Captioning is an important part of making events inclusive, and more people than we realise rely them. People who are hard of hearing can capture words and names that they miss or are unfamiliar. For people who are deaf they are essential, especially if there is no-one to sign. People with English as a second language find captions helpful too.
Although most Australian venues say they have hearing loops for those who can use them, they are often not working or switched on. Or they are set to pick up all ambient sound, which makes them next to useless. So, captioning is essential if you want an inclusive event.
The image shows an additional screen for live captioning at an event. However, newer technology now supports captioning similar to that on a TV screen. This can still be done with live captioning rather than AI.
The move to hybrid events has taken the live captioner out of the room in favour of AI captioning. Zoom and Teams offer automatic captioning, which often fails to pick up the very words that people miss. For example people’s names and place names. If the listener misses the word or words, it is likely the AI captioning will too. For example, in Australia, AI captioning has no idea of how to translate Aboriginal place names.
8 Steps to a more inclusive event
Sheri Byrne-Haber’s article, Eight steps to a more inclusive event goes through the different things you can do to make captioning really work.
- Choose the correct type of captioning: Automatic is free but low quality. Live captioning uses court reporting systems to keep up with speech rates.
- Send presentation material to captioners and interpreters before the event. This is so they can prepare product names and technical information in advance.
- Send participant’s names in advance. This speeds up the captioning time.
- Ask speakers to practice speaking more slowly.
- Ask speakers to incorporate pauses to give time for captioners and interpreters to catch up. It gives time for listeners to absorb the information too.
- Formalize the approach to land acknowledgement and visual descriptions. For example Mi’kmaq is pronounced ‘meeg-maw’ which is nothing like the English spelling.
- Captioners are always behind the scenes but sign language interpreters need to be spotlighted simultaneously with the person they are signing for.
The video below shows how captioning is done.
Inclusive online conference poster sessions
Looks like hybrid conferences are here to stay. That means conference organisers are finding new ways of working, and maximising digital capabilities. Conferences with a high academic content usually have poster sessions. Posters are a good way for emerging academics to present and discuss their work. But how to make online conference poster sessions inclusive?
Getting the best from digital presentations is based on both process and technology. Using the most suitable digital platform is part of the story. In their article on inclusive and virtual poster sessions, the authors discuss real time and on-demand presentations. Having both options allows for time zone differences especially for international conferences.
The title of the paper is, A Guide to implementing Inclusive and Accessible Virtual Poster Sessions. There is a separate section in this paper on virtual poster sessions in the undergraduate classroom.
Suggestions for virtual poster sessions
- Use combined real-time and on-demand options for sessions
- Use short video or audio introductions
- Utilise Zoom for breakout rooms for real-time sessions
- Provide demonstrations on how to use the poster platform and how to view posters and access Zoom rooms
- Give more time between notification and the presentation date to give more time to prepare and submit before the conference
The advantage of online posters is the amount and depth of feedback received by presenters. The disadvantage is the lack of opportunity to network.
People who feel uncomfortable in crowds or noisy environments will appreciate this mode of delivery. The cost of paper and print are avoided and the poster can be stored digitally. Virtual sessions allow for captioning, and Auslan interpreters. The authors list several benefits of virtual poster sessions and provide guidance for conference organisers.
From the abstract
Poster sessions are an integral part of conferences. They facilitate networking opportunities and provide a platform for researchers at every career stage to present and get feedback on their work.
In Spring 2020, we designed and implemented a no-cost and accessible, asynchronous, and synchronous virtual poster session. Here, we outline our goals for hosting an inclusive virtual poster session (VPS). We also demonstrate a “backward design” approach and our rationale for using the Padlet and Zoom platforms. At the 2021 Conference we shared lessons learned to help future poster session organisers to be accessible and inclusive.
Virtual poster sessions have great potential to improve collaborations and science communication experiences at scientific conferences and in undergraduate classrooms.