Online Meetings and Captions - Zoom vs Microsoft Teams or Google Meet

So a local mom has made public a petition today, which has already made our local news due to several hundred signatories, about switching our school district from Microsoft Teams to Zoom. Zoom requires a human interpreter to generate captions, while Teams (and Meet) both autogenerate captions (no, it’s not perfect, but neither is a human captioner). My concern is that, if this goes through, schools, which are already and often strapped for cash, won’t pay to have an interpreter for class sessions, thus disenfranchising Deaf/deaf/hard of hearing students.

So, I did some research and dug up her e-mail address and e-mailed her. Surprisingly, she wrote back that she’s doing this because she has a hard of hearing (she used the phrase “hearing impaired” sigh…) child and that auto captions are inadequate. I wrote her back and explained that they’re better than no captions, which is a possible outcome of this plan (to say nothing of other Zoom concerns like security). I’m currently facing a potential no captions scenario for childbirth classes with my wife, because the hospital we use does the classes over, you guessed it, Zoom, and they’ve not been forthcoming with how they are offering captions if at all.

Anyway, venting / curious folks’ thoughts on this.

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But you’re completely missing the point! She doesn’t have to pay for this, neither do you, all the required money comes from the school! If one child can benefit from this than who cares if it costs a million dollars!


Oh man, I couldn’t even type that with a straight face.

I honestly don’t think this person based her crusade on a rational or cogent thesis.

I may sound like a cranky old man, but I think something dangerous happens when you combine an over-developed sense of entitlement with a social media aware helicopter parent. Immediate gratification subsumes long-range critical thinking. We have become a society whose members compete for maximal victim status, and then demand recognition of that status.

And don’t you dare question the validity of someone’s victimhood lest you be branded sub-human and a danger to civilized society.

Welcome to peak Karen.

I hope you can help enlighten the decision makers, but it sounds like the matter is in the hands of social justice now. Good luck!

Not being English native, can someone explain me the difference in meaning?

I usually call myself deaf/partially deaf, since it’s just common word (especially I find it easier to pronounce German taube then schwerhoerig when I’m just trying to make a remark that I need some help with understanding :rofl:), but from this I got the impression that my ‘solution’ wouldn’t be welcomed in the USA?

It varies from person to person; some people don’t mind it, but other people think it frames them as broken. It’s much like the word queer in the LGBTQ+ community; some folks like it, some folks are still offended by it (having been subjected to “smear the queer” games as a child, I am not a fan).

Alvin, do you think children with hearing loss are not entitled to equal access?

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With the virus the state and federal governments are mandated to ensure that the schools get the supplies and equipment and tools they need for the schools and the children to be taught.

They’re actually taking a tool away. I seriously, seriously doubt that cash strapped school districts in the US are going to start paying extra interpreters to sit on Zoom sessions when they have automated captioning in Google Meet or Microsoft Teams. I can’t wrap my head around how the mom I posted about thinks that potentially losing captions entirely is better than having potentially occasionally incorrect autocaptions. We exchanged a few more e-mails and it really felt like this wasn’t sinking in for her. I got the impression that her child doesn’t actually use the captioning at all; she talked about how the audio quality is bad, and how it’s done on an iPad and they can’t see their whole class, but Zoom will let you see the entire 30+ kids on the tiny 10" or 12" iPad screen they’re using and that’s somehow better. I don’t use the audio at all on the teleconferences; I strictly use the captions. That might change as I get my CI turned on but for right now this works best for me.

I know the 2 school districts that support this community are very proactive at getting the children what they need even to the point of sending school buses out to different areas and the buses are equiped with WIFI connections back to the schools so that the kids have internet that they can use to do their work.

I share your concern, phobos512. The schools will likely not provide CART without a fight even if needed and ASR is better than nothing and sometimes even pretty good. (I like Zoom’s grid view better too though.)

For your childbirth classes, you could try propping an Android phone running Live Transcribe (or Otter or Ava on iphone) near your computer speakers and/or plug a streamer or neckloop into your computer headphone jack to use with compatible hearing aids for better audio.

This is a perfect example of how morality and economics intersect to create an ethical obligation that must weigh the needs of the many. Morally we can all agree that every child deserves equal access to educational resources. Economically, we can see the folly of providing every school with a closed captioner for each concurrently running stream of classes. How many schools in your district? Your city? Your county? Your state? Your country? Morally we are obligated to provide equal access for everyone who needs it, ethically we are obligated to provide equal access to those same people while balancing the economic interests of the collective.

In a perfect world there would be no ethics committees required to determine how to dole out scarce resources. There would be no transplant committees, no special access drug committees, no committees to determine who gets a ventilator; yet the world is imperfect, so all of those committees exist. The benefit of inflating your cause is that you hope that your particular bugaboo floats to the top of some appropriation committee’s allocation list, largely at the cost of another cause.

I submit that auto-generated captions provide ‘good enough’ equal access and that the incremental benefit of bespoke captioning does not justify the extra expenditure.


I have to agree that most ISD’s are going to be STRUGGLING to meet the financial requirements of cleaning supplies, masks, etc and to expect them to provide CART when an AI product is available for free is asking for the moon.

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This probably won’t help with school classes (all day long), but for the childbirth classes, you might want to look into RCC (Remote Conference Captioning). I see that you are in Northern VA (I spent many years in Alexandria and Fairfax and took a few of those childbirth classes there as well before moving with my job to Baltimore) The Virginia Relay offers this. I’ve started using it in Federal Government work, and now through the Maryland Relay (Maryland and VA both use Hamilton Relay for RCC). You’ll get a CART person on the phone line or Zoom call. You’ll get a link. Open the link during the time of the Zoom call and you’ll get the live transcription. It won’t be in Zoom itself, you’ll need to have a separate web browser open to view these captions, but it’s almost just as good. The link with information and to request it for deaf Virginia Residents is:

Hope this help for some of your concerns.

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