Automated Live Captions for Virtual and In-Person Meetings

At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, we are starting to think about what life will look like with a return of in-person services, meetings, and events. Many of us are considering what lessons we want to keep from our time conducting these activities online to make the return to in-person as inclusive as possible.

Main library reading room

“Mainlibraryreadingroom.jpg.” C. E. Crane, licensed under a CC-BY 2.0 Attribution license.

One way to make your meetings and presentations accessible is the use of live, automated captions. Captions benefit those who are hard-of-hearing, those who prefer to read the captions while listening to help focus, people whose first language is not English, and others. Over the course of the last year, several online platforms have introduced or enhanced features that create live captions for both virtual and in-person meetings.

Live Captions for Virtual Meetings and Presentations

Most of the major virtual meeting platforms have implemented automated live captioning services.

Zoom

Zoom gives you the option using either live, automated captions or assigning someone to create manual captions. Zoom’s live transcriptions only support US English and can be affected by background noise, so they recommend using manual captioner to ensure you are meeting accessibility guidelines. You can also integrate a third-party captioning software if you prefer.

Microsoft Teams

MS Teams offers live captions in US English and includes some features that allow captions to be attributed to individual speakers. Their live captioning service automatically filters out profane language and is available on the mobile app.

Google Meet

Unlike Zoom and Teams, Google Meet offers live captions in French, German, Portuguese, and Spanish (both Latin America and Spain). This feature is also available on the Google Meet app for Android, iPhone, and iPad.

Slack

Slack currently does not offer live automated captions during meetings.

Icon of laptop open with four people in different qudrants representing an online meeting

“Meeting” by Nawicon from the Noun Project.

Live Captions for In-Person Presentations

After our meetings and presentations return to in-person, we can still incorporate live captions whenever possible to make our meetings more accessible. This works best when a single speaker is presenting to a group.

PowerPoint

PowerPoint’s live captioning feature allows your live presentation to be automatically transcribed and displayed on your presentation slides. The captions can be displayed in either the speaker’s native language or translated into other languages. Presenters can also adjust how the captions display on the screen.

Google Slides

The captioning feature in Google slides is limited to US English and works best with a single speaker. Captions can be turned on during the presentation but do now allow for the presenter to customize their appearance.

Icon of four figures around a table in front of a blamk presentation screen

“Meeting”. by IconforYou from the Noun Project.

As we return to some degree of normalcy, we can push ourselves to imagine creative ways to take the benefits of online gathering with us into the future. The inclusive practice we have adopted don’t need to just disappear, especially as technology and our ways of working continue to adapt.

Data Feminism and Data Justice

“Data” can seem like an abstract term – What counts as data? Who decides what is counted? How is data created? What is it used for?

Outline of a figure surrounded by a pie chart, speach bubble, book, bar chart, and venn diagram to represent different types of data

“Data”. Olena Panasovska. Licensed under a CC BY license. https://thenounproject.com/search/?q=data&i=3819883

These questions are some of the ones you might ask when applying a Data Feminist framework to you research. Data Feminism goes beyond looking at the mechanics and logistics of data collection and analysis to undercover the influences of structural power and erasure in the collection, analysis, and application of data.

Data Feminism was developed by Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren Kline, authors of the book Data Feminism. Their ideas are grounded in the work of Kimberle Crenshaw, the legal scholar credited with developing the concept of intersectionality. Using this lens, they seek to undercover the ways data science has caused harm to marginalized communities and the ways data justice can be used to remedy those harms in partnership with the communities we aim to help.

The Seven Principles of Data Feminism include:

  • Examine power
  • Challenge power
  • Rethink binaries and hierarchies
  • Elevate emotion and embodiment
  • Embrace pluralism
  • Consider context
  • Make labor visible

Applying data feminist principles to your research might involve working with local communities to co-create consent forms, using data collection to fill gaps in available data about marginalized groups, prioritizing the use of open source, community-created tools, and properly acknowledging and compensating people involved in all stages of the research process. At the heart of this work is the questioning of whose interests drive research and how we can reorient those interests around social justice, equity, and community.

The Feminist Data Manifest-No, authored in part by Anita Say Chan, Associate Professor in the School of Information Sciences and the College of Media, provides additional principles to commit to in data feminist research. These resources, and the scholars and communities engaged in this work, demonstrate how data and research can be used to advance justice, reject neutrality, and prioritize those who have historically experienced the greatest harm at the hands of researchers.

The Data + Feminism Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, directed by D’Ignazio, is a research organization that “uses data and computational methods to work towards gender and racial equity, particularly as they relate to space and place”. They are members of the Design Justice Network, which seeks to bring together people interested in research that centers marginalized people and aims to address the ways research and data are used to cause harm. These groups provide examples for how to engage in data feminist and data-justice inspired research and action.

Learning how to use tools like SPSS and NVivo is an important aspect of data-related research, but thinking about the seven principles of Data Feminism can inspire us to think critically about our work and engage more fully in our communities.  For more information about data feminism, check out these resources:

Happy Open Education Week 2021!

Every March, librarians around the world celebrate Open Education Week, a time to raise awareness of the need for and use of Open Educational Resources on our campuses. Many libraries are engaged in promoting these resources to faculty and administrators in order to help reduce the cost of course materials for students.

OEWeek 2021 Logo

“Open Education Week Logo.” OEWeek. https://www.openeducationweek.org/page/materials. Licensed under a CC-BY 4.0 license.

Open Educational Resources are learning materials that are published without copyright restrictions, meaning they can be freely distributed, reused, and modified. Faculty who assign Open Educational Resources in their classes help eliminate the barriers to academic success students can face when they cannot afford their course materials. The Florida Virtual Campus survey has demonstrated over several iterations of their survey how these costs negatively impact students – whether it’s dropping or failing a course, changing major, or struggling academically.

OpenStax is one of the most well-known publishers of OER and is often used by librarians as an example of high-quality, low-cost textbooks. While librarians often work as OER advocates on their campus, we are not always the ones publishing our own, original OER. This makes the publishing of Instruction in Libraries and Information Centers: An Introduction in July 2020 a unique and exciting accomplishment that will benefit Library and Information Science students for years to come.

Front cover of Instruction in Libraries by Saunder and Wong

This textbook, authored by Laura Saunders, Associate Professor of Library and Information Science at Simmons College and Melissa Wong, Adjunct Lecturer of Library and Information Sciences at UIUC, is freely available for students to read online, download, and print. The book is the first open access textbook to be published by Windsor and Downs press through IOPN, the University Library’s publishing unit. Other open access books available through the press include Sara Benson’s The Sweet Public Domain: Celebrating Copyright Expiration with the Honey Bunch Series.

Interested in the ways libraries are celebrating these accomplishments and bringing attention to the need to continue our advocacy? Check out the Twitter hashtag #OEWeek to join the conversation.

Thinking Beyond the Four Factors

Every year, libraries and other information professionals recognize Fair Use Week, a week dedicated to educating our communities about the power of Fair Use to help them make informed and responsible decisions about their use of copyrighted materials.

Fair Use week in white text on black background

For example, the University Library at the University of Illinois will be sponsoring a Fair Use Week Game Show, hosted by Copyright Librarian Sara Benson. This event will teach participants about how to conduct a Fair Use analysis in a fun and engaging manner in hopes of getting our campus excited about the possibilities that Fair Use opens.

When considering whether your use of a copyrighted work is a Fair Use, there are 4 main factors to consider: Purpose, Nature, Amount, and Effect.

Purpose refers to your intended use of a work and specifically considers whether you are using it for educational purposes, which is more likely to be considered a fair use, or for profit, which weighs against Fair Use. Nature refers to the work itself. Factual and published works are more likely to be considered a Fair Use than creative or unpublished works.

Amount considers how much of the work you intend to use. Using a small or less important portion of the work is more likely to be a Fair Use, while using the whole work or the “heart” of the work is less likely to be a Fair Use. Lastly, Effect looks at the potential market impact of your use of the work. If it is likely your use would impact the original creator’s ability to profit off their work, your use is less likely to be considered a Fair Use.

In order to make a Fair Use determination, courts weigh each of the four factors holistically to decide whether your use of a copyrighted work is allowed. However, could there be more to a fair use than the four factors used by the courts?

Graphic image of balace scales

“File:Johnny-automatic-scales-of-justice.svg” by johnny_automatic is marked with CC0 1.0

Using another person’s copyrighted material may not just be a legal question, but an ethical one. For example, many libraries make cultural artifacts taken from indigenous people available to the world. As these items get digitized, libraries are typically the copyright owners for the digital version. While doing your Fair Use analysis, it may be worthwhile to also consider whether the community these items were taken from would approve of your use of the material, even if a court would rule that your use is fair.

Another example is the use of personal photos, which the internet makes readily available online. While your use of these photos may be considered a Fair Use after weighing the four factors, is it ethical to include images of other people’s faces in your work without their permission?

Fair Use gives us guidance about how to avoid being sued for copyright infringement and arguments to defend ourselves if we do. But, Fair Use may not always be enough to tell you whether your use is ethical. When in doubt, you can ask your local librarian for tips and resources on using someone else’s copyrighted materials ethically and responsibly.

In the meantime, you can check out the Fair Use page on our Copyright Reference Guide, which contains several resources to help you think through your own Fair Use analysis. Happy Fair Use week!

Open with Purpose: Open Access Week 2020

International Open Access Week 2020 is upon us, and the need for equitable access to research has taken on a new sense of urgency. Every year, libraries celebrate Open Access week to bring attention to issues related to scholarly communications. The theme, “Open with Purpose: Taking Action to Build Structural Equity and Inclusion” is intended to get us thinking about the ways our current systems marginalize and exclude.

Banner for Open Access week. Blue background with white text that says "open with purpose: taking action to build structural equity and inclusion"

This year, we celebrate amidst a pandemic that has completely changed how we do things. Usually, immediate access to scholarly research isn’t on many people’s minds. But, research about COVID-19 has made clear the importance of open access to research. This urgency has caused several publishers to open up their content related to COVID-19 and may be accelerating the shift towards open access as the default for scholarly publishing.

Making research about COVID-19 openly available speeds up the research process by allowing more people to access the data they need to find a solution to this crisis. The CDC, UNESCO, and National Institute for Health have all compiled open access information about COVID-19 for research and educational use to assist in this effort.

However, making research available for free is not enough. In her blog post “Opening up the Margins”, April Hathcock writes, “there are so many ways in which open access still reflects the biased systems of the scholarship in which it’s found, even as it can be used to open up scholarship at the margins” (Hathcock, 2016). Open access is still exclusionary if it maintains practices that privilege the publication of white, western, academic voices and centers those perspectives.

open access logo. orange open padlock

It is no secret that COVID-19 disproportionately affects African-Americans. A quick search of “COVID-19 and African-Americans” in Google Scholar reveals tons of studies demonstrating that fact. While the pandemic has made visible the need to address social inequalities that lead to higher vulnerability in black populations, these problems are not new and the solutions cannot be found under a microscope. The people living in these areas are not the ones conducting research, and yet their perspective is invaluable to knowing how the lived experiences of oppression contribute to this tragedy.

Researchers should not treat people as objects of study but as full people whose susceptibility to the disease cannot simply be linked to genetics. To address the pandemic, we must center the experiences of those most vulnerable. With open access advocacy, we must make sure to include voices that aren’t traditionally acknowledged as scholarly and recognize how those experiences inform the research process.

“Open with Purpose” means mindfully and intentionally creating systems that invite people in. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the urgency of this movement, but the social, economic, and political viruses of racism, sexism, classism, etc. had already made this urgency visible to those who are the most marginalized. Open systems need to not only unlock research, but also to question the very structures that keep it closed to certain people in the first place and rebuild them into something better that can more fully address the world’s problems.

U of I System Weighs in on Sovereign Immunity

In June 2020, the United States Copyright Office put out a request for public input on issues related to states’ liability in cases of copyright infringement. This topic was brought to public attention in March during Alan v. Cooper, where the Supreme Court found it unconstitutional to repeal state’s sovereign immunity in cases of copyright infringement since there was not enough evidence to justify this action. This means that creators whose copyright is violated by the state do not have clear next steps for how to proceed with litigation.

To determine how to move forward, the U.S. Copyright Office was asked to study the extent to which states violate copyright, whether there is a remedy for the creator, and whether the violation is a result of intentional or reckless behavior. The study will inform the decision to repeal this immunity enjoyed by states, which would certainly have consequences for institutions like universities and libraries.

Reading room of the Main Library at the University of Illinois. Large room with tall white ceiling, large windows, light fixtures, and wooden tables and chairs.

“Main Library”. wabisabi2015. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 license. https://flic.kr/p/238q6et

As a state-funded, land-grant institution, the University of Illinois system is a major stakeholder in this conversation. The University system both consumes and creates a huge amount of copyrighted material and has a responsibility for making sure our community is following copyright law. We also need to make sure we have the freedom to use and share copyrighted materials to help foster the scholarly and educational mission of the institution.

So, Sara Benson, Copyright Librarian and interim head of the Scholarly Commons, and Scott Rice, Deputy University Counsel, submitted their own response to the United States Copyright Office on behalf of the University of Illinois system. They are currently awaiting a response, which is due by October 22, 2020. In this document, Sara describes some of the ways she educates our community on issues of copyright in her role at the library to help us all contribute to a culture of copyright awareness. This is because the responsibility for following copyright law primarily falls to individual people to make the right choices.

And, for the most part, we do! Sara and Scott say that the University system only experiences 3-6 copyright infringements a year, and that these infringements are not the result of intentional or reckless behavior. The University of Illinois community makes a good-faith effort not to infringe copyright, and will continue to be diligent in face of potential legislation that might increase our liability for copyright violations.

Maintaining our ability to use copyrighted materials in our teaching and research is a group effort. So what can you do to be a good copyright actor? Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Cite your sources! Including attribution shows a good-faith effort to credit the original creator. While this doesn’t necessarily protect you from claims of infringement, it is helpful for showing that the work wasn’t used maliciously.
  • Learn about Fair Use! Fair Use is a great way to think through whether your use of copyrighted materials is permissible. But, keep in mind that only a lawyer can give you advice on whether your use is a fair use.
  • Ask for help! When in doubt, asking for a second opinion is a good way to avoid copyright infringement. Email Sara Benson at srbenson@illinois.edu with your copyright questions (please note that Sara cannot provide legal counsel).

Check out the library’s Copyright Reference Guide for even more tips on how to be a good copyright-actor!

Creating Accessible Slides for Presentations and Online Posting

Making presentations accessible is important, whether in a classroom, in a meeting, or any situation you find yourself delivering information to an audience. Now, more learning than ever is taking place online where inaccessible content can create unequal learning opportunities.

Do you want to learn what it takes to make an accessible presentation? Read on for information about creating accessible slides for both live and recorded presentations!

Thinking about Universal Design

Universal Design is the idea that things should be created so that the most people possible can make use of them. What might be considered an accommodation for one person may benefit many others. The following tips can be considered ways to improve the learning experience for all participants.

Live and Recorded Presentations

Whether your presentation is happening in-person, live virtually, or asynchronously, there are several steps you can take to make your slides accessible.

1. Use a large font size.

During in-person presentations, participants may have trouble seeing if they are sitting far away or have impaired sight. In the virtual environment, participants may be tuning in on a phone or tablet and a larger font will help them see better on a small screen.

Image reads "this text is way too small" in 12 point font.

Example of text that is too small to read from a distance, phone, or tablet in 12 point font.

Image reads "This text is big enough to read" in size 28 font

Example of text that is big enough to read from a distance in 28 point font.

2. Use sans serif fonts.

Fonts like Calibri, Franklin Gothic Book, Lucida Sans, and Segoe are the most accessible to people with reading comprehension disabilities. Leaving plenty of white space makes your slides both more readable and more visually appealing.

3. Minimize text on slides.

People who can’t see the slides may be missing out on important content, and too much text can distract from what you’re saying. When you do include text, read everything out loud.

Image of a slide with too much text. Slide is completely filled with text.

Example of a slide with too much text.

Image of a slide with the right amout of text, including three main bullet points and a few sub bullets not in complete sentences.

Example of a slide with the right amount of text.

4. Use high contrast colors.

High contrast colors can more easily be seen by someone with a visual impairment (black and white is a reliable option). Always explain your color-codes for people who can’t see them and so all participants are on the same page.

Top half contains dark blue background with white text reading "this is high contrast". Bottom half contains light blue background with white text reading "this is low contrast"

Examples of slide font and background using high and low contrast colors.

5. Summarize all charts and images.

Images and charts should also be explained fully so that all participants understand what you are communicating.

6. Use closed captions.

For recorded presentations, both PowerPoint and Google slides allow you to add closed captions to your video or audio file. For live sessions, consider using subtitles or creating a live transcription. Technology Services offers instructions on how activate subtitles for Zoom meetings.

Posting Slides Online

Virtual presentations should be recorded when possible as our usual participants may be in other time zones, experiencing technology issues, or dealing with a countless list of challenges brought on by the pandemic or life.

Posting your slides online in an accessible format is another way to make that information available.

1. Use built in slide designs.

Slide designs built into PowerPoint and Google Slides are formatted to be read in the correct order by a screen reader. If you need to make adjustments, PowerPoint allows you to check over and adjust the reading order of your slides.

Screenshot of office theme slide designs in MS PowerPoint.

Built-in slide designs in MS PowerPoint.

2. Give all slides a title.

Titles assist people who are reading the document with a screen reader or are taking notes and allow all readers to navigate the document more easily.

3. Add alt-text to all images.

Alternative text allows screen readers to describe images. Use concise, descriptive language that captures the motivation for including the image on the slide.

4. Use meaningful hyperlinks.

Both screen readers and the human eye struggle to read long hyperlinks. Instead, use descriptive hyperlinks that make clear where the link is going to take the reader.

Examples of inaccessible hyperlinks

Examples of inaccessible or non-descriptive hyperlinks.

Example of a descriptive hyperlink

Example of an accessible and descriptive hyperlink.

5. Create a handout and save it as a PDF.

Finally, always include your speaker’s notes when posting slides online as the slides themselves only contain a fraction of what you will be communicating in your presentation.

Example of a slide with speaker's notes saved as a handout

Example of a slide with speaker’s notes saved as a handout.

It is always easier to make your presentation accessible from the start. By keeping these tips in mind, you can make sure your content can be used by the widest audience possible and help create a more inclusive learning environment!

For more information about how to use and apply these features, check out the following resources: