Tools of the Trade in a Virtual World

Caption Pros captioners always have a plan A, B, and C.  Captioners have many tools of the trade but Jennifer Schuck, the owner of Caption Pros, says it comes down to being prepared and knowing the best tools and technology for any given job.

“The most important thing is knowing how to use everything in my toolkit to my client’s advantage,” she says. “Knowing the latest products and technology on the market, how they work, what settings they work in, and what settings they don’t is key.”

Individuals with hearing loss may have been able to read lips and communicate effectively when face-to-face in an office environment. The virtual world has made it much more difficult.  Poor audio, poor Internet connections, and not using a camera add to an already high level of stress when you have hearing loss.

Humans using state-of-the-art technology

Caption Pros provides a wide variety of captioning services.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an explosion of new conference platforms.  Very few of them allow for the inclusion of realtime captioning.  We were pleasantly surprised by the ease of using the Bevy platform. It was built with captioning in mind.  AccessLOOP was built by captioners and also includes American Sign Language interpreters in the visual display and can push events to multiple platforms at the same time such as Vimeo, Facebook, YouTube, and others!  Zoom has become a household verb and allows for realtime CART captioning and pinning of ASL interpreters in the video display.

It is true, there are a lot of platforms that have automatic speech recognition built-in.  Not all ASR is equal; some algorithms are better than others.  When accessibility is the end goal, then the gold standard is human-generated realtime captioning.  Individuals who are Deaf or hard of hearing are entitled to equal and effective communication under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

95% of the current workload is now remote.  Caption Pros does provide on-site corporate event captioning as well as an instant transcription for high-profile and media events.  Schuck says one of the biggest misconceptions is that people think all captioning is automated through technology – not delivered via a real person. “People do not understand that it is a human using state-of-the-art technology to make the world accessible,” she says.   Caption Pros is one of the few captioning companies that provide stellar realtime captioning AND a thoroughly edited instant transcript the same day as your event.  The industry standard is a roughly edited transcript. Most companies do not even offer a thoroughly edited transcript as a deliverable.


A captioner’s work environment

Many captioners have been trained first as a court reporter using the same stenotype machine (a chorded keyboard) and special software. The job outlook is great as captioners can work as employees or as independent contractors.  The demand for captioning during the pandemic has increased exponentially.

The majority of captioners work remotely from home and have a varied schedule based on the assignment.  With the majority of work worldwide being remote, we encourage clients to book early as we may not be able to accommodate last-minute requests.


Tools of the trade

Steno machine

A chorded keyboard is used to produce machine shorthand. Captioners must be able to write a minimum of 225 words per minute using a steno machine, along with transcribing dialogue in real-time without missing any words. Schuck is certified at 260 words per minute, winning contests up to 295 words per minute.  The accuracy rate is 99%+.


A personalized database that contains shorthand combinations and their English equivalents. Captioners may predefine unfamiliar names and terminology into their dictionary before a real-time event to improve accuracy.  This is why we always request preparatory material in advance of a live event.


Computer-aided transcription (CAT) software allows captioners to connect to different platforms to be able to produce captioning. Captioners must learn the various software programs associated with their specialty and understand how to troubleshoot. This technology translates the phonetic symbols into English captions nearly instantaneously.

Internet access

Necessary for remote CART captioning to stream words from point A to point B as well as obtain audio.  Caption Pros’ captioners always have two Internet networks to work from in case of failure.

Technology enhances accessibility

Some events require the use of Text on Top technology to display captions. Text on Top is a wireless solution for real-time captioning used to display the captions on the same screen as the presentation.

“I own Text on Top but not all captioners do,” Schuck says. “The tools of the trade are not only the physical devices and the technology that I have; it’s the knowledge to use them and use them in creative ways.”

For large conferences and events, Schuck consults with the audio-visual company and event planners to determine the best way to display the captions compatible with the event’s setup.  “Sometimes we have to get creative with a virtual platform.  We have pre-event meetings to ensure on the day of the event, captions are accessible and ready to go,” she says.

Ultimately, what makes Schuck a pro at her job is being equipped to make accessibility work in the best way possible for the consumer. “I have multiples of just about everything in my toolkit,” she says. “I always have a plan A and plan B and sometimes a plan C; you just never know what each day is going to bring.”

Visit Caption Pros to learn more about our award-winning captioners and make your next event, whether in-person or online, accessible to all participants by adding real-time captioning.