Live Captioning for Online Events


With the COVID-19 pandemic many of your events have gone virtual, exposing a new area of accessibility concerns: live captioning. The importance of live captioning cannot be understated. Imagine attending a conference online and no sound was coming through! You'd be hard-pressed to attempt to decipher what was going on.

These are common concerns for those in the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing communities and being told, "Sorry, you can't participate", just isn't good enough.

Because of this, the University is requiring all online events affiliated with it to be either live captioned or obtain an exception request. This abbreviated document should help get you up and running on live captioning. However, if you have more questions, the full information page is available on the Digital Accessibility Center website.

Note that internal, routine work-related meetings under 100 people are exempt from live captioning.

What Do I Need to Do?

Summary: unless you proactively decide to caption an event via a third-party service you need to submit an exception request.

Take Me Through Exceptions Step-By-Step

Before submitting a request you'll want to follow this guide step-by-step. 

  1. Make sure to finalize your plans at least 30 days ahead of time.
  2. Email to see if your event qualifies for free, centralized funding for captioning if someone asks for captioning accommodation (processing time: up to 10 business days).
  3. After receiving notification on whether free, centralized funding will be provided, begin to advertise your event.
    • NOTE: events that do not receive permission to have free, centralized funding need to be prepared to contract with a third-party captioning service if someone asks. 
    • On your advertising communication and sign-up forms, please include the following language: "If you require an accommodation such as live captioning or interpretation to participate in this event, please contact the [event organizer name and email]. Requests made two weeks before the event will generally allow us to provide seamless access, but the university will make every effort to meet requests made after this date."
    • For Zoom webinars, there's a way to add an accommodation question to the sign-up. It's listed at number 11 on the ADA live captioning page.
  4. Complete an exception request (processing time: up to 10 business days). This can be done at the same time as advertisement.
    • Please be aware that the system can look very confusing as it's a software request system retrofitted to the current situation. An example document [pdf] showing what to fill out for live-caption requests has been created by the ADA office.
  5. You will need 7-10 business days to request captions if someone asks for accommodation. Please begin advertising your event 15-20 days prior to the event and cut off all sign-ups 7-10 days prior. This allows plenty of time to contract out captioning if needed.
    • NOTE: when we say "cut off all sign-ups" that means all. You cannot only cut off accommodation requests. That's why the statement language says we will make efforts after 2 weeks.

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Frequently Asked Questions


Third-party captioning needs to be arranged at least 7-10 business days in advance and the average pricing can be $90–140 per hour at a 2-hour minimum.

The University has compiled a list of companies that provide this service. Keep in mind this is not an endorsement of any particular provider and no RFP has been completed:

  • ASAP Sports – captions athletics and press conferences
  • Central Captioning Company
  • Cielo 24, Inc.
  • Landmark Associates
  • Mmodal Services, Ltd. – provides hospital-based services; under Med Center contract
  • Otter. AI
  • PRI Court Reporting, LLC
  • Runfola Reporters
  • SJM Ventures, LLC (doing business as Transcription Panda)
  • Synergy Transcription Services, Ltd.
  • Transcribers Ink
  • Transcribe Me, Inc
  • Transcription Services
  • US Court Support
  • Verbit
  • Wordsworth Typing and Transcription, LLC

The short answer is no.

Unfortunately artificial intelligence is still not at the point where it can provide accurate live captioning for speakers (especially many at one time). While you may have noticed that recorded Zoom calls receive a transcript automatically generated afterward, skimming through that transcript will reveal quite a bit that needs to be corrected to be accurate.

As for office assistants, unless they have gone through specialized training they will become easily overwhelmed. Captioners generally utilize a technique called stenography (utilized by the court system). This allows them to type in syllables rather than words, achieving much higher rates of typing than even the fastest typists. They'll also be able to work specifically with you ahead of time to ensure technical language is translated effectively.


More frequently asked questions are available at the full information page on the Digital Accessibility Center website.