Technology has made a big impact on the services available to people with hearing loss and the ability to adapt the environment for their communication needs. One assistive technology available is speech-to-text transcription. These services are becoming more and more popular, and are available in K12 settings, post-secondary institutions and in the workplace, being used by individuals who communicate through sign language or orally.
What is “speech-to-text” transcription?
In the simplest terms, speech-to-text transcription involves a professionally trained person typing what is said into a specialized software program on a laptop or stenography machine. The person reading the text will have a second small laptop computer wirelessly connected to the person doing the typing and will be able to follow interactions by reading the text as it appears on the screen, much like watching captions on TV.
There are two varieties of speech-to-text services: verbatim, or meaning-for-meaning. Each system is designed with the same goal: real-time communication access for the reader. And, each system within reason (there is no such thing as 100% accuracy) provides that access.
CART and TypeWell
Verbatim transcription is known as CART (Communication Access Real Time). CART “writers” or “captioners” provide communication access by capturing nearly every utterance that occurs in any given situation, translating the spoken word into written English text using a stenotype machine, notebook computer and realtime software. CART is also referred to as realtime captioning (www.cart-info.org).
CART writers have generally been trained as court reporters and adapted that skill set to provide real time access. CART started being utilized in the 70s and was the first speech-to-text service used to provide access for students with hearing loss in the classroom.
Meaning-for-meaning transcription is provided through software called TypeWell. TypeWell is an entirely new transcription system developed specifically for use in classroom settings for students who were deaf or hard-of-hearing, and has been successfully used with persons experiencing other types of disabilities such as Traumatic Brain Injury, Autism, Attention Deficit Disorder, and other communication disorders.
Like CART, meaning-for-meaning transcription consists of using software with an abbreviation system, and a massive dictionary. Transcribers are trained to “chunk” information – discarding utterances that have no informational value (um, hmm…etc) while retaining all the content. The transcriber may not capture every word said. They are trained to listen to the meaning of what is said (vocal intonation, emphasis, pausing, environmental sounds), not just the words. The meaning-for-meaning transcript accurately conveys the message using the same level of vocabulary with possibly different phrasing.
This processing of the message is similar to what sign language interpreters do in translating English to American Sign Language, and vice versa.
What to Consider when Choosing a Service
Let’s get something out of the way – there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to communication. Not only does individual preference come into play, so does subject matter, content, and user reading and comprehension levels. So, what should you consider when choosing a service?
When it comes to comparing services, CART is seen by many people as the best service available. One thing to consider is that CART transcripts are verbatim. You may assume that verbatim is best, you need all the words. Spoken English and written English are structurally different. We speak in fragmented sentences, run-on sentences, and with other grammatical errors. So, when a CART provider hears someone say something that is not grammatically correct, it shows up that way in the transcript exactly as it was said. Readers may lag behind trying to decode what was just said instead of thinking thoughtfully about the information presented.
TypeWell transcribers on the other hand, are trained to retain and process the full content of what is said. False starts, exact repetitions (used for stalling), gutteral utterances (hmm, um, well, etc) and things which do not provide meaningful content are not included. Transcribers do not decide what information is important, accurate or relevant. What they decide is if something is information. Transcribers include vocal intonation cues for emotional information, jokes, banter and environmental cues.
CART services are particularly useful in classes or situations where the exact definitions of words are important, the pacing is quick, the material is dense, or where a lot of jargon is used. Some examples are medical or legal classes, or computer classes with a lot of acronyms and technical references.
TypeWell is an excellent choice for general meetings or classes like history or English. Math and science are especially accessible with TypeWell because of the TypeWell Math Mode which allows a transcriber to produce formulas and math problems exactly as they are written.
Because TypeWell was designed specifically for use in the classroom, it provides quick and easy comprehension. Features of TypeWell transcript that contribute to this are the use of white space, font choice, chunking of information, and the grammatically correct written format. For young students, these features of TypeWell provide them with the quickest access to information around them.
As students get older, take more complicated classes and increase their reading and comprehension levels, CART may be an appropriate accommodation for them in high school, college or in the work place.
Both CART and TypeWell are specifically mentioned in IDEA and used to provide access in classrooms all across America often in addition to an ALD such as FMs. On rare occasion, transcription is used in addition to sign language interpreters. In general, students are given access to the transcripts created by both CART and TypeWell as notes.
For more information on CART, visit www.cart-info.org
For more information on TypeWell, visit www.typewell.com