Interpreting & Captioning/Transcription FAQs

Sign Language Interpreting FAQs

A student contacted me about their captioning/real time transcription accommodations in class. Shouldn’t they have a sign language interpreter?

Not necessarily. Like all disabilities, deafness is a spectrum and how one person experiences hearing loss is different than another. Not all Deaf or Hard of Hearing people know American Sign Language (ASL) so they may not benefit from having interpreters. If a student with a hearing related disability has captioned audio/video material and/or real time transcription as an accommodation, that is the accommodation they are needing to use.

Are interpreters student workers or volunteers?

No. Sign language interpreters are experienced professionals who have completed specialized training and education. Interpreters at the UO may be staff, temporary employees, or hired from an agency.

Why are there two interpreters?

Research has shown that after 20 minutes of interpreting, the integrity of the interpreted message begins to break down. Interpreting requires a lot of mental processing when working between two languages. Interpreters work in teams and switch every 15-20 minutes to provide each other mental breaks from the interpreting process. However, the interpreter not actively interpreting is still working and is able to support the active interpreter when needed. Generally, if a class is over an hour in length, two interpreters are placed. Ultimately, it depends on how intensive the content is to interpret. For example, a 50-minute class with multiple speakers may require two interpreters whereas a 3-hour art class may only need one.

Can I request interpreters for an event/meeting on campus?

Yes. Interpreters can be requested for any UO affiliated event by filling out the request form on this page. When planning an event, especially one open to the public, it is important to include accessibility concerns in your budget. An index number is needed so the AEC can bill back for interpreting services.

I need an interpreter for an event happening in a few days. Can I still request one?

Interpreter schedules tend to be booked out in advance, so it may not be possible to fill requests on short notice. It is best practice to submit requests for interpreters as far in advance as possible. UO interpreters’ availability is prioritized for Deaf student and faculty needs. The AEC will attempt to fill last minute request but cannot guarantee that interpreters will be available.

I have a Deaf/Hard of Hearing student in my class. How should I communicate with them?

You should communicate with a Deaf/Hard of Hearing student the same as you would with a hearing student. Speak directly to them instead of the interpreter or transcriber. More tips on communicating with Deaf people.


Captioning and Transcription FAQ

What’s the difference between captions, transcription, and subtitles?

These terms all refer to a similar process and are often used interchangeably, but have specific meanings in how they are used.

There are two types of captioning: open and closed. Closed captions can be toggled on or off, or can be “closed.” Open captions, however, are burned into the video and can not be turned off. Both types of captioning often incorporate audio information such as when music is being played or if a loud noise occurs.

Transcription/transcribing is the act of taking spoken communication and putting it in written form. This can be done during an event or after and results in a transcript being created. You may encounter other terms such as “live captioning” which means someone is typing the captions in the moment.

Subtitles are used to refer to a written translation of spoken communication in a foreign language. Subtitles often don’t include auditory information like captions do.

I received a notification letter from the AEC that a student uses real time transcription. Is there anything I need to do?

In terms of technology, no. The student and transcriber work together to set up the remote connection and the student views the transcript on their own device. It is beneficial for all students if you use a mic while lecturing to increase auditory levels (especially when wearing masks). Repeating questions and comments from students is also beneficial since they do not have a mic and would provide access to everyone, including the transcriber.

If the class is remote, you may need to adjust the security settings to allow the remote transcriber access to the Zoom session. The Sign Language and Transcription Coordinator will contact you in this situation.  

My student has captioned audio/video materials and real time transcription. Isn’t that the same thing?

No. Captioned audio/video materials is for content that has already been created. These mainly take the form of videos but also include podcasts. Captions need to be added to this media in order for the student to access the content. Real time transcription is for live lecture, whether in person or online. A remote transcriber connects to the student’s laptop via a Zoom call to access the audio as well as the TypeWell transcribing software. Students will see what is spoken in class in the TypeWell window.

I received a notification letter from AEC telling me captioned media is required. I don’t have time to add captions to videos. Why am I being asked to do that?

If you share media that you did not create from YouTube, Vimeo, or another platform and it does not have captions, please send it to AEC Captioning via the instructions in the video request letter. The AEC will create a captioned version of the media in Panopto and share the link with you. The captioned version should then replace the non-captioned media.

If you have created media content, such as a recorded lecture, Panopto has captioning capabilities available to you. Adding captions in Panopto is a straightforward process: open the video editor, go to captions, and import auto-generated captions. Instructors are encouraged to edit the captions for accuracy since you are the content experts. Accuracy of the captions depends on clarity of recorded audio and speech. However, if you are unable to edit captions to your media content, the AEC can provide assistance. An AEC staff member will need to be added to the Canvas site and granted a role that allows them to edit content.

Panopto videos are fine to post in Canvas, but I can’t embed them in my PowerPoint. Can I receive the captioned media in a different format?

Yes. The AEC can return captioned videos via the AEC Captioning YouTube page for you to embed in your PowerPoint. Videos on YouTube will remain unlisted for your continued use. Submit links to be captioned as indicated in the video request letter you received. If you wish to receive captioned media in this or a different format, please contact AEC Caption services at

I checked the videos I will be using and they have auto generated captions. Will those be sufficient?

Most of the time, no. Auto generated captions have come a long way, however there can still be errors in the captions, sometimes egregiously. Even if the captions that have been auto generated are correct, they lack punctuation that can aid in comprehension. It may also depend on the student’s preference if they find auto generated captions acceptable.

I received the video request letter a week before the term started. That is not enough time to send in videos. Can I be notified earlier than that?

The AEC strives to notify instructors as early as possible to submit their media content to be captioned. The accommodation process is student led and requires students to submit their accommodation requests. Sometimes there is a delay in a request for accommodations which results in a later notification to faculty. Student schedules may also change which would result in delayed notice of submitting media content to be captioned.

In alignment with Universal Design for Learning (UDL), ensuring media and materials used for course instruction are already accessible reduces barriers for students with disabilities and supports their engagement in your course. Learn more about UDL principles and other resources.

I received the captioned version of a video I will be showing; can I only send that to the student with the accommodation?

Once you have received the captioned version of a video or other media, please replace the uncaptioned video with the captioned one. Sending the captioned version to only the student with the accommodation is a way of othering them. From a Universal Design perspective, many people benefit from viewing content with captions, such as people with auditory processing challenges, those for whom English is not their first language, or those who are unable to listen to the audio in certain environments (loud coffee shop, sleeping child, etc.).

Have additional questions? Contact AEC Captioning: