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Methods for viewing a live TypeWell transcript during a videoconference (Zoom, Webex, Blackboard, Hangouts, etc.)

With the shift to online learning and videoconferencing, participants need a reliable way to view live captions while the online class/meeting takes place.  Here are some of the accessibility challenges that participants have faced, followed by some potential solutions.

This article needs to be updated regularly, so please send us your additional solutions and workarounds!

Potential barriers to accessing live captions in a videoconference setting

  • The videoconferencing platform lacks an integrated captioning feature. Or, if it does promise "closed captioning," the user experience is poor because the feature is very limited, buggy, lags behind the audio, etc.
  • The participant needs to be able to switch between different windows or applications while listening/learning. Navigating away from the window with the live transcript makes it challenging to keep up with reading the "captions," because they aren't always visible on the screen.
  • The participant might only be able to see "subtitles" which disappear after a few seconds. Contrast this to a live, complete transcript where the participant can scroll up and down through the entire conversation, search for specific words, etc.
  • The transcriber cannot easily access the platform and/or its integrated captioning feature, either because they lack work/school credentials (i.e. they don't have a school user account and email address) or because the meeting host forgets to assign them captioning "privileges" once the meeting starts.
  • When the transcriber types directly into the videoconferencing platform (e.g. Zoom's "captioning window"), they aren't typing into their native TypeWell program, so they can't use all of the normal TypeWell features and they can't save the complete transcript to send to the reader after the class/meeting is over.  To save the transcript at the end of the class or meeting, the transcriber has to export it from the conferencing platform before the host ends the meeting, or copy the text onto their clipboard to paste back into TypeWell for editing.  The exported version often contains timestamps or other formatting issues.
  • There's a much higher risk of the transcript being "lost" since some platforms will erase any previously-typed captions when the meeting host switches transcribers, or if the transcriber accidentally gets disconnected and then re-joins the meeting.

Some solutions and workarounds to make live captions accessible while videoconferencing

The "floating browser" method:

The participant installs a special browser on their computer or mobile device, which they point to the transcriber's URL. That browser will remain visible "on top" of other windows/applications, even if the participant switches between different programs and tabs.

narrow Web Reader browser floating near the bottom of the screen during a Zoom meeting

Flobro, floating browser window (Chrome extension)

Use Multitasking on your iPad

Floating browser apps on Android (Google Play)

Pros:

  • Transcriber types directly into their native TypeWell program and streams text to the floating browser via Web Linking (Premium feature).
  • Transcriber can use all of their usual software features, and they can save the complete transcript once the class or meeting is over.
  • Participant can look away from the screen if they need to, without "missing" content. They control the ability to scroll back up through the full transcript if they need to catch up or re-read something.

Cons:

  • The participant might need to reposition/resize the floating browser when it partially covers up other text or images on the screen.

The "split screen" method:

The participant splits their screen by positioning the conferencing window (e.g. Zoom) on one side, and the browser with the TypeWell URL on the other side.  On a Windows laptop or PC, this is done by resizing and repositioning the windows.  On other types of devices, this may be accomplished with a special setting, feature, or gesture.

split screen with TypeWell Web Reader window on left and YouTube video on right

How to split screen in Safari on your iPad

How to use Slide Over and Split View on the iPad

Pros:

  • Transcriber types directly into their native TypeWell program and streams text to the floating browser via Web Linking (Premium feature).
  • Transcriber can use all of their usual software features, and they can save the complete transcript once the class or meeting is over.
  • Participant can look away from the screen if they need to, without "missing" content. They control the ability to scroll back up through the full transcript if they need to catch up or re-read something.

Cons:

  • Two windows/apps side-by-side on the screen can take up a lot of "real estate."
  • Participant cannot maximize their videoconferencing window/app to "full screen."

The "separate device" method:

While the participant interacts with the videoconferencing program on their primary device, they use a separate device—such as a smartphone or iPad, preferably on a hands-free stand—to read the live transcript. The device will need to be set so that the screen doesn't lock or go dark after a certain time. Setting the device to "never turn off display" can drain the battery, so it may need to be on a charger.

Zoom meeting on a laptop with a smartphone next to it displaying live transcript

Pros:

  • The browser displaying the live transcript doesn't interfere with the videoconferencing platform at all.
  • Transcriber types directly into their native TypeWell program and streams text to the floating browser via Web Linking (Premium feature).
  • Transcriber can use all of their usual software features, and they can save the complete transcript once the class or meeting is over.
  • Participant can look away from the screen if they need to, without "missing" content. They control the ability to scroll back up through the full transcript if they need to catch up or re-read something.

Cons:

  • Extra cost and/or physical space for the participant to set up a second device next to their primary computer.
  • Both devices may need to be plugged in for charging, since both displays will be ON for the duration of the class or meeting.