4 Ways to Include an ASL Interpreter in a Virtual Event

The wonderfully adaptable and customizable nature of virtual events is ideal for creating a digital space where those of all ranging abilities can participate, thrive and enjoy themselves.

One of the ways to increase inclusivity and accessibility the deaf community and for deaf and/or hard of hearing Individuals is by having an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter as part of your virtual summits, virtual conference, virtual fundraisers, or virtual event.

Happily in ASL Image: The word 'happily' in American Sign Language (ASL) signs

A quick note on using live captioning vs an ASL interpreter

Live captioning is when captions of the spoken languages are transcribed in real time, resulting in a seamless and more accurate experience than automated captions.

This is referred to as CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation) and nowadays there are many companies that specialize in this service and it can be easily integrated into digital platforms, including Zoom. Live captioning is ideal for forward-facing broadcasts, where attendees are simply observing and taking in what and/or who is on screen.

If the focus of your virtual event is around discussion and verbal interaction of attendees, then most often an ASL interpreter is preferred over live captioning by deaf and/or hard of hearing individuals.

Here are some ready-made options (and things to consider) to integrate an ASL interpreter into a Happily virtual event.

1. ASL on screen all the time

This is perfect for an event via Zoom. However, it is worth noting that this is a little tricker for a broadcast if you would like to reuse any footage across some social media platforms.

The final product will be forced into a 16:9 ratio (horizontal) with ASL and so it will be tough to reuse content for social media platforms that ideally require a 1:1 ratio (square) or a 9:16 ratio (vertical). We are mainly talking about Instagram and TikTok. The workaround for this is to pre-record segments that you want to show later on your social networks or plan for added time and budget to make an alternate in post-production edits.

2. Two feeds at once, one with ASL and one without

This option is straightforward and clean, especially if you are catering for an audience mix of ASL users and non-ASL users. However, having multiple stages will increase costs and affect the budget. Even though it can get really pricey, in the end the result will be an identical event experience for all your attendees.

3. Special Zoom room with a live feed from our broadcasters with ASL spotlit in there

This will add some cost, although not as much as Option #2 described above. Ultimately the event experience will not be identical for all attendees, and may create feelings of isolation and social cohesion.

4. Live captions only for broadcasts and ASL for interactive

This option is a hybrid of having live captions (CART) during a broadcast and an ASL interpreter for any following verbal interactions (eg. in a Zoom breakout room or a Q&A format).

As we mentioned up top, live captioning is ideal for a broadcast as generally the focus is on visual presentations and guest speakers and not on direct interaction with the attendees. If a following item in the event schedule is intended to generate discussion then the live captioning can be switched out for an ASL interpreter.

Would you like some more resources on this topic?

The RespectAbility website is a wealth of knowledge on how we can all contribute to advancing opportunities for those with disabilities.

They are a nonprofit that works collaboratively with organizations to educate and guide them on ways that people with disabilities in communities can be included. Here is a practical guide they have for creating virtual events that are accessible for all.

We are the couturiers of the virtual events world

In whichever way your Happily virtual event needs to be more accessible, together we can design tailor-made UX experiences and custom-built digital platforms for your Happily event and your attendees.

Contact Team Happily to chat about any requirements and let’s create something truly special.