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Live Synchronous Captioning

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

What is it? 

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 the professional live captions. 

When should I request this?

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 Rehabilitiation 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, 
  • Internal facing Virginia Tech-only virtual or hybrid events that are public to students and employees.

Who can use it?

Any Virginia Tech group can leverage our existing contracts for live captioning. Centralized funding for live captioning is available by request for anyone who is hosting an event that meets the requirements under 'When should I request this?' above.

When the event is not eligible for using the centralized fund, it may be eligible for reverse billing. Please review the FAQs below if you are unsure if your event needs to have live captioning and if it qualifies for the centralized fund.

  • Is a university-sponsored event
  • Is open to the public and no registration fee is collected
  • Is a university-only campus event where there is free registration and an accommodation is requested.

Events where attendees pay a registration fee cannot use the centralized fund, but the cost of live captions can be billed back to the sponsoring organization.

For all other events, we strongly encourage event organizers to use a machine-generated live captions option such as webcaptioner.com.

How do you get it?

Complete the request form.

Frequently Asked Questions for Live Captioning Events

Determining the Need

Live captioning is required for any virtual or hybrid real-time public-facing event sponsored by the university. Class meetings are supported through accommodations from Services for Students with Disabilities. Internal re-occurring business meetings do not require live captions unless requested by an employee with an accommodation.

An event can be best described as anything that is not a regular business or class meeting. For example, anything where invitations are being sent, registration is taking place, or participants from outside the university are being invited to participate; especially if events are effectively open to members of the general public.

Online class meetings for courses within the university’s course catalog do not require live captioning but may benefit from AI-generated captions.  Students who require captions for accommodation specific needs will be supported through Services for Students with Disabilities.

Any public event sponsored by the university requires live captioning.

All Virginia Tech hosted events that are publicly open to students and employees must be live captioned. All events should use the standard accessibility language for event accommodations. Any events where captions are requested as an accommodation can leverage the central fund. Events where an accommodation has not specifically been requested should leverage a machine generated solution such as webcaptioner.com.

If the audience is known in advance AND registration was required AND an accommodation statement was included with all event communications, live captioning may not be required. 

Captions generated by artificial intelligence (AI) provide benefit to audiences who do not require captioning as an accommodation, and prefer a multi-modal approach to consuming digital information.  For example, AI-generated captions are appropriate for internal business meetings, with no accommodation requests for captioning. This creates a more welcoming and inclusive environment.

See "When is live captioning required?" above. Only if an accommodation statement was provided to prospective participants at least 2 weeks ahead of the event and no requests were received.

Designing Inclusive Events and Supporting Accommodations

Requiring registration for virtual events helps to ensure accessibility and security. Make sure to include the standard accessibility language for event accommodations.

Follow the standard accessibility language from the Office of Equity and Accessibility “If you are an individual with a disability and desire an accommodation, please contact (insert name) at (phone number) or email (insert email) during regular business hours at least 10 business days prior to the event.”

Participants can ask for additional accommodations at any time. 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, a sign language interpreter, wheelchair access, et. cetera. All valid requests for accommodations must be fulfilled. Please contact the ADA office with any questions about accommodations beyond live captioning.

A direct request for an ASL interpreter, does not remove the requirement to have live captions for public events.

Units should make every effort to plan events with sufficient time to consider all aspects of policy compliance. For time sensitive or last-minute requests, the unit should reach out to captioning@vt.edu to discuss the specific situation. Under the current public health emergency, captioning and transcription services generally require 5-10 business days to arrange; however, every effort should be made to fill requests regardless of the time they are received. If you receive a request that you cannot accommodate you should, contact Accessible Technologies to consider alternative options.

Requesting Live Captioning

Zoom has not released a machine generated automatic caption functionality to date. Machine captioning is also not accurate enough to meet our legal obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Two vendors are approved, Verbit and Alternative Communication Services (ACS). Verbit's services can be used independently or through the centralized fund. ACS can only be contracted with independently.

"Live in Zoom" from Verbit includes captions within Zoom (at a minor 3-second delay).  A human captionist join the session 30 minutes prior to the start time of the event. The session host will provide the Zoom meeting API key to the captionist. During the session the captions and the live transcript will be available via the Zoom captioning button.

A single request can be used for a multi-day events. Please include all dates with start and end times and all meeting urls at one time.

Verbit and Alternative Communication Services LLC are the only approved vendors through ITPALS for professional live captioning services. Please review the contracts in Cobblestone for details. 

Slide decks and any other supplemental content help improve the accuracy of the captions. The content will be added to the vendor’s Virginia Tech profile (e.g., dictionary). It is also used by the type correctors during the event to make edits during the live event.

At a minimum, enable machine generated (AI) automatic captions. In Google Meet and Microsoft Teams, the functionality is already built-in. For Zoom, leverage a web service such as webcaptioner.com.

Post Event Tasks

Any recorded video content that is posted to a public place is required to provide an alternative access format. Above standard is to provide synchronized closed captions and an edited transcript. At standard is to provide either an edited transcript or synchronized closed captions. Below standard is to provide an unedited transcript or machine generated closed captions.

If you plan to make the recording publicly available, after you receive your post-event transcript, edit it for accuracy against the video recording. Then post the edited transcript in the same location as the video. For example, as a downloadable document on the webpage where the video is embedded.

The direct transcript of live captions will not natively have the accuracy required for legal compliance. An edited copy of the live transcript can be posted to meet the requirement of alternative access.

Other Events and Circumstances

In general students cannot directly request live captioning services. Students recieving captions as an accommodation through SSD will 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. Please email captioning@vt.edu to discuss.

Live Room does not need to be installed. Windows users may, however, enjoy the additional features it affords.

Please email captioning@vt.edu.