New Captioning Methods and Software


This is a summarized version of an article from the December 09 newsletter of the The Family Center on Technology and Disability and was published in the Spring 2010 Communicator. Article summarized with permission of FCTD. For full version of the article click here


Mike Stinson is deaf and has a cochlear implant. Awarded a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, he is principal investigator for the team that has developed the C-Print classroom captioning system widely used in secondary and post-secondary education to support deaf and hard of hearing students in general education classes.

“I was mainstreamed and was in regular classes all of my life; I was never in a school for the deaf. I didn’t learn sign language until my Ph.D. was completed. I struggled with communication.” Dr. Stinson attended the University of California Santa Barbara for his freshman and sophomore years “and almost flunked out.” He had studied diligently, he says, “but I did not understand back then that the reason I wasn’t doing well was that I didn’t hear enough of the information. My hearing loss was progressive, so my hearing was becoming steadily worse. I thought maybe I wasn’t smart enough. Over time I learned to understand that lack of communication was the culprit, not my intelligence. My aim since the very beginning has been to try to find ways to help deaf and hard of hearing people access communication.” To that end, Dr. Stinson and his research team have developed a software package called C-Print that uses existing computer and phone technologies to provide an innovative step forward in speech-to-text service options.

Service providers, called C-Print captionists, input text using a computer-based keyboard abbreviation system.  The display produced with C-Print software represents the spoken dialogue of the classroom using a software application called C-Print Pro™. The text can be displayed simultaneously to one or more students in different ways, including additional computers (laptops) or display monitors. The captionist includes as much information as possible, generally providing a meaning-for-meaning (not verbatim) translation of the spoken English content.   Use of a tablet PC extends the capabilities of the software to include real-time speech-to-text services with graphics and real-time notetaking. The speech-to-text with graphics option includes teacher-student classroom exchanges; that is, the student views a real-time display of the text of what is being said and can view graphics produced by the provider. "With the real-time notetaking option, the student is able to view in class what is written as it is written by a notetaker. The student can also add to whatever the notetaker is doing and the notetaker can see what the student is doing, which can be very beneficial in that it provides an indication of areas in which a student is weak and needs improvement.”, says C-Print's development coordinator and technology maven Pam Francis.

Introducing Complementary Technology
One of the C-Print team’s major objectives, Ms. Francis says, “is to broaden the capability to introduce complementing technology, like the tablet PCs or mobile phones.” A recent experiment involved the use of the mobile version of the software during a field trip to a local phone company. “We found we could use the device in an environment that was very noisy," says Ms. Francis. "We have a Bluetooth headset on a speaker that has noise canceling capability. The speaker delivered the information over a regular cell line via a voice connection to the captionist. The information was transmitted to the student on the student’s phone via a cellular connection.”  "What was fascinating," she remarks, “was that hearing students joined the deaf student in looking at the phone display because the noise level was so high that the students were unable to hear what the speaker was saying. The text was effective for all the students.”

Ensuring Access to the Curriculum
A longtime deaf rights advocate, Dr. Stinson strives to ensure access to the curriculum for students using assistive technology.  His team, he says, has much experience in advising families who want C-Print. “We often provide information to families who would like their child’s school system to at least try out the technology in order to get a sense of it. We are reluctant to tell parents that they should tell their school system, ‘You must make a full-fledged commitment to this.’ Implementing C-Print represents a big commitment. A person has to be trained and paid a salary to provide the service. This is a costly step for a school system, although it’s not more expensive than an interpreter. We understand why schools may hesitate. We currently rely on Steppingstone grant funds to offer an opportunity to the school system to conduct a trial, and if it’s clear during the trial that a child is benefiting from the service, it becomes easier for that school system to support that child.”

To read more about C-Print and the current state of this leading-edge captioning system at the Family Center on Technology and Disability, visit these web pages

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