Syncwords Sponsors Non-Obvious Diversity Summit: Making a case for Accessibility Through Captioning

Syncwords was thrilled to be a sponsor for the Non-Obvious Diversity Summit held in Jan 2021, where 200+ speakers participated over 50 sessions.

The summit brought together diverse perspectives involving speakers from multiple points of view.

Check out a special interview with summit host Rohit Bhargava and Syncwords VP Giovanni Galvez where they talk about everything about captions and why they matter.

Captions in virtual events


Welcome to a very special episode of the Non-Obvious Insights Show as part of the Beyond

Diversity Summit. And we are going to talk about a very important and under-appreciated

topic right now, which is captioning. And I'm joined by my new friend, Giovanni Galvez, Gio,

as he's known to his friends, and now we are friends, to talk about your platform SyncWords

and your amazing background in doing this. Now, you come from broadcast television

background and you've been doing closed captioning for a long time. And now you've got a

company, SyncWords, that allows us to do captioning and live automated captioning for

virtual events as well. And you're working on lots of different things with virtual reality. And

we we just had so many places to go. And by the way, we are currently using SyncWords as

the captioning provider for the entire Non-Obvious Beyond Diversity Summit. So we are

customers using the platform. And I'm so happy to be talking to you about this right now, Gio.

Thank you for joining me.

Yeah. Thank you so much, Rohit. I'm very excited to be here.

Yeah. And and I want to talk a little bit, first of all, about the necessity for captioning. I think

that a lot of times we sort of think about it as an afterthought or we we know that we probably

should. It's sort of like it’s it's for some people in that brushing your teeth category, like we

know we should do it, but we don't actually always do it the way we should. So talk a little bit

about why captioning is important in the first place.

Yeah, so there's two ways to really look at it. The first way is, um, you know, do you want to

be as inclusive and to provide accessibility to your to your audience? Right. When they're

joining like a virtual event, for example, right now, that's really important. Um, there's forty-

eight million people in the United States who suffer from hearing loss, who are deaf and hard

of hearing. So that's a big demographic. You know, looking at it worldwide, the number is

even bigger. So if by having accessibility, you're actually allowing people to join your event

and and being able to appreciate it as much as everyone else. Um, of course, you know, there's

budgets and there's things to keep in mind. But nowadays, you know, it becomes very

economic to have captioning and there's technology that allows you to do it. The other—Oh,

go ahead.

--Sorry. I'm sorry. No, I didn't mean to cut you off.

The other aspect of it is, of course, there's there's people like that have to do it

because it's required by law. You know, there's broadcasters on T V. They have to do it,

otherwise they get fined. This is true in not only in in the United States, but Canada, Mexico

and other countries, even in P-- Asian countries. Now they're adding this law. From the virtual

space, we see universities, government agencies. They also have a mandate to be accessible.

Right. And they want to avoid, you know, fines, litigation or or jeopardizing any other public

funding. So they have to be accessible. And it's not just about, you know, putting ramps in

their in their infrastructure or or having websites that are accessible, but adding closed

captioning specially to live events and prerecorded videos. So there's legislation that drives it,

you know. So you can't forget or you can't like, you know, not do it.


And then there's, of course, the the aspect of of of trying to make something

that appeals to your audience that that they can use.

And and there's really sort of two directions to go when it comes to captioning. And we face

this choice as event organizers ourselves. There's the human version, which is someone's

actually doing it, and then there's the automated version, which is using artificial intelligence

and you actually offer both of those services. So how do how does one contrast those two?

When is it optimal to use one versus the other? Give us a little bit of a a cheat sheet, so to

speak, on on how to decide what's the best option for captioning.

Yeah, I I guess what drives

the automatic speech stuff

is the cost.


It's it’s certainly a lot cheaper

than having a human captioner.

Um, really, it's always

going to be more optimal

to have a human captioner.

And the reason is because,

you know, not everyone has these fancy

headphones or like a nice

Yeti microphone

in front of them that gives a good audio, right.

It could be a mixed bag.

And so when that happens,

if the audio is bad

or, you know,

the sound is too low

or there's

a lot of other factors,

the automatic speech

is not going to do a good job.

Not only that, punctuation,

things like that

are problematic with automatic speech.

It's becoming better,

but it's not quite up to par

with the human captioner.

And I think we're still

a ways from that.

Having said that, there's also

the other dimension, which is

there's machine translation

of the live captions.

So you have the the English captions

that are done and then people want to,

you know, in real-time translate

that to French, Spanish,

Chinese, Japanese, Italian.

And when the English

is not right, um, meaning if there's

too many errors,

then the translation

is just not usable at all.

So in that case, you always

should use a human captioner

if you're going to do

the real-time translation

and the ASR is just not

an option in that case.

Yeah, and and you mentioned

that that cost is sometimes

one of the drivers. Time,

I'm sure, is one of the one of the drivers

as well to be able to do this.

But it makes it makes a huge

difference because, I mean,

I think sometimes we see

these these innovations

or these tools

and technologies and we think,

well, it was created for people

who have disabilities.

And I don't know

that my audience actually

has a disability

or needs this.

But at the same time,

what you realize is, look,

there's a lot of situations

where people are watching video

with the sound off

where they sometimes

don't understand

what someone's saying as easily.

Maybe it's an accent,

maybe it's their--

they don't have a good

microphone, like you said.

So there are many situations

where having, kind of, captioning

is is actually it's not just

for the disabled audience.

It's for for all of us

who sometimes need

those captions

in certain situations.

And so it's just a good thing

to do across the board.

That's absolutely true.

And actually,

there have been studies.

That could be our opinion

or some opinions differ.

But there's actual

scientific studies that show

that when captions are on

when you're watching a lecture

or a presentation,

that you actually

your vocabulary grows,

specially children.

You actually can pay

more attention

rather than zone off

and get distracted by,

you know, say, you know, your phone

beeping and, you know, feeds and stuff.

So captioning has a a kind of like a way

to help people engage better,

even if they're not deaf

and hard of hearing,

and especially for children

even having captions on

when they're watching

their favorite show,

their vocabulary

can increase by three-fold.

And there’s, uh, facts

and scientific studies that backed

by the National Captioning Institute

in the in United States.

Yeah, I I love that,

and I I know that you have many

different ways

that people can use

your service, you also have

a lot of organizations

who are already using it,

and it's very successful.

And we are absolutely

grateful to you

for helping to support

this summit,

for being a part of it,

for providing the software

and the technology

and and the support for us

to be able to caption

more than fifty hours of content

that we have released

as part of this summit

and making it as accessible

as possible to a huge, wide,

diverse audience.

So if people want

to learn more about

SyncWords, if they want

to check out the platform

and learn how to get their own

captioning or auto trans-- machine

translations or any of the other

services that you provide,

how can they find out

about the services

and and see what you can do

for them?

Yeah, absolutely.

They can go to our website

SyncWords dot com.

Um, we're always available to, uh--

We work twenty-four seven,

so believe it or not,

we'll reach out to you

very quickly.

You know, events happen all day,

every day, all night.

And so reach out to us.

And even if, you know,

you just want to learn

more about the technology.

We also help educate companies

and and organizations

to understand more.

Love that. Well, thank you

so much for joining me.

I really appreciate it.

And and I will say, as somebody

who is just working with

SyncWords for the first time,

the team has been

super responsive.

We have had

an amazing experience

of working with your team.

So I want to say

thank you for that.

Thank you

for supporting the event.

And if you're watching this

and you do need to get

captioning done,

definitely check out

SyncWords, our partner

for the Non-Obvious

Beyond Diversity Summit.

It's an awesome platform,

highly recommended.

Thanks for watching,


I hope you enjoyed

this short review

of what it takes

to caption the videos

and I hope you enjoy

the rest of the Non-Obvious

Beyond Diversity

Summit as well.

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