Live Captioning

A captionist records everything spoken in class and either displays what is typed on a screen or monitor. A printed record of the class may also be available to students.

A variety of live captioning services may be available to Deaf/HH students. As with other services, what you do in class can enhance the provision of these services. Live captioning services include:

  • Computer Assisted Notetaking (CAN). A notetaker uses a laptop and a word processing/notetaking software to record notes which students view on a monitor, or on separate laptops networked with the notetaker‘s computer.
  • C-Print®. Developed at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at the Rochester Institute of Technology, C-Print uses laptops and/or monitors in class, and captionists receive training to use computer-aided speech-to-print software. A transcript that is close to, but not verbatim, is provided.
  • Computer Aided Realtime Translation (CART). This service, similar to the captions seen on television programs, uses trained stenographers to provide verbatim transcripts of spoken content. Special hardware and software are required. Students typically view the transcripts on a large monitor and this service may be on-site, or remote.

Regardless of the type of captioning involved, communication in the classroom can be enhanced by using the following strategies.

  • Make sure everyone – captionists and students – is positioned optimally, typically at the front of the classroom. Ask them for advice on the best seating/location, and try to accommodate their preferences. Typically students will need to see you, the board, and any visuals that will be used in class. Make sure there is access to power outlets.
  • Recognize that there is a lag of 5-10 seconds between what you say and the time that a captionist types the material. This has significant implications, particularly in an interactive classroom. If you ask for class participation, allow time for your statement to be captioned before calling on a student. 
  • In an interactive discussion, it may be difficult for a captionist to identify the speaker. Recognize the speaker by name, or ask the speaker to pause until the captionist has ‘caught up’.
  • Provide captionists with advance copies of written materials distributed in class; at the minimum, provide copies of handouts. Vocabulary lists are particularly helpful for captionists, as words can be spelled correctly and programmed into their dictionary software.
  • If access to a course website is limited to students, include the captionist so he/she can prepare for the assignment. If emails are sent to students, include the captionists.
  • Speak directly to the Deaf/HH student, rather than to the captionist, when asking a question or giving directions.
  • Review the captioned notes, especially after the first few classes, to ensure they are accurate and complete. Since captions are extremely valuable – in some instances only means of access for deaf/hh students – they need to be of high quality.
  • If your class is over an hour, allow time for the captionist to change off with another captionist, or allow time for a break.
  • Hearing students as well as deaf/hh students appreciate access to high quality and comprehensive notes, all students tend to do better in class if the notes are available. Check with your campus support staff to determine the policies regarding ownership and distribution of the notes.
As a deaf/HH student, what is your experience with captioned media? What can teachers do to help captionists work effectively? – Kyle


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National Technical Institute for the Deaf
52 Lomb Memorial Drive
Rochester, NY 14623

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This material is based on work supported by the National Science Foundation under Award Numbers 1104229, 1501756, and 1902474.