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Disabled Students' Commission Roundtable: Exploring the issues on the use of automated captioning

Online: zoom
County / Region
United Kingdom
Position on the Pathway
All categories
Fellowship Category
All Fellowship Categories
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Start Date
End Date
2 hours
Institution Type
Higher Education and Further Education
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The Disabled Students’ Commission (DSC), established by the former Universities Minister, is an independent and strategic group with a responsibility to advise, inform and influence higher education providers to improve support for disabled students. The Commission’s role is to identify the barriers faced by disabled students, and to subsequently promote approaches which work well to overcome these.

Facilitated by Advance HE, the DSC are running a roundtable to explore the issues caused by the use of automated captioning in teaching and learning. Most frequently, automated captions are used when lectures and/or seminars are recorded, making them available to review after the session has ended. While captions present a way to make learning more accessible to disabled students, particularly within a predominantly blended-learning environment as a result of Covid-19, quite often these captions are generated by machine learning algorithms and the quality can vary.

Concerns around the use of automated captioning were raised repeatedly within recent qualitative research conducted by the DSC that was investigating the impact of Covid-19 on disabled students’ experiences. Students discussed issues such as a lack of consistency between different modules, delays to checking, as well as a perception from some higher education providers that transcripts were seen as ‘notes’. The following quote encapsulates the barriers disabled students currently face: 

“Most disabled students I talk to say that automated captions are better than nothing but very limited. Often they are not nearly good enough to understand everything that is being said. I wish lecturers would at least go over them.”

The roundtable, hosted by Commissioners of the DSC, will comprise of:

  • An introduction to the legislative context and the audits carried out on universities regarding digital accessibility (including captioning), delivered by Chris Heathcoate, Government Digital Service, Cabinet Office
  • Breakout sessions discussing i) identifying any issues arising from automated captioning which are impacting on the educational experience of disabled students  ii) any suggested solutions or improvements to help achieve a better and more consistent educational experience for disabled students and (iii) suggestions for higher education providers which minimise additional workload.
  • Group discussion to consider next steps and recommendations

Who should attend?

The roundtable is designed for HE academic and support staff, disability practitioners, experts, sector bodies and stakeholders working in the area of disability support. Disabled students who currently use automated captions, as well as sector specialists / lecture capture software providers may also find this of interest.

Please note, live captions will be provided throughout.