capture all speech, non-verbal utterances, as well as background noise in textual form to provide a true-to-form account of the media file being transcribed. This means, if somebody coughs, shrugs, or bangs a door in the audio or video file, this is going to show up in your transcript.

There are only a few instances where you may benefit from a verbatim transcript (we’ll discuss them in a bit). Moreover, these transcripts have a longer turnaround time (TAT) to ensure that the transcripts are in fact true to the media file – opt for a verbatim upgrade only if you actually need it.

Non-verbatim transcription

Non-verbatim transcripts do not capture non-verbal utterances and background noise in the transcripts, which means they read much smoother. However, this textual reflection is still true to the media file – just without the distracting bits of non-verbal communication and background noise.

A round of editing to correct grammar and punctuation is also normal (Minor editing, but not paraphrasing, is also common in verbatim transcripts to aid clarity).

Lastly, there’s no data or information loss in a non-verbatim transcript. In fact, the paraphrased information makes scanning for data even easier.

Why do you need a verbatim transcript?

Verbatim transcripts are seminal when you need to get into the depths and look for clues beyond the speech in an audio or video file. This means verbatim transcription is ideal for you if your work involves the following:

Interviews (Witness interviews, hiring interviews, etc.)

Verbatim witness interview transcripts are helpful to gauge how an interviewee reacts to certain questions and conversational cues. That is, during a police interview, if a witness hesitates when answering a question, this non-verbal communication can be built into the case and later brought up in court to uncover the truth.

Verbatim transcripts of hiring interviews provide an insight on not only the answers of a candidate to the interview questions but also their body language. As an interviewer, this can help you discern whether the candidate will be a good fit for their role.

Verbatim transcripts are also ideal if you’re a journalist and your job involves interviewing people for a feature piece or story.

Focus group meets

Verbatim transcription is the right option for you if you’re a focus group moderator. In product marketing focus groups, people often voice an opinion in contrast to their feelings under peer pressure. This can inevitably hamper accurate data collection. In such cases, a verbatim transcript can be a valuable aid to get additional clues in non-verbal communication, for example, when an individual stutters, pauses before a response or provides a complex response. With a verbatim transcript, you can go beyond the speech and actually garner true opinions regarding a product based on speech as well non-speech utterances.

When do you need a non-verbatim transcript?

A non-verbatim transcript is a practical option when a detailed paraphrase does the job for you. A non-verbatim transcript can help you with the following tasks:

Keeping records of business meetings

While you may need to identify speakers in these transcripts, you don’t need a blow-by-blow account of the meeting for the record, to send that MoM, or to carry out related tasks.

Keeping records of lectures and seminars

Non-verbatim transcripts of lectures and seminars are a great aid for writing an editorial or for filling in the gaps in a research paper. A word-for-word transcript that concentrates on building a narrative rather than providing facts may actually be an impediment in such cases.

Medical transcription

The doctor’s observations and a clear treatment plan are all you need to capture in your medical transcripts for accurate record keeping. Non-speech communication and background noise do not add any value to these transcripts.

Aid to podcasts and online videos

Readers refer to transcripts of podcasts and online videos to supplement their learning, which means they’re generally not looking for the word-for-word account. So, these transcripts don’t have to detail anything other than the speech in the media file. Moreover, a non-verbatim transcript (rather than a verbatim one) becomes a great starting point for creating derivative content such as blog posts and whitepapers.

The Wrap

As listeners, we’re quite good at filtering out filler words such as “um,” “ah,” or “sort of,” however, these are major distractions and productivity killers when encountered during a data scan. So, whether you’d like to boost your video SEO, keep accurate records in your healthcare establishment, or make project management leaner, choosing the right type of transcription service is an important first step in integrating a transcription workflow.

Have a question we haven’t addressed here? Email us at!

A simple 2-step guide to choose the right closed captioning service

Who is the right closed captioning vendor for you? The straight answer is someone who meets the demands of your business and the industry standards.

Yes, hiring the right online closed captioning partner will give your business a huge boost. But where do you even start?

We get it. So in this article, we’re going to share a simple process that will simplify your search and help you make the right hiring decision.

 First step: Ask yourself these 3 questions to understand your requirements

Why is this important? For a number of reasons actually:

  • it will make your search more streamlined
  • it will help you convey your expectations clearly
  • …which means the quality of deliverables will not only meet but exceed your expectations

So here are the 3 questions to ask yourself before you hire a closed captioning service:

  1. What problems are you trying to solve?

Whether you want to make your video more accessible, add more value to your video content, intend to boost your video SEO, or have all of these goals, understanding your requirement will give you extra clarity before you start searching for a vendor.

  1. Are your requirements short term or long term?

A long-term partnership with a closed captioning can be beneficial for your video production cycle and will help you negotiate costs according to volume. For short-term requirements (for example, closed captioning a full-length documentary), you need to understand your vendor’s turnaround time and whether they can work with your revision schedule.

  1. What should be the terms of your contract?

To filter your requirements further, you need to zero in on the following things:  Will your project need an NDA? How frequently are you willing to communicate during the project process? What should be the delivery schedule?

Having a contract in place before starting the project will make the entire process much smoother.

Second step: Ask your vendor these questions to ensure they’re a good fit

The vendor-client relationship can be extremely beneficial when both parties are a good fit for each other. This depends on a number of factors, most of which can be brought to the forefront by asking your potential closed captioning vendor the following questions (along with inquiring about the cost of services and turnaround time).

1. What is their captioning process?

Do they opt for high-end automatic speech recognition (ASR) to create closed captions for video files? Or do they have a more elaborate, two-step captioning process and a quality review protocol before delivery?

If they only rely on ASR, this puts the inaccuracy rate of the finished product at 5%-50%. ASR helps to make a good head start, but it isn’t a great standalone option.

A multi-step captioning process involves both ASR input and human intervention (typically crosschecking with the video and a round of editing), which produces high quality closed captions that are FCC compliant.

2. What is their accuracy rate?

Accuracy is the most important metric to judge your closed captions. Accuracy measures whether the captions are true to the source along with the quality of spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

A high-quality vendor has a proven record (take a quick peek at their testimonials) of delivering captions with 99% accuracy to add real value to your video content. Here’s why accuracy should be your number one filter when choosing a captioning vendor.

  • Inaccurate closed captions affect the reading experience, which makes it an unsuitable (and unequal) alternative for the deaf and hard of hearing community.
  • Inaccurate captions reflect poorly on your brand.
  • When products, technical terms, places, or names of people are spelled incorrectly in your captions, it makes your video content hard to find, thus defeating the purpose of investing in improving your video SEO.

3. Do they operate in your niche?

This is another important parameter to consider before partnering up. When a vendor specializes in your niche (for example, captioning specifically for short films or explainer videos), the value you derive from them pays for the service many times over. This means they can not only handle the captioning process faster but are also able to fine tune the output to exceed your expectations.

4. Can they handle diverse and challenging content?

Each project comes with its own set of challenges – hire a vendor who’s ready to rise to the occasion and deliver 99% accuracy irrespective of how intricate and nuanced your project is (accuracy of closed captions is largely dependent on audio quality as well as other factors like accents and technical terms).

Ask them whether they hire specialists in your niche and whether they have the subject matter expertise as well as the technical skills to execute your project.

5. Is their workflow user-friendly?

User experience is a huge part of your relationship with a closed captioning vendor. A friendly workflow makes technical tasks like captioning much less cumbersome. A professional captioning service ensures the following so that project execution is streamlined.

  • They support multiple file formats
  • They make the upload process easy
  • You are proactively informed when your captions are ready
  • They ensure all communication and information you share with them are secure
  • They give you control over how long your files should stay in their system

Bottom line

How to hire the right closed captioning vendor? Simple, align your project requirements with what they can offer by asking these questions. Quiz yourself first and know your requirements in depth before you reach out to a vendor. Next, ensure they are a good fit for your business by asking the right questions.

Wondering how we handle closed captioning projects at iScribed? Reach out to us today – we’ll be happy to answer your questions with a no obligation to purchase!