Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Transcripts From Government Meetings

To answer questions as to how I am able to post the transcripts from the HIT Policy and HIT Standards meetings immediately after the meeting is complete, Gregg Masters suggested I write a blog about it. The method for this relies on closed caption transcription provided by HHS. At the end of the transcription there is an option to save the transcript, which I then reformat for publishing on the web, adding in the appropriate presentation materials when available. The results are like this:

July 15th HIT Policy Committee Adoption/Certification Workgroup Meeting Day 2

July 14th HIT Policy Committee Adoption/Certification Workgroup Meeting Day 1

June 23rd HIT Standards Meeting

June 16th HIT Policy Meeting

May 15th HIT Standards Meeting

Government websites should comply with section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. For web-based intranet and internet information and applications, it assures accessibility to web page graphics by the visually impaired using assistive technology such as screen readers and closed-caption transcription for the hearing impaired. Here is the guidance from Section 508, Subpart B -- Technical Standards, § 1194.24 (c)

“All training and informational video and multimedia productions which support the agency's mission, regardless of format, that contain speech or other audio information necessary for the comprehension of the content, shall be open or closed captioned.”

As an example the video when President Obama hosted a White House Forum on Health Reform at the White House includes an Open Captioned Version of the video.

The government should make every to effort comply with Section 508. Usually there is the option to view captions real-time, and then save the transcript in draft format. Real-time captions are created as an event takes place. A captioner (often trained as a court reporter or stenographer) uses a stenotype machine with a phonetic keyboard and special software. A computer translates the phonetic symbols into English captions almost instantaneously. The slight delay is based on the captioner’s need to hear the word and on the computer processing time. Although most real-time captioning is more than 98 percent accurate, the audience will see occasional errors. The captioner may mishear a word, hear an unfamiliar word, or there could be an error in the software dictionary. This is why the draft transcripts I post are very rough in form.

The value I hope to bring is that the transcript, while still containing errors, is more complete in raw form than the polished minutes which are archived. After a period of time the transcript results from the closed caption on the HHS web site will no longer be available, so I preserve them and make them available for people to look back on. I hope that this work is useful and provides greater transparency into the process.