“Automated captioning is not a substitute for live captioning when people need an accommodation.”
The National Disabled Law Students Association (NDLSA), comprising 30 chapters and more than 650 members, has chosen TypeWell to provide real-time transcription services.
NDLSA supports the unique needs of disabled law students before, during, and after their legal education by creating a sense of community through advocacy, peer network facilitation, and disability diversity education.
Established in January 2019, NDLSA achieved non-profit status last July. Law students and recent graduates serve on its board.
Kate: “How are you using real-time transcription services primarily? For meetings? For events?”
Lucy: “Mostly for events. We are trying to establish a baseline accessibility to really set a standard for the other organizations and chapters that we work with, to make the point that accessibility isn’t really something you can compromise on, so we try to have live captioning at every event. Every couple months we have bigger meetings with our chapters across the country, and so we make sure that that also has live captioning.”
Kate: “I know that you have had some issues before with live captioning. Are there any reasons you chose to use TypeWell services over, say, automated captioning or over other types of providers?”
Lucy: “Automated captioning is not a substitute for live captioning when people need an accommodation. It’s nice that Zoom eventually did come out with automated captioning and it’s somewhat accurate, but it’s never going to be as accurate as a human. The computer can’t pick up on the context of a conversation and it can’t pick up on when sentences are ending, who is speaking, the name of the person, and stuff like that.”
Aly: “Because we serve individuals with a wide range of disabilities that benefit from transcription and captioning, I think that we are going to find that it’s actually beneficial to have a transcript that might not be word-for-word because of the way the material is being used later.
“And we do want the simplest form of sentence structure in order for it to be more accessible for people with learning disabilities or people who are under a great deal of stress and pressure—as so many people are in law school—so that they can actually process that sentence in a way that might not be as complex as someone who just said the sentence.”
Kate: “Are you keeping the transcriptions to have a record of what happened in a meeting or at an event? Or are you using them primarily to create captions?”
Lucy: “We are keeping them. I don’t know that we have used them for that purpose specifically yet, but we’re keeping them and archiving them certainly. And for the events that we’ll have published, we’ll be using them for that as well.”
Kate: “Is there anything else that is important for others to know about NDLSA?”
Aly: “I would just add that approximately 20 percent of the American population is disabled, but in the law we see that, as stated in a recent ABA (American Bar Association) report, less than one percent of lawyers identify outwardly as disabled. So, there’s a huge disconnect.”
“So the goals that we are working toward are making sure that individuals with disabilities are part of the profession but also people who are already in the profession who are disabled feel comfortable having that identity and feel supported in having that identity, because so many members of our organization are really proud of our disabled identities. We view them as part of who we are. We want a profession where that works.”
“And I think things like making captioning and ASL universally available without having to ask is one step of very many steps in getting there.”
“We are trying to establish a baseline accessibility to really set a standard for the other organizations that we work with and the chapter organizations that we work with to make the point that accessibility isn’t really something you can compromise on.”