The last couple months have certainly been challenging for everyone. However, one thing that keeps us motivated at AST is the dedicated, amazing, and inspiring clients that we work with. In February and early March we started taking calls from clients who were already diligently creating continuity plans for how to handle the emerging coronavirus pandemic. It was becoming clear that the pandemic would force organizations to shift to remote work and online learning, and our clients wanted to ensure that their work and learning environments remained inclusive and accessible. By late March I could hear the stress and exhaustion in some clients’ voices, but I was also inspired by their grit and determination. Let me share a few stories about our clients, whom I consider to be not just essential, but really the “first-responders” for digital accessibility.
Imperial Valley College has been an AST customer since 2017, but they had only used our post-production captioning services before April. In early April they came to us with new challenge; they were holding virtual forums for up to 1,000 students the next day, and they needed live captioning for the events. Our team helped IVC get live captioning scheduled for their Zoom webinars right away, and the events went smoothly the next day. AST provided high-quality instantaneous translation of speech to text using professional captioners, allowing deaf and hard of hearing participants to participate in real-time.
The University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder) has used our live captioning services for many years, with scheduling coordinated by the Disability Services department. Disability Services has a strong working relationship with the Office of Information Technology (OIT), which allows CU Boulder to provide comprehensive video accessibility for all of their course content, both for live classes and recorded content. CU Boulder uses several of our workflow integrations to make captioning of recorded content simple, and they are also exploring audio description. Full disclosure — CU Boulder is my alma mater, so I’m especially proud to see them raising the bar for video accessibility in higher education!
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has been a client of AST for over 10 years. CDC has been one of the key organizations internationally helping to limit the spread of Covid-19, and they have been actively creating new accessible videos and holding webinars with live captioning to share research and best practices about how to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. In mid-April, I took a call from a CDC employee that had had just returned from a multi-week deployment on the frontlines of the pandemic. She was concerned that her department had missed the payment date for their latest invoice from AST for captioning services, due to the fact that the invoice had come in while she was deployed and hadn’t been promptly forwarded to the appropriate person for payment. I promised to note an exception on her account, reassured her that we would extend the payment deadline, and thanked her and her colleagues for their service. It was a small gesture on our part, but it felt good to know that our work was helping someone serving on the frontlines during the crisis.
In short, I want to thank all of our customers who have worked so hard to maintain digital accessibility over the last two months, “flattening the curve” in an accessible and inclusive way. Your work is undeniably essential. Please stay safe and healthy, and keep up the great work!