Zoom – Request Live Transcript

On June 21, 2021, Zoom released Version 5.7.0. In the update notes, I noticed the following and decided to investigate:

As a reminder, Live Transcript/live transcription (LT) is the ASR/auto-generated captioning powered by Otter and offered by Zoom. It is currently available on paid accounts and if you are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, you can also fill out a form referenced in the Zoom blog post below if you have a (free) Basic account and want access to the LT feature. It is integrated within the Zoom app itself.

In this Zoom blog post which includes directions on how to enable the LT feature, Zoom seemed to allude to the possibility of participants/attendees being able to control enabling LT in upcoming versions. This is one of the biggest complaints about Zoom accessibility – the fact that we are at the complete mercy of the Host when it comes to turning on LT during a meeting or webinar. Google Meet and its on-demand closed captioning option, whether you are a host or participant, gets this absolutely right.

The Good:

  • Participants and attendees now have the ability to discreetly request that the LT feature during a meeting or webinar, without interrupting the entire event
  • Participants and attendees can even do this anonymously
  • This is available to Windows and Mac computer users and iOS (iPhone/iPad) users
  • Portal allows for LT to be turned on automatically and for Full Transcript to be displayed to the side

The Bad:

  • The Host can choose to turn this Request feature off so it’s not even an option
  • The Host can decline (?!?!?) to turn on LT after it has been requested
  • This is not yet available on Android OS
  • Chrome OS/Chromebooks (which is popular in schools) are still woefully behind in terms of having access to LT. Not only is it very, very delayed but this feature isn’t even offered yet for Chromebooks.
  • The Host can choose for Participants and Attendees to not see the Full Transcript on the side
  • (ADDED) In order for this feature of being able to Request LT to happen:
    • The Host has to have Version 5.7.0
    • The Host has to have already gone into their User Portal and turned on the Live Transcription feature referenced below under Closed Captioning

Personally, I feel like this is a half-hearted attempt to provide individuals who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing with the control they need to turn on the ASR-generated LT feature. It still allows the Host to DECLINE that this feature be turned on. I really, really hope that the version of Zoom that was discussed in the Zoom blog will come to fruition and not only will paid and free accounts have access to Live Transcript, but that DHH individuals will have complete autonomy in accessing this LT feature and not have to rely on a Host to turn it on or worse, decline to turn it on.

Settings and views

The first thing you need to do is make sure you have the latest update to Zoom for this feature which is Version 5.7.0.

Second, as Host of a meeting or webinar, this is what you will see when you click on the Live Transcript/CC button (NOTE: The Host has the option to un/check the box – I am not a fan of this because this means that participants and attendees can’t make this request):

Here are the options in the Advanced Settings of the User Portal on Zoom – I like that you can turn on LT automatically but don’t like that Hosts can deny viewing of Full Transcript to the side:

Below are directions if you are doing this from a Windows or Mac computer:

Below are directions for iOS and Android OS phones and tablets.
(NOTE: As of 06/25/21, Android OS still can’t update to 5.7.0)

As a participant on my Mac computer, I click on the Live Transcript/CC button on the bottom of my page and I will see this in the middle of my screen (Note: You can Ask anonymously):

As a Host from my computer, here is what I will see – not a fan that the Host can decline:

As a participant on my iPad, I click on the 3 dots (also known as the Meatball Menu) and I will see the option to Request Live Transcription:

After I click on “Request Live Transcription”, here is what I will see:

As a host on an iPad, here is what I see when someone makes a request (again – not cool that a Host can decline):

I still feel like Zoom has some headroom in terms of improving accessibility options…don’t EVEN get me started on lack of LT options or consistent 3rd party captioning in Breakout Rooms! We are also still waiting for the LT feature to be available to ALL, not just paid accounts.

What else would you like to see from Zoom????

How to caption your videos

CC OC on computer

As I write this post, I am on Day 9 of social distancing and our entire state was recently given a “stay at home” order due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

All around the world, I’m watching my colleagues who work with Deaf/Hard of Hearing (DHH) students scramble as they transition to composing lessons for e-learning.  Finding captioned content can be difficult, so some are resorting to captioning the content they want to use on their own.

I also have D/HH peers who need resources for adding captions to content that they view or use so it’s accessible.

I wanted to share some resources that might help.

What’s the difference between subtitles and captions?

Subtitles only reflect the dialogue of what is spoken on the screen.  Subtitles can be in a variety of languages.

Captions not only reflect the subtitles but any non-spoken information such as environmental sounds like [door creaking] or [music] or [silence].

There are Open Captions (OC) which are always visible on the video content – you can’t turn them off.   There are videos that you can watch on a portable device that are OC – you just play the movie and the captioning is there.  If you go to a movie theater to watch an OC movie, you can’t turn it off (though the movie theater employee can).

There are Closed Captions (CC) which can be turned on/off by the viewer.   There is a CC button on newer remote controls for TVs as well as cable/satellite boxes.   Sometimes the control is on screen.   When you watch DVD or Blu-Ray media, you might see a choice for “Subtitles – English” or  “SDHH (Subtitles for the Deaf/Hard of Hearing)”.   The first represents true subtitles while the second actually would be considered captions because they include the non-spoken information.

Why caption your videos?

For people that are DHH, captioning = access.  The audio signal that comes from recorded or live content played through speakers is not as robust as what we might get talking to someone face-to-face.  Also visual and speechreading cues are not always available.   We rely on captioning to understand what we can’t hear.

People with normal hearing like captioning, too!   Some people might like to watch videos on mute because they don’t want to bother others (did you know that 85% of Facebook videos are watched without sound?!?), maybe they’re multitasking, perhaps they’re trying to hear a video but it’s in a noisy environment, or maybe they’re still learning English.

There are many advantages to watching captioned content.  Studies have shown that captioning can improve literacy in children – if you’re going to sit them in front of a screen, may as well turn on the captions!  As a business, captioning your videos can increase the amount of time someone stays on your website/social media site, remembers your content as well as improve your SEO.

How can I caption videos?

These are just a few of the resources out there that you can use to add captions to your videos.  I picked the ones that seemed to be the most used in the DHH/teaching community.   I’m sure that every day, more and more are becoming available.  I leave it to you to go to the websites and/or find video tutorials to make them work.  If I find some great resources, I’ll add them.

Let’s start with some of the FREE websites (click on the name of the products to go directly to their website and directions for generating captions):


“Amara’s award-winning technology enables you to caption and subtitle any video for free. For larger subtitling projects the platform makes it easy to manage teams of translators. And you can always purchase high-quality captions or translations from our passionate team of professional linguists.”

“Subtitles created in Amara Public are freely available to anyone. Use the award-winning Amara subtitle editor for free in a public workspace. Anyone with an Amara account can join the workspace and contribute subtitles in any language.

Amara Public is designed for crowd-based, open subtitle creation
Subtitles are always visible, editable and downloadable
Upgrade to Amara Plus to create subtitle files in a private workspace”


  • You will be manually typing out the subtitles, they are not generated by automated captions.  This should work well for shorter videos or videos that do not have a lot of talking.


This “is an online editor for subtitling your videos”.


  • Upload a video or provide a URL to the video (maximum 10 minutes for the free version)
  • In your “studio”,  select “auto-generate”.
  • After the subtitles have been created, you can correct and edit them.

Microsoft Stream

“You can add subtitles or captions to any Microsoft Stream video during upload or after. You can also choose to configure your video so Stream generates captions automatically using Automatic Speech Recognition technology.”


  • If you don’t have a script, start with the ASR captioning and then go back and make the edits you need
  • Can also download the transcript


Simple Online Video Editing


  • There are different plans – Free, Basic, Pro
  • You get a one-time allowance of 2 hours of free auto subtitling
  • Free version only works for a video up to 10 minutes and 50 MB or less
  • Easy and intuitive way to add text as well as subtitling to your videos


“Read your video like read an article.

We use smart technologies (NLP + AI) to create well-formatted interactive transcripts for your videos. Now you can read, search, share, and locate a sentence within any videos in seconds. Get started with a YouTube link below!”


  • You must first upload your video to YouTube
  • This site generates an interactive transcript which you will view side-by-side with your video (i.e., it’s not embedded)
  • You can even download the transcript.   This may be a good option for your students that also use screenreaders due to vision impairment.


With YouTube, you’ll upload your video first.  If you already have a transcript, you can sync it with the video.  If you don’t have a transcript, you can enable automatic captions (unedited) or run your video through automatic captions and then edit them.

Here are directions on how to enable the auto-generated captioning which can be wildly variable in terms of accuracy, depending on the quality of the signal.


  • If your video is more than 15 minutes, you will need to verify your account


“Zubtitle is an online tool that automatically adds subtitles to any video by transcribing the audio and generating subtitle text.  Zubtitle offers multiple subtitle text style and makes it easy to edit subtitle text on the fly.”


  • “Free” hooked me.  You can caption ONE (1) video for free, otherwise, it’s 10 videos for $19/month or 30 videos for $49/month.
  • I found the caption editor for this site to be the most intuitive compared to the other free websites.
  • The website did a pretty good job of extracting the audio information from the video first and then transcribing it, getting it ready to be edited.   There were not that many errors that I had to correct.
  • There are quite a few caption styles to choose from.

Here is a list of some companies that will create subtitles/captions/transcripts for you, with a quick turnaround time (anywhere from 24 to 72+ hours), but have an associated COST:

Are there other teaching tools that have captions built-in?

Yes!   Here are apps that generate realtime, automated captions:


  • FREE
  • Available on iOS only
  • Takes video and can generate realtime, automated captions that can also be edited
  • Great tool for making videos with captions on-the-fly as well as materials like social stories


  • FREE
  • Tool that allows educators and students to exchange video clips
  • These clips are all automatically captioned via automated captions when they are uploaded
  • You can even edit the captions

Google Slides

  • FREE
  • When you start your presentation, click on the CC button at the bottom of the presentation window to start automated captions
  • You cannot save a transcript of the captions but if you do a screenrecording of your lesson, the captions will be on there

Google Hangouts and Google Hangouts Meet

  • Anyone with a Gmail address will have access to Google Hangouts
    • If your email address has the same suffix (e.g., firstnamelastname@sameschool.org), you will have access to live captions through Google Hangouts
    • If your email address suffixes are different, there will be no live captions
  • You need to have a G-Suite account into order to start a meeting with Google Hangouts Meet – you don’t have to have G-Suite if you’re invited to a Google Hangouts Meet meeting
    • All Google Hangouts Meet meetings have access to live captions
  • (thanks to Mary Beth Napoli for the information above)
  • Click on the CC button to generate automated captions for all videoconference participants
  • If you record this call, the captions will NOT be saved to the recording
  • If you want to save the captions, you have to do a screenrecording

Microsoft PowerPoint

  • Part of Office 365 which has a cost
  • Automated subtitles consistently available on PCs when using the PPT standalone version
  • Automated subtitles for MacBooks available when using the online version of PPT through Office 365
  • You can save the transcript from your PPT presentation subtitles

Microsoft Teams

  • Part of Office 365 which has a cost
    • Not all Microsoft licenses have access to teams (h/t MBN)
  • Cool new feature that you can now have automated captions when you use Teams for a videoconference
    • ONLY if your email address is associated with a Microsoft account, otherwise you will not see captions (h/t MBN)


  • Cost is based on number of students and teachers that use the platform
  • This is a place where people can save videos
  • Every video that’s uploaded to this site can be played with automated captions
  • You can also do a “lesson capture” with this platform, which will also have automated captions
  • There is the ability to integrate a live CART (communication access realtime translation) captioner during a webinar on this platform


  • Free
  • This popular videocall platform now provides automated captioned during the phone/videocalls
  • For individuals that are D/HH, having captions is great in addition to having visual cues from the videocall


(Again, h/t MBN for her insight on this!)

  • Run a speech-to-text (STT) app like Live Transcribe (Android only) or Otter or Ava (both are iOS and Android) on a separate mobile device such as a cellphone or tablet.  You can also open up http://webcaptioner.com, Otter or Ava (only at the higher paid tiers) in another browser window.  Make sure your computer speakers are turned up so the mobile device can pick up the signal.  You will then be able to read captions on the mobile device.
    • Another way to use these STT apps is to hold your device under your chin and facing the camera so people can not only see your face for lipreading cues, they can read the captions.   Be aware of computer glare on. your mobile device though!
  • If there is someone in your group that is able to get captions on their end, have them share their screen so that everyone can see the captions.
  • If you have access to three devices:
    • Device #1 – participate in the meeting
    • Device #2 – use the STT app to caption the audio signal coming from your speakers
    • Device #3 – zoom in on the captions to join the meeting as a separate “participant”

What if I want a recording of the captions from the class but they don’t transfer over when I record from within that particular videoconferencing platform?

In this situation, it would be best to do a screenrecording of your lecture.   Here are some of the most popular ones:

Quick Time

  • FREE – This is the native screenrecorder that comes on Mac computers

PC – Built-in

  • FREE – This is the native screenrecorder that comes on PCs


  • Can start with a free 30-day trial and then cost increase to $249 (one time)
  • Screenrecorder where you can also add captions


  • Free for an up to 5 minute video / $29 per year for unlimited videos currently (40% discount)
  • Screenrecorder and can manually add captions with Google Slides or YouTube
  • Has a Chrome Extension for quick access


  • Free for basic tier
  • Automated or manually uploaded captions only available on upper two tiers

Final Tips:

  • If you’re going to creating your own captions from scratch or editing a video more than about 15 minutes, PLAN FOR WORKING ON THIS FOR A FEW HOURS, even more so if you’re not familiar with the app.
  • Make sure to save early and save often.  I learned that the hard way. 😦
  • Personally, for the amount of time I spent adding captions to a 15 minute video, it would have been worth $18.75 ($1.25×15 minutes) to have someone else do it.  But you have to plan ahead unless you want to pay a higher price for quick turnaround time.
  • This can be a good task for a paraprofessional in the classroom.
  • A fantastic resource for not only open captioned but also audio described (for the visually impaired) content is the Described and Captioned Media Program.   They have THOUSANDS of titles on a variety of topics.  This is a FREE service and the videos can be streamed right to your computer. Be sure check them out!


  • 3PlayMedia has some great How-to Guides across different platforms and products
  • How to add captions using Google Drive, YouTube Editor, Pinnacle Studio, CaptionMaker and Aegisub

If there are any apps that I missed or if you have any comments, please let me know!

Captioning options for Videoconferencing and Learning Management Systems


(Many thanks to Catharine McNally and Sarah Kiefer for their contributions, feedback, editing and comments on this blog post!)

In an effort to stop the exponential growth of COVID-19, we’re seeing daily announcements about schools and higher-ed institutions deciding to close or move coursework to an online format.  For students who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing, it is important that educators and IT staff plan for accessibility if the online classes require listening to audio in order to participate.

We are seeing similar measures from companies and businesses putting travel bans into place and requiring employees to telecommute.  Flights and larger events are being canceled and workers are being asked to stay and work from home.

Who is responsible for providing accommodations?

For students in grades Pre-K through 12, accommodations and access are provided by their school under IDEA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

For employees in business with more than 15 employees, your rights are covered under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  More information can be found at https://www.nad.org/resources/employment-and-vocational-rehabilitation/discrimination-and-reasonable-accommodations/.

Options for students in the K-12 setting

This resource, created by Sarah Kiefer, from the Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Education has FANTASTIC information and guidelines on how to provide accommodations and accessibility to your students. 

The remainder of this blog post will mostly pertain to high school, college/university and work settings.

“Accessibility Strategies for Deaf / Hard of Hearing People in Remote Meetings”

Be sure to head over to Medium and check out Catharine McNally’s fantastic article with a slightly different angle.  Yay for teamwork!

Resources from the Deaf/Hard of Hearing Technology Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center

(content added 05/15/20) Christian Vogler at DHH-RERC has been doing some amazing work documenting best practices and use case scenarios with videoconferencing, especially Zoom.   He has create two documents that are must-reads that should be used in planning an accessible online event.  First is the more general document called, “Webinar Accessibility for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People” and the second document, “Accessibility Tips for a Better Zoom/Virtual Meeting Experience” looks at three case scenarios and what worked and didn’t work.

Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) Services

Best case scenario, captioning is provided by a professional “live captioner” who can, with high-accuracy, caption synchronously with the speaker. CART allows for “live captioning” of audio events with the CART provider as the aforementioned “live captioner.”  If you desire CART services as an accommodation, contact your employer or institution so they may start the process of securing one for you.

Live captioners can be either on-site or they can provide captioning remotely (or off-site).  In the latter situation, the talker would need to wear a remote microphone (often Bluetooth) that connects to a computer to provide an audiofeed to the live captioner off-site via the internet.  The captioned content would then be transmitted back to the student on their display device.

The advantages of having a live captioner:

  • If the audio signal is poor, they can fill in the gaps with contextual, visual and situational cues
  • They will be aware of names, proper nouns and technical vocabulary if materials are provided to them ahead of time
  • They can look at visual materials (e.g., presentation slides, handouts, programs) for support
  • They can ask for clarification if someone is soft-spoken, not talking into the microphone or multiple people are talking simultaneously
  • They often arrive early to ensure adequate connections to projectors, the internet, etc. as they set up their equipment and can let others know if there are connection problems

Automated Captions

If CART is not an available option, then “automated captions” can provide some assistance.  Automated captions have improved greatly in the past few years in terms of accuracy, speed and integration with other programs and apps. They will continue to improve with increased time and exposure to more words; however, they do not have the same level of accuracy that a live captioner can provide.   There are some programs/apps that have decent speed (i.e., insignificant delay) but they are not as accurate as a live captioner. 

The quality of the automated captioning is HEAVILY dependent on the audibility and quality of the sound (the input) and can be affected by: 

  • Rate of speech
  • Accents
  • Background noise
  • Distance from the talker  to the microphone 

The “success criteria” for optimal auto-captioning input includes: 

  • Each speaker has their own microphone
  • One speaker speaks at a time
  • Background noise is minimized (be at home vs. a coffeehouse!)

The next step is determining which platform is available and compatible with the captioning features needed by students and employees.  

(EDIT: 05/15/20) The information below has been updated!

A few weeks ago, Catharine McNally launched a Knowledge Base at Connect-Hear.org

Screen Shot 2020-05-15 at 9.59.12 PM

The information on this Knowledge Base will be kept current so I refer you to Connect-Hear.com.   Here’s an overview of the videoconference platforms that we’ve covered:

Screen Shot 2020-05-15 at 10.02.39 PM

Non-embedded caption options

ANY platform can use the services of a live captioner via a 3rd party captioning service.  Captions are then displayed in a separate browser window.  Individuals can either resize the captioning window compared to the videoconferencing window or they can view the captions on a separate device or monitor.

Designated teleconference captioning by dialing into a phone number

Specific states have a contract with Sprint to provide conference captioning when the audio input is via a phone number.   You can request captioning via Sprint Teleconference Captioning (STC) if are in AZ, CO, CT, FL, HI, ME, MO, NJ, NC, RI, SD, VT, WV or WY.    In addition, federal employees can also access teleconference captioning via Relay Conference Captioning.

Using captioned phone services

If there is an option for an individual with normal hearing to dial into a phone number (e.g., to find out that day’s homework assignment, participate in a conference call), there needs to be an accessible option for your student/employee who is Deaf/Hard of Hearing.  This can be accomplished through the Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) which is a free captioned phone service available in the U.S. This is NOT the same as having your videoconference / webinar / instructional lesson captioned by a live captioner.  

CapTel, CaptionCall and ClearCaptions have stand-alone captioned telephones that sit on your desk.  Products such as WebCapTel also have apps that can be viewed on portable devices as well as your computer.  InnoCaption can be used to caption calls on a cellphone.


  • These captioning services are not permitted if you’re communicating with someone in the same room – only if you’re dialing in from a different location.    
  • The captioning text may look different if you’re used to seeing captions normally provided for a conference as opposed to a telephone call.

Speech-to-Text Apps

There are also speech-to-text (STT) apps that use automated captions and may be used for access in one-on-one conversations or small groups in case of necessity.  Some are free and some have a cost.   

The same limitations noted for the effectiveness of automated captions used with videoconferencing applications would also apply to these STT apps.  In addition, STT apps pull language from the most commonly searched words on the internet, so in some cases, STT apps will insert an inappropriate word leaving the individual who is Deaf/Hard of Hearing unsure of the conveyed content.

This technology should be considered as a backup when the provided captions stop working as it would not be an adequate source of access in most situations.

I’ve created a separate resource (http://bit.ly/SpeechToTextOptions) discussing the different STT apps and features.   You can use an STT app on your phone or tablet, turn up your speakers so that captions can be generated, separate from the device where you’re viewing your audio/video content.  The resource above also has directions on how to connect with a remote microphone to improve audio input so that the captions are more accurate..

Learning Management Systems (LMS)

Another tool used by educators is an LMS platform.  Here you can create assignments, grade assignments, take attendance, collaborate, share content and a variety of other functions.  Below are some of the most popular platforms and resources for making the audio content accessible.

GoReactHow to add captions to pre-recorded content that you created
BlackBoard CollaborateHow to integrate CART
 How to integrate automated captions
 How to add captions to pre-recorded content
CanvasHow to add captions to pre-recorded content that you created
 Helpful YouTube video
 How to add captions to external video content that you did not create
KalturaHow to integrated automated captions
CourseraHow to use CC on content that already has captions

Other resources

This information was generated by 3PlayMedia, a provider of live and post-production captions.   It discusses how to add captions or integrate captions across a variety of media.

This spreadsheet lists a variety of post-secondary institutions and their Remote Teaching Resources.

This resource and this informational page from the National Deaf Center on Postsecondary Outcomes has fantastic information for educators as they transition to online teaching.

DeafTEC, part of National Technical Institute for the Deaf, has useful tips in designing your curriculum so that it’s accessible.

Final Thoughts

This is a unique time.   We are all being affected both directly and indirectly by schools, institutions and businesses switching to an online format.   Resources will be taxed, including the bandwidth of internet connections as more and more people will be going online.  There are also families/individuals that do not have access to technology or internet connections that many of us take for granted.  For individuals who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing, we need to be intentional and mindful and prepared for providing them with equal access.

Be safe!

P.S.  Be sure to follow my blog’s facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SeeHearCommunicationMatters/ for more information and resources!   So much new information coming in!

Advacation: Cruise edition – requesting real-time captioning


Photo cred:  https://www.carnival.com/cruise-ships/carnival-sensation.aspx

In the dead heat of summer, my friend casually mentioned on a fb chat that she and her family were going to be celebrating New Year’s Eve on a cruise ship.  I was intrigued and then elated when I saw the “…” (indicating active typing) on our chat followed by “The invitation is there if y’all can go.”   A quick check with hubby and we (somewhat impulsively) decided that we would join them!

I hadn’t been on a cruise since I was 16 and my family had never gone so this would be an entirely new experience for us.  On the other hand, my friend, Lisa, had been on several cruises with different members of her family and was well-versed on the ins and outs of cruise life.  Lisa and I are both late-deafened – I am ASL-fluent and she knows a handful of signs.  We are both excellent spoken language communicators and rely on visual information and lipreading in difficult listening situations. This meant that in terms of accommodations to access any audible information such as public announcements or hear (and UNDERSTAND!) people on stage for a show, real-time captioning would be needed so it was accessible to both of us.

I have been deaf for about 20 years now but when I started my career in audiology, I had normal hearing.  The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) will be celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.

“First introduced in the 100th Congress, the ADA bans discrimination on the basis of disability in the areas of employment, public accommodation, public services, transportation and telecommunications. President George H.W. Bush signed the ADA into law on July 26, 1990.” [ref.]

As a former hearing person who now benefits from the ADA for accommodations, I am (unfortunately) not surprised at how often I have to remind the-powers-that-be what my rights are.   Most of the time, it’s a matter of educating them about these rights and providing them with resources.  They don’t know what they don’t know.  There have been other times where they just flat out seemed to want to refuse on principle.  In these situations, I tend to roll up my sleeves, dig in my heels and go into advocate mode. Getting captioning for this cruise was no exception – it was time to “advacate” (see definition above).

When you register for a cruise, there are sections where you indicate if you have a disability and what your needs are.   I just went down the rabbit hole to find the disability services pages for the major cruise lines and it was fascinating to see what they offer/don’t offer.

Cruise Line Accessibility

I couldn’t figure out how to easily add a table to this post but you can see a larger and clickable version of the above table at http://bit.ly/CruiseLineAccessibilityDHH.  Some of the information was really hard to find or not even listed on the website itself but rather on a form that you have to fill out. Click on the name of the cruise line in the table to go straight to their disability services page.

Here are the important points that you need to know:

  • Cruise ships, whether they are American or foreign, that cruise in U.S. waters are subject to the ADA.  [ref.]

  • These accommodations are provided to you AT NO COST so be sure no one is trying to charge you extra or insist that you bring your own accommodations on board.  This includes paying travel, lodging and incidentals for interpreters and captioners. [ref.]

  • Even if they don’t list them on their accessibility pages, you CAN request accommodations that provide you with EFFECTIVE communication (e.g., real-time captioning, ASL interpreter, tactile interpreter, assistive listening device, written scripts, preferential seating for access to visual cues, etc.) . [ref.]

This last point is the reason that I wrote this blog post.  NONE of the cruise line accessibility websites mentioned real-time captioning as an accommodation on the ship. *If* they offered any kind of communication accommodation, it was ASL interpreters and/or assistive listening devices – these were the two options offered repeatedly (!) to us.  Yet, for multitudes of deaf, late-deafened and hard of hearing individuals, real-time captioning might be the preferred accommodation for events like stage shows, musical numbers, trivia games, etc. because:

  • they don’t know sign language (e.g., my friend)
  • assistive listening devices can be ineffective if:
    • the microphone is not properly used (if the person is even using a mic!)
    • in large, reverberant and highly noisy areas
    • if the individual does not have good aided speech perception/word recognition skills (it’s like turning up the volume on a radio station that’s not in tune – it doesn’t help)

Here is my initial email to them:

Carnival initial email

One of the most important things I’ve learned about arranging for accommodations is be very specific about the accommodations that you are requesting.  They don’t know that I’m late-deafened and that I prefer captions for some things and interpreters for other things.  They don’t know that you might not know sign language (many assume that if we put down “deaf” or “hard of hearing” that we sign).  They don’t know that you need preferential seating so that you can speechread.   They don’t know that you don’t benefit from assistive listening devices.  They can’t read our minds so we have to let them know what works best for us.

Don’t wait until last minute to request accommodations.   If there are hiccups or cancellations, then hopefully you’ll have enough time to go to Plan B.   I’m somewhat of a hyper-planner (!!) so I started this process 5 months ahead of time.   Some of the websites ask for 60 days’ notice – I would probably start trying to plan around 3 months ahead of time.

Another thing I’ve learned is document, document and document.  Save all emails, correspondence, etc. so you have a paper trail in case there are any disagreements or misunderstandings.

Have a designated point-of-contact on the boat in case there are problems.   In our case, it was our captioner who had a direct line (a la “Batphone”) with the cruise staff.   We had a great relationship with our captioner so felt comfortable asking her to contact them if there were concerns.

Lastly, know your rights.    In the table above, there are some links to some case law as well as how cruises are covered under the ADA.   Be prepared to drop some of those links in your emails to let them know that you know you are entitled to effective communication.

“…cruise lines are prohibited from discriminating against passengers on the basis of their disability by “fail[ing] to take such steps as may be necessary to ensure that no individual with a disability is excluded, denied services, segregated or otherwise treated differently than other individuals because of the absence of auxiliary aids and services.” [ref.]

After going back and forth in emails, they ultimately agreed to provide real-time captioning after trying to force us to use ASL interpreters or Assistive Listening Devices.  I can’t help but wonder if it’s because I cited the judgment against them [ref.].  I don’t know if it’s because the person I was corresponding didn’t know themselves or if they really just didn’t want to offer captioning as an option.   I had spoken to several deaf/hard of hearing friends prior to this cruise and I *knew* that captioning was possible.   We just needed to be persistent.

Our real-time captioner, Julia, was WONDERFUL.   She had been a captioner on almost twenty cruises prior to this one and she was assigned to me and Lisa.   Luckily, Lisa and I wanted to go to the same events otherwise it could have gotten complicated.

When you arrange for an ASL interpreter or a real-time captioner, I highly recommend asking that the person be assigned to you or your group alone or that you know how many other deaf/hard of hearing people might be vying for their time.  This way you know what to expect.  The advantages of having an assigned person is that I can communicate directly with them and let them know on the fly where I want to go or that I’m pooped and I just want to take the afternoon off, ears off.  This is what hearing people get to do (decide last minute) so that should also be an option for us.  We tended to use her services in the evening for shows and performances but we had the option to use her for events in the afternoon as well.   We lucked out in that we were the only deaf/hard of hearing individuals on the ship.  The captioner said that she had been in a situation where she was the only captioner and there were multiple groups that had to agree which events she would caption.  Next time, I will definitely follow my own advice about requesting someone be assigned to me.

Not all captioners have/provide the same equipment but this is what our captioner had:

  • Stenograph machine for word-for-word Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) transcription (same machine used by stenographers in a courtroom)


  • Interface to make it easier to advance lines on pre-scripted material (lyrics to music during the shows)


  • External monitor hard wired to her equipment so we could read the captions (yes, this show had lots of lyrics in Spanish!)


  • Portable tablets so could read the captions

Julia in the background while Lisa and I sit at the Piano Bar

Our portable tablets at the Piano Bar

  • Harness for walking CART which we ended up not using (this could have been used for something like walking tours on the ship or off-boat if it was a ship-sanctioned activity)

Photo cred: https://captionpros.net/cart-captioning/


Despite having to be a bit assertive in the initial planning stages, this whole experience was outstanding.  I learned a lot and hope you learned something, too.   Planning ahead is key.

Happy (accessible) cruising!






Using Closed Captioning Technology (I-Caption and GalaPro) at Live Theatre Venues

I had the privilege of being asked to participate in the Broadway League Accessibility Advisory Group.  Luckily, there have been several opportunities for me to visit NYC on business so I would also take the opportunity to take in a Broadway show using the I-Caption devices and/or GalaPro app.   I’ve written out some tips from my personal perspective for others who are using this technology for the first time.   For more information on this initiative, go here.

Shubert Theatres should have this technology in all their theatres now with the rest of the Broadway League Theatres following suit by this summer.    This technology provides an option for attending more shows, sitting where you want to and going during a time that fits your schedule.   It works by automatically syncing pre-loaded captions on the device with lighting and voice recognition cues from the stage.

Please note that Theatre Development Fund (TDF) still offers the options for Open Caption and/or ASL interpreted performances.  These are not going away!

It’s encouraging that there are more shows providing access but we still have a ways to go.  If you have any questions or comments, be sure to provide your feedback (positive and negative) at the email cited at the end of this post.

Here’s an article by NPR showcasing the experiences of a fellow Advisory Group member.


(Me and John Waldo at “Come From Away” with our I-Caption device and GalaPro app – November 2017)


Before the show

  • Check with the theatre to confirm that closed captioning is available. While we are seeing more theatres with this option, not all theatres have it available yet.
  • Consider getting a state ID (if available in your state) so you don’t have to leave your Driver’s License.
  • If planning to use the GalaPro app on your personal device (mobile phone or tablet):
    • Download it and register before you get to the theatre
    • Make sure it’s fully charged and/or bring an external battery
  • Bring a selfie-stick large enough to hold your device in case the venue does not have a holder available (they are still working on possible solutions for this). I put the device on the selfie stick and then stand it up on my seat between my legs.  You can hold with one hand or prop up with your coat or purse.

Selfie stick

  • Arrive early so you can get your equipment and discuss directions on how to use it.
    • Ask for written directions so there are no misunderstandings and you can reference later, if needed.
  • Get the name of the person you talked to (e.g., take a picture of their name tag).
  • Make sure they know where your seat is and ask that they check on you periodically in case the equipment starts to work and then stops during the show.
    • I also recommend to them that they have a backup device ready to go when they check on you.
  • Inform the people around you that you are using an electronic device to view closed captions and not to record the show or be a distraction. Confirm with them that the position of your device is not blocking their view.   Hold the device in front of your body (not to the side) so you are not blocking their view.



  • Consider asking for two devices so you have one for backup.
  • Confirm that the device is fully charged and you can see the screen ok at its brightness level.
  • It can fit some on some selfie sticks if you don’t want to hold it.
  • Ask for a GalaPro device as backup.



  • You have the choice to use your own device or one of their supplied devices – I suggest the latter so you can save your phone battery and so you don’t run into notifications coming through accidentally.  If they run out of devices, then you will need to use your own device.
  • Using your personal device:
    • Make sure you specifically TURN OFF ALL NOTIFICATIONS. Even though the app requires you to go into Airplane Mode and use their special WiFi, different app notifications may still come through.
    • Turn your screen brightness down all the way.
    • If you accidentally exit the app or a notification comes through, please be considerate and shield your device (e.g., under your coat) so that it does not light up the dark theatre with your bright screen.
  • Follow on screen directions to connect, adjust brightness, font color and font size before the show.
  • Ask for an I-Caption device as backup.

After the show

  • Make sure YOUR Driver’s License/ID is returned.
  • If you ran into any problems or would like to provide feedback, get the contact information for the staff person at the Accessibility Services kiosk, House Manager and/or contact audienceservices@shubertorg.com.
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