The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law in 1990, marking a significant milestone in the fight for equal rights and accessibility for individuals with disabilities. This legislation provided guidelines to meet a wide range of special needs, from service animals and parking spaces to wheelchair accessibility and communication requirements. 

Before the ADA, people with disabilities often faced substantial barriers to accessing public spaces, educational institutions, and employment opportunities. This lack of accessibility extended to digital platforms, where individuals with disabilities encountered challenges accessing online content, particularly audio and video materials. 

While all may agree that accessibility is a good and worthy goal, successful implementation has proven difficult and expensive for education providers who produce and disseminate large quantities of content. 

Colleges and universities are legally bound by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to provide equal access to educational materials for students with disabilities. This includes accurate captions and transcriptions for audio and video content. Machine captioning  technologies are affordable, but can’t be relied on to give accurate results. Achieving the level of accuracy mandated by ADA guidelines has required either human/hybrid captioning - which was very expensive, making it difficult for educational institutions to meet compliance standards. Failure to meet these standards puts them at serious risk of legal jeopardy through a class action lawsuit. 

For example, in 2018, a blind resident of New York filed a lawsuit against 50 colleges and universities because their websites were inaccessible according to ADA guidelines. This person was not even a student at these schools – he merely attended a college fair and took note of the college websites he could not fully access with his vision impairment. As a result of this one action, Cornell University, Oberlin College, Loyola University, Drexel University, the Savannah College of Art and Design, and many others found themselves in significant legal trouble. 

Numerous educational institutions have been taken to court for failing to comply with the ADA guidelines for captioning. This highlights the significance of maintaining ADA-compliant accessibility in education. For instance, in 2015, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) were sued for allegedly not providing adequate captioning for online course materials, which resulted in discrimination against individuals with hearing impairments. 

Similarly, the University of California, Berkeley, faced lawsuits for online content that was inaccessible to people with disabilities, which prompted the institution to remove vast amounts of online content until they were able to improve captioning and accessibility across its digital platforms. These legal challenges underline the importance of prioritizing accessibility and ensuring compliance with ADA standards in educational institutions to avoid discrimination and enable equal access to educational resources for all students.

Echo Labs team walking around higher education institutions
Art by Midjourney

There are no participation trophies when it comes to ADA compliance. Not just any captioning tool will do. ADA guidelines mandate that captions and transcriptions meet "human quality" standards to ensure equal access to information for hard-of-hearing people. Traditional captioning methods tend to be costly and time-consuming, posing challenges for educational institutions striving for accuracy. When budgets prohibit the development of ADA-compliant transcriptions, many schools try to make do with substandard captioning. 

Providing accurate captions isn’t just a service for hard-of-hearing people. Captions are great for people with ADHD, ESL learners, and visual learners, giving students flexibility to consume content in the way that works best for them. 

Echo Labs addresses this need with CASPER, an AI-powered tool purpose-built for fast, affordable, and highly accurate captioning and transcription. CASPER surpasses the ADA's 99% accuracy threshold, providing a groundbreaking solution for colleges and universities striving for accessibility. Where once colleges and universities had to rely on expensive and labor-intensive human-generated captions to meet disability guidelines, CASPER revolutionizes this process, offering a state-of-the-art audio-to-text system  that ensures unparalleled accuracy and accessibility for all students. 

CASPER's advanced AI algorithms enable it to transcribe audio to text quickly and efficiently, making it an invaluable tool for educators and administrators seeking to enhance accessibility in higher education settings. By automating the transcription process, CASPER streamlines the creation of captions and transcriptions, saving valuable time and resources for educational institutions.

Moreover, CASPER's affordability makes it accessible to colleges and universities of all sizes, regardless of budget constraints. With flexible pricing options tailored to the needs of educational institutions, CASPER ensures that no student is left behind due to financial limitations.

In addition to its accuracy and affordability, CASPER boasts a user-friendly interface that simplifies the process of transcribing audio and video content. Educators and administrators can easily upload their multimedia files to CASPER's platform and receive accurate captions and transcriptions in minutes, eliminating the need for manual transcription. It’s just three clicks. 

To make it even more convenient, CASPER integrates with major LMS and VMS systems (Kaltura, Blackboard, Panapto, Canvas, etc.), automating the whole process so accessibility directors don't have to spend their weekends moving captioned videos from platform to platform. Let’s be honest. Nobody has time for that.  

The principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) promote accessibility for all students, regardless of ability. CASPER is a game-changing solution that sets a new standard for ADA-compliant audio-to-text conversion. By harnessing the power of AI technology, CASPER empowers educational institutions to deliver content and instruction that lowers barriers to learning and democratizes access. 

Echo Labs' CASPER tool represents a significant advancement in accessibility, revolutionizing the way colleges and universities convert audio to text. With its unparalleled accuracy, affordability, and ease of use, CASPER is poised to transform the landscape of higher education, ensuring equal access to educational materials for all students, regardless of ability. 

Contact us today to learn more about you can join universities across the country in slashing your captioning cost.