Automatic captioning project

The possibilities to use captioning in all sorts of digital communication is growing fast, thanks to the use of AI and machine learning. These new possibilities can be of great value for hard of hearing people, if used in a proper way. We must make sure that accuracy, speed, and overall quality is as good as it needs to be.

The Web Accessibility Directive, covering all public sector bodies in the EU, requires pre-recorded video to be captioned. The increased use of online meetings has escalated the need for live captions as well. But the awareness of user needs and knowledge about captioning is still low in society at large.

This is why the Swedish Association of Hard of Hearing People, HRF, and Funka, Europe’s leading company on digital accessibility, have created a project which aims to increase the knowledge and the use of captions, by crowd development and nudging. The main target audience for the project is organisations covered by the directive, but the activities are open to anyone and we count on wide and diverse participation.

The national project, called “Everybody Can Caption” (“Alla kan texta” in Swedish), is designed to run for two years, with a €400 000 funding granted by the Swedish Inheritance Fund.

Technology, training and support

One part of the project aims at increasing the use of Automatic Speech Recognition in Swedish. Languages spoken by a small number of people (in the case of Sweden around 10 million people) are lagging far behind when it comes to accuracy and speed compared to English, simply because of the lack of language data. The more the speech recognition is used, the better it becomes

Captions made by professionals are of course always preferrable, says Susanna Laurin, Research and Innovation Officer at Funka. But far too many meetings and videos are not captioned at all. What we want to investigate in this project, is to what extent automatic tools can be part of the solution, so that the use of captioning becomes a de facto standard - everywhere.

The other part of the project focuses on raising knowledge by creating practical manuals, carrying out trainings and providing support around captioning. The goal is to put an end to the widespread and long living myth that captioning is difficult, laborious and very costly.