In response to the spread of the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), colleges, schools, and businesses rushed to move their courses and meetings online. During this transition, requests for real-time transcription services plummeted for the Winter/Spring 2020 semester.
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Does this mean that meetings and classes are no longer taking place in real time?
No, but there seem to be far fewer real-time classes and meetings taking place with accommodations in place for participants who are deaf/hard-of-hearing.
Here are the trends we have observed:
- Many classes and meetings are shifting to real-time videoconferencing platforms like Zoom, Blackboard Collaborate, Adobe Connect, etc. However, schools and businesses initially fell behind in making these “live” online meetings accessible to deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals. Unfortunately, many individuals who need transcription or interpreting services were simply being left out of the conversation.
- Some classes have transitioned from “live” instruction to asynchronous teaching methods, such as text-based discussion forums, independent or small group assignments, reading assignments, etc. This has resulted in a significant reduction in the demand for real-time services.
- Some lectures are now being pre-recorded for students to watch at their own pace. Organizations like the National Deaf Center are advocating for students and reminding schools that recorded media needs to be captioned in order to be truly accessible. Service providers may see a resultant increase in the demand for post-production services (i.e. video captioning).
What does this mean for TypeWell service providers?
Most, if not all, outsourced TypeWell services are provided by small businesses or freelancers (sole proprietors who work as independent contractors). These businesses — and the transcribers who work for them — did experience a drastic, sudden, and unexpected loss of income with little or no “safety net.”
Staff transcribers (i.e., those who are classified as employees rather than contractors) seem to have been less vulnerable than freelancers in terms of both job security and having guaranteed unemployment benefits should they be laid off.
Are there assistance programs for small businesses and/or unemployment benefits for transcribers?
Yes, benefits and assertions have become available under both U.S. and Canadian federal relief packages. In the U.S., these fall primarily under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) and the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA). Eligibility for such programs and benefits vary by state.
TypeWell compiled some online resources to help transcribers, small businesses, and employers navigate this difficult time:
We also compiled some resources for schools and companies that provide TypeWell services and other disability-related accommodations:
We’re here to help!
Please reach out to us if you need free technical assistance (with TypeWell software- and service-related questions) or if you have questions or just need to talk.