Accommodating a hearing-impaired student for a film presented by a University of Tennessee at Chattanooga instructor in the recent past was costly, time-consuming and an environmental nightmare.
It involved the production of a 30- to 40-page paper transcription of a 90-minute video.
Today, thanks to the quick fulfillment of a need by the university’s Office for Students With Disabilities, DVDs encoded with captions are being produced on campus for classes taken by students with hearing impairments.
“We want a culture here where everybody can belong,” said Michelle Rigler, director of the office. “(The paper transcriptions) were not the exceptional service we wanted to provide.”
They were struggling to be in compliance with the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, which states that any public forum needs to be accessible to any person with disabilities, but federal edicts had slow-walked the conversion of some forms of communication, she said.
DVDs created after 1990, which have captions, filled the bill, but they weren’t always available. Sending out films to be done was costly and required at least a three-week turnaround.
Since the need for video transcription was mounting from students and professors, disability office personnel decided to approach the UTC administration, which they said had been supportive of accessibility needs.
“We were willing to do the work,” Ms. Rigler said they told the chancellor and executive council, “but we didn’t have the money.”
In just weeks following the August presentation, she said, they had the funding. And by September or October, they were up and running.
“Incredible things have happened,” Ms. Rigler said.
The funding of some $10,000 through the office of the chancellor, according to student services coordinator Leslie Harms, covered hardware and software purchases and the services of a speech-to-text specialist and a captionist student worker.
To date, some 40 films have been captioned, Ms. Rigler said. Some 25 are yet to be done this semester, but the department has a “roomful” that professors have given them to do at some point.
To implement the new system, Ms. Harms said, a speech-to-text specialist creates a transcript of the video. Then, with the use of the ADDrollupCC software, the script is put into uppercase letters and 32 characters per line.
Through the hardware device, the captions are then encoded for the television screen. During the process, a captionist follows the film and, using only three or four keystrokes, moves the caption to the top or bottom of the scene and makes a few other key adjustments.
“Using the software program was fairly quick” to learn, Ms. Harms said.
Officials are able to caption six or seven videos per day, according to Ms. Rigler. One of the holdups in doing the work, she said, is calling individual film companies and securing copyright releases to be signed and put on file.
The staff has learned to go ahead with the transcription, which takes the bulk of the time, so when the copyright comes there is less to do, she said.
Currently, the staff is keeping up with what must be done, Ms. Rigler said. “All we can do is what we do.”
The captioning of videos is prioritized for hearing impaired students presently taking classes.
“We worry about the captioning first,” Ms. Harms said.
Later, the staff will work on orientation and recruiting videos and eventually on films in the school’s library, she said.
“Our purpose is (to be available) for the whole university,” Ms. Harms said.
Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...