Speak & Spell
August 3, 2017 4:58 AM   Subscribe

Robot CART options for Deaf attendees at impending conference?

Next week, we are staging a small-but-influential space science conference in Monterey, California. Our organization is non-profit and our budget this year was stricken by two major sponsors having to decline due to personal restrictions.

We are proud of providing CART services–aka Communication Access Realtime Translation aka real-time captioning–for attendees who are Deaf or hearing impaired. But our budget drop-out is more than CART would cost us, around $5k.

What I am asking of the hivemind this time is: Are there some modern technological possibilities to make this happen robotically ie Google Translate, Dragon, etc where we could have the audio translated on the fly and live on screen?

Space and science conferences are historically nonchalant in providing for accessibility and diversity. The future is here, fortunately, and there should be options for overcoming any such ordinary hurdles for broad inclusion. Hopefully, there is such an option here.

Access and inclusion is a priority for us. Circumstances have brought us here. How may we we succeed in solving this creatively?
posted by Mike Mongo to Technology (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The direct answer to your question is no, of course not. Have you ever tried to use automatic transcription services? They are... kind of right, a lot of the time, if the speaker is clear and using common words and doesn't have an accent. Does that describe most of your speakers? Is there any technical jargon in your science conference? Would CART even still be a thing if we had commonly-available natural language transcription that worked that well?

That said, $5K seems like a lot for this, depending on the length of your conference. You might look into remote CART services, which might be cheaper (especially given cost of living stuff in Monterey vs. other parts of the country), or looking into C-Print/TypeWell which is not as good as CART but usually cheaper, if it comes down to that or nothing.

But if some sort of accommodation has been requested and this is in some way a "public" accommodation, you are required to provide some sort of access for your Deaf attendees, unless you can prove that the cost is an undue burden, so this is not just an expense you can choose to not pay.
posted by brainmouse at 10:03 AM on August 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

Have you also compared the cost of using in-person sign language interpreters? (b/c English is not the first language of many d/Deaf people, and if the language in your conference is technical or specialized, using CART may not be accessible enough.) Besides ASL interpreters and CART, I do not know of any other accommodations that are adequate.
posted by carlypennylane at 12:27 PM on August 3, 2017

Agree with brainmouse. Automatic transcription is just not there yet, especially for technical content, accented speakers, etc. It would not be a sufficient accommodation.

A friend-of-a-friend works with the company White Coat Captioning for jargon-savvy remote captioners. I'm sure there are other providers too.
posted by Alioth at 9:09 PM on August 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

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