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Live Captioning

speech bubble reads closed caption is available floating above menu button labeled CC closed caption

Live captioning describes both machine-generated and human-transcribed text provided in real time. The instantaneous translation of all speech into text is made available to the audience through a closed caption button within a video frame or via a separate browser window. Additionally, when the video delivery method makes this function available, a live transcript may also accompany the live captions. Our current vendor, Verbit.ai, has a Zoom integration and can provide professional live captions. 

Legal Requirements and University Policy 

In order to maintain compliance with the Federal and State legal requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (as amended), including Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (as amended), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Virginia Tech's IT Accessibility Policy 7215 live captions must be provided for any university sponsored:

  • virtual or hybrid event where an individual requests captioning as an accommodation,
  • virtual or hybrid event that is open to the general public, regardless of whether or not registration is required, or
  • Virginia Tech-only virtual or hybrid event that is public to students and employees

Internal re-occurring business meetings do not require live captions unless requested by an employee with an accommodation. However, in alignment with universal design best practices, TLOS recommends all meeting hosts enable the built-in (and free) live captioning functionality within Zoom.

All event promotions including email, fliers, social media posts, and digital signs should include the standard accessibility statement. While accommodations for captioning support a broad range of participants, additional accommodations may be requested by participants to effectively engage in the event. For example, an ASL sign language interpreter or wheelchair access may be requested. A direct request for an ASL interpreter, does not remove the requirement to have live captions for public events. Contact the Office for Equity and Accessibility’s ADA team with questions about accommodations beyond live captioning. 

Requesting Live Captions

Consider the following when determining if an event requires live captions:

  • Class meetings are supported through accommodations from Services for Students with Disabilities
  • Internal meetings for Virginia Tech employees may benefit from live captions, but may not require live captions unless requested as an accommodation. 
  • Events that are exclusive to Virginia Tech students may benefit from live captions, but may not require live captions unless they are open to the entire campus or requested as an accommodation. 
  • University sponsored events should include an accommodation request statement to help determine if live captions or other accommodations are required. 

Any Virginia Tech group can use the existing contracts for live captioning. Centralized funding for live captioning is available by request for anyone who is hosting an event that meets the legal requirements and university policy outlined above. In general, individual students cannot directly request live captioning services. Students receiving captions as an accommodation through SSD may be supported directly by that office for participation in out-of-class activities. Student organizations may consider applying for Student Budget Board funds to fund live caption for a campus wide or public facing event.

The centralized fund cannot be used for events where attendees pay a registration fee. But, the cost of live captions can be billed back to the sponsoring organization. 

Using captions creates a more welcoming and inclusive environment by providing a multi-modal approach to consuming digital information. For events not required to use live human-transcribed captions, organizers are strongly encouraged to use Zoom's machine-generated captions and live transcripts feature. For events not using Zoom, machine-generated live captions can be provided with a service such as webcaptioner.com. Machine-generated captions are not accurate enough to meet the legal obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Email captioning@vt.edu with questions about live captioning.