Top 7 Ways Government Agencies Use Captioning and Transcriptions

By: Sarah Roberts
Man in suit leaving official building

Thirty-seven million people in America are Deaf or hard of hearing. For many of them, captions and transcriptions are vital services. Therefore, government agencies are legally required to offer these tools for accessibility and transparency.

The need to caption and transcribe content is only growing, leading to greater use cases for government agencies to consider. Luckily, there are simple solutions to implement that ensure government entities are adhering to the law and serving the public. These services also account for today’s common consumer preferences and expectations to watch videos with the captions on. Here are the top reasons government agencies need captions and examples of how and when to use them.

1. Live Streaming and Webinars

Government sessions are often live-streamed to audiences in real-time, allowing citizens to view from anywhere to stay abreast of happenings in the country and their communities.

Example: The US Senate’s rules dictate that most hearings must be open to the public. There are circumstances, such as when the discussion impacts national security, where the Senate can make the proceedings private, but those are the exception to the rule. The Senate posts live streaming links and dates on its site and maintains an archive of those hearings. Providing captions ensures viewers who are Deaf, hard of hearing and many others are always able to watch with equity.

2. Training Employees

Image of a man and woman at a professional meeting

Government employees often undergo training when they start new positions or as an ongoing part of their jobs. If an agency uses videos or streaming platforms for training, they need to offer captions for any employees who are Deaf or hard of hearing. Providing this accommodation is mandatory and outlined in legislation such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Example: The Department of Justice (DOJ)’s Office of Information Policy offers live online training for any government employees or contractors who need to comply with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). However, those sessions must offer accessibility for employees with disabilities. Captions ensure these employees can participate and engage with the training information they need. Additionally, captions increase engagement and allow employees the opportunity to complete training in silence.

3. Maintaining Archives with Important Information

Following an essential informational webinar or briefing, government agencies archive recordings so that others can access the information. Not only do the archived videos offer captions, but the data collected and shared also appears and is recorded in the form of transcripts. Importantly, transcripts must be accurate because they will become permanent records of government activities.

Example: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) hosts webinars to discuss public health updates. If people cannot attend the live session, they can access the videos and transcripts to find the information they need. For instance, during the COVID-19 pandemic, these videos and transcripts detail much-needed guidance on vaccinations.

4. Verbatim Meeting Minutes

To share what occurs during government meetings, officials post meeting minutes and recordings so the public can access them.

Example: The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (USNRC) posts minutes and verbatim transcripts of its meetings. In cases where the content of their meetings is not available to the public, they offer an explanation. Also, the USNRC supplies those transcripts in more accessible formats upon request, including braille or large print.

5. Instructional Videos for the Public

Government processes and paperwork submissions are rarely straightforward. When citizens need to interact with government agencies or submit information, the process can be confusing. Consequently, instructional videos are often provided to clarify processes. With video being a preferred medium for explaining information clearly, captions are key for public consumers.

Image of professional woman on the phone

Example: The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has a YouTube channel that helps answer people’s questions about filing taxes and protecting their identities. Laws require that those videos are accessible to people with disabilities. Captions offer access to people who are Deaf and hard of hearing and also allow others another way to digest the information or view the videos silently when situations warrant it.

6. Engaging with the Public

Many government agencies use video and social media to connect with the public and promote their work. The US government even published a social media toolkit to help agencies maintain a positive, accessible social media presence.

Example: The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has a highly active social media presence, including YouTube channels. They live stream exciting events and post videos that viewers can watch on-demand. Recent content includes the mission trailer for the launch of the James Webb telescope. NASA offers captions to ensure viewers who are Deaf or hard of hearing can access its content.

7. Emergency Broadcasts

In emergencies, live streaming an alert is a great way to disseminate information quickly to the public. However, without captions, viewers who are Deaf or hard of hearing are excluded and can miss out on important notifications.

Example: The Emergency Alert System allows federal, state and local governments to connect with the public in the case of weather situations, pandemics and other crises. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) mandates that broadcasts must be accessible to those who are Deaf or hard of hearing by offering captions.

Not only are captions and transcripts useful, but agencies will face lawsuits for neglecting to comply with accessibility standards. Partnering with a professional closed captioning and transcription provider like Verbit offers agencies the ability to accommodate people with disabilities and adhere to accessibility laws. Additionally, many viewers prefer using captions, which allow them to better engage with the content.

Contact us to learn more about how our professional transcribers support the specific transcription needs of federal and state agencies across the country.