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Real-time captioning

IMG - Girl reading captions on tabletReal-time captions, also known as live captions or Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART), can provide access in many settings. When someone asks your business or event for captioning, it is your business or event's responsibility to arrange and pay for captioning services. This page will help you learn more about captions and how to arrange captioning services. 

What is real-time captioning? 

  • Captioning is a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). 
  • Captions are provided by trained and certified professionals. 
  • A captioner uses stenography to turn spoken words into print. The captions appear on a laptop or a tablet supplied by your business or entity. 
  • Captions can also be projected onto a screen for groups or large audiences to read. The font size and color can be changed to meet a person's specific needs. 
  • Captioners can work on site or remotely. 

What about automatic captions? 

Real-time captions and Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR or automatic captions) are NOT the same. Automatic captions may not meet your entity’s legal obligation to provide access. Ask the person requesting captions what meets their needs and follow their request. 

It’s the law 

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other laws protect people’s right to communication access. These laws require governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations to provide access to people who are deaf, deafblind, hard of hearing and late-deafened. Businesses and entities cannot discriminate against people because they ask for accommodations. For more information, visit Laws and communication access or contact us

Where captions are used 

Captions provide access in many places, including: 

  • Job interviews, meetings, trainings, seminars and conference calls 
  • Live entertainment venues such as plays, concerts and sporting events 
  • Courtrooms, prisons/jails 
  • Educational settings 
  • Medical and dental offices, hospitals 
  • Assisted living and long-term care facilities 
  • Places of worship 
  • Online/virtual events. 

How to find a captioner 

First check to see if your entity has a contract with a captioning service agency. If you do not have a contract, DHHSD has a list of providers

Arrange captioning services 

The person arranging captioning services needs to know: 

  • The contact person’s name, email address and phone number. The captioner will need to connect with this person for the appointment or event. 
  • The event date and time. 
  • The event location, and whether the event will be in person or virtual.
  • Whether the captioner will be needed on-site or remotely. 
  • Whether captions will be delivered to one person or multiple people.
  • How the captions will be delivered. Will they be displayed on a large screen or will participants need a link to access the captions?
  • What the appointment or event is about. 
  • Any special jargon or terms that will be used. 
  • Names and spelling of names for all participants. 
  • Who to send the invoice to and how payment will be made. Important: If you are required to provide accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), do not send the bill to the person requesting captioning service, or their insurance company (if the captioning is for a medical appointment). 

Tips for captioning in-person events 

The contact person will need to set up a tablet or laptop computer and connect it to a secure, strong, wired internet browser. The captioner will send an email to the contact person with a link to view the captions. Those who need access will read the captions on the tablet or laptop. If you have a large group, you may project captions onto a large screen. Users can also access captions from multiple devices. 

Some people may need help setting the font size and color to make it readable for them. Ask the captioning service agency for directions in advance so you know how to do this. 

The captioner may be in-person or remote. If the captioner is remote, you will need a phone or digital platform for an audio connection. Make sure that the captioner can hear all speakers clearly. Use microphones when needed. The captioner will listen to everything that is said through the audio connection and caption what they hear. Captioners also find video connections helpful for their work.

Tips for captioning virtual or telehealth events 

The captioner will send a link to view the captions to the contact person. It is the contact person’s responsibility to share the link with the person or people who need access and make sure they can access the captions. 

Depending on the virtual platform you are using, captions may be delivered through the platform or in a separate web browser. The captioner will need to join the video platform to hear what is said. 

Working with captioners 

  • Send all materials for the event to the captioner at least 24 hours before the event. This should include names, special jargon, handouts and meeting links for virtual meetings.
  • Consider the captioner's needs, such as work space, placement and breaks.
  • Talk at a moderate pace, enunciate and pause between phrases and sentences. 
  • Pause briefly between questions to allow individuals to read the captions and respond. 
  • For groups with multiple speakers, enforce turn taking. People should state their name before speaking. 
  • If the information contains important terminology or names (such as medications) spell the words to ensure the captions are spelled correctly. 
  • Monitor the captions. If there are errors, make sure participants are following the tips above and the captioner can hear everyone clearly.
  • If the captioner cannot hear a speaker, they will indicate that in the captions. For example, they may type [Indiscernible], or [Speaker too far from mic to be heard.]

If you have questions about real-time captions, you may contact us.

Captioning needs for the future

The number of Minnesotans with hearing loss is projected to increase in the future due to factors like aging and noise exposure. As a result, the demand for CART captioning services is also expected to grow. To assess the workforce supply and consumer demand for these services in Minnesota, DHHSD conducted a survey during 2018-19. You can read the results of this survey in the report >Assessment of the Statewide Supply and Demand for CART Captioning Services(opens a PDF).

DHHSD then conducted a focus group discussion in 2019 with agencies, training programs, and professional organizations to learn more about what has been done to promote career opportunities in the CART captioning field, provide support to CART captioning students and new graduates and recruit experienced court reporters to make the transition to the CART captioning field. The CART Focus group Summary Report (opens a PDF) presents the results of that discussion.

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