By the Clear2Connect Coalition Team
Did you know that approximately 11.5 million Americans are hearing impaired, ranging from experiencing difficulty in hearing conversation to total hearing loss? Each May, Better Hearing Month shines a spotlight on this population and the importance of empowering them to access the tools they need for the best possible quality of life. Integral to this is accessible communication technology, which is essential for all aspects of daily living, including health care, socialization, education, and employment.
According to a 2019 report from the National Deaf Center on Postsecondary Outcomes, only 53 percent of people who are deaf were employed in 2017, and this number has not increased since 2008. How can we shift these statistics in a positive direction and ensure employment opportunities for people who are deaf or have hearing loss?
From recruiting and interviewing, to hiring and onboarding, to working day to day, contact between employers and employees is key every step of the way. But, without the right assistive tools and technology, communication can be a significant barrier to securing and maintaining a job. This is where Internet Protocol Captioned Telephone Service (IP CTS), or captioned telephone service, comes into play.
When a person with hearing loss picks up a captioned telephone (or uses a mobile app offered by an official IP CTS provider) to make a call, the call is automatically routed through a call center. There, a skilled transcriber uses advanced technology to provide accurate captioning of everything the other party says and sends the text back to the person’s phone or app in real-time. It’s a vital service that enables people with hearing loss to easily engage in conversations and ensures they understand what the other party is saying.
The Clear2Connect Coalition is an initiative comprised of a range of disability, military and veteran-focused organizations that are dedicated to preserving access to captioned telephone service, as is the right of people with hearing loss under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Currently, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is considering certifying vendors for captioned telephone service that use only automatic speech recognition (ASR) technology, taking the human element out of the equation and thereby greatly diminishing the quality of the service. While the Coalition believes that ASR holds great promise for the future, it is not yet ready for use on its own. As such, our goal is to advocate for protecting the quality and accuracy of captioned telephone services by ensuring that Automatic Speech Recognition-only service is not approved as an option by the FCC until and unless quality metrics are put in place.
We know how important it is for people with hearing loss to be able to connect with employers and the many other important people in their communities. Telephone captioning helps makes this connection happen.
For more information about the Clear2Connect Coalition, please visit clear2connect.org.
About the Clear2Connect Coalition
The Clear2Connect Coalition is a group dedicated to preserving the right for Americans with hearing loss to access the technology they need to communicate using a phone – as is their right under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The Coalition’s mission is to educate about the importance of Internet Protocol Captioned Telephone Service (IP CTS) and provide a strong, unified voice before Congress and others to urge the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to preserve access to this essential service. For more information, visit clear2connect.org.