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Churches CAN Afford Transcribing Services

This is the second of a three-part series about introducing speech-to-text services to churches. (Read Part 1 here.)

So much of what happens in a church centers around communication. The pastor has a message to impart. The congregation is there to hear it. For this exchange to happen, churches must address the problem of hearing loss.

When churches do spend the money to provide transcribing services, they may actually boost their revenues.

Most of the pastors I speak with agree there's a need for speech-to-text services in churches. Their objections are mostly to do with the cost. However, churches can afford to provide these services.

Churchgoers often contact me to ask how much real-time transcription costs. I tell them that the services are "affordable." I then offer to speak with their pastor about offering services at their church. The reason I don't discuss pricing with the end users is that it's up to the church to pay for accommodations, as there are likely many others at that same church who need access. I don't want hard-of-hearing churchgoers to worry about the cost of accommodations.

Churches sometimes operate on a tight budget, and that budget may have been drawn up months before. There may be a board or committee that has to approve every budget decision. Requests for transcribing services may have to compete with a long list of other budget requests. So even though a church may want to accommodate individuals with hearing loss, quite a bit of time can elapse before an agreement is finalized.

Minister looking out at congregation

"So much of what happens in church centers around communication."

However, when churches do spend the money to provide transcribing services, they may actually end up boosting their revenues. The reason for this is that people who struggle to hear in church may stop attending altogether. They may feel there's no point in going if they can't hear and participate. They drop out, and the church loses donations. Speech-to-text accommodations can bring these drop-outs, and their donations, back to church.

Speech-to-text services have been shown to improve comprehension and recall for everyone, hearing and hearing impaired alike.

To keep costs down, some churches choose to only transcribe their most widely attended Sunday service. The church can also appeal to generous members of the congregation to sponsor the service. Local businesses may be willing to support transcribing services at the church in return for a brief mention on the screen.

CART (verbatim captions) can cost up to $200 per hour. Churches can save money by opting for meaning-for-meaning transcription. Another benefit is that meaning-for-meaning transcripts are less dense than CART captions and are, therefore, easier to read and less fatiguing. Speech-to-text services have been shown to improve comprehension and recall for everyone, hearing and hearing impaired alike.

Many churches nowadays have English as a Second Language (ESL) programs. Real-time transcripts reinforce the connection between spoken and written words, leading to better performance by ESL students and supporting the church's ESL mission.

Most of the pastors I speak with agree there's a need for speech-to-text services in churches.

All but the smallest churches already have the necessary equipment, so there's nothing to buy, unless they want to invest in a screen for group viewing. Otherwise, they can allow people to view the transcripts on their own personal mobile devices. For a single fee, any number of viewers can receive accommodations.

Pastors are always excited to hear about the transcript that is made available after the service — how the church can post it to their website, email it to members who missed the service, publish a collection to send with missionaries, etc. I can almost hear their gears turning as they think of creative ways to use the transcripts!

Churches have every reason to offer transcribing services and no good reason not to. 

Despite the legal exemption, despite the cost, I believe church leadership really does want to make everyone feel welcome and included. Unfortunately, they are often unaware of the scope of the problem and what can be done about it. Raising their awareness is a monumental task. Still, I believe the day will come when speech-to-text services in churches are as common as the wheelchair ramps at their doors.

In part 3 of this series, Cindy discusses church assignments for transcribers.

Sources:

1. http://ccacaptioning.org/faqs-cart/
2. http://www.ncra.org/Membership/content.cfm?ItemNumber=9095&navItemNumber=11457

photo credits:  
Priest looking out at congregation via PhotoPin (license)    
Old church in a ghost town via PhotoPin (license)

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Cindy Aitken

Cindy Aitken is President of All Access Captions in Chattanooga, Tennessee. All Access Captions specializes in providing remote captioning to churches and schools.

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