Real-time Captioning for Web-Based Events

Planning an accessible event applies to web-based/remote events (e.g. Zoom, YouTube Live, etc.), in addition to face-to-face events. Some web-based events require real-time captioning. The following is a list of commonly asked questions regarding real-time captioning for web-based events. If you have any additional questions or wish to discuss details regarding your upcoming event, please contact for real-time captioning or for general event accessibility.

There are some factors that determine whether or not a web-based event requires real-time captioning:

  • Is it an open event? An open event means the event is public facing with no prior registration required. Open events require real-time captioning.
  • Is it a closed event? A closed event means the event is only available to participants who have registered prior to the event taking place (i.e. through an RSPV page). Closed events do not require real-time captioning if no participant requests it as an accommodation.

For closed events, an Event Access Statement should be placed on your registration page. An Event Access Statement ensures you are planning an inclusive event by inviting participants to request accommodations, including real-time captioning. See the DPRC Accessible Events Checklist for further information, including a sample Event Access Statement.

Media captioning (often referred to as “closed captioning”) is a textual representation of pre-recorded audio content embedded in a video or other media. This allows deaf or hard of hearing viewers to have equal access to the media being shown. To request captioning for multimedia to be used during your event, please complete a Media Captioning Request Form.

Real-time captioning involves a professional who transcribes in real-time, using specialized equipment and software, spoken communication into conventional written English verbatim. The deaf or hard-of-hearing individual is able to follow spoken communication that is displayed in text format on a computer screen or other display device. To request real-time captioning, please complete a Deaf and Hard of Hearing – Custom Request.

Live events on social media sites are open to the public and thus require real-time captioning. See the Accessible Social Media Guide or contact DHOH services at for further information regarding planned events on social media.

Please complete an online DHOH Custom Request form and include the following information in the notes section:

  • Zoom link (or let us know you’ll follow up with the link when it is ready)
  • Format: is it a Zoom meeting, Zoom webinar, streamed to YouTube Live, etc.?
  • A description of the event. You may also include a link to the event website that provides more information about the event. More information about necessary prep materials can be found below.

Possibly. If the event is sponsored or co-sponsored by a non-general fund SF State entity and/or is not part of a student’s academic experience, a chargeback may be involved. Please contact DHOH services at for more information regarding your specific event.

Captions for web-based events are streamed to a third-party website called StreamText. A unique StreamText URL is set up prior to the event which the host should share with participants before and at the start of the event. During the event, the participants will be able to view the captions by opening a browser window with the provided URL.

Zoom has a way to embed captions directly into the Zoom meeting window; however, the captioning appears on the screen for a short amount of time. We recommend directing participants to StreamText for a higher quality captioning experience. If you plan on feeding your Zoom event to YouTube and need to the captions to appear in Zoom for this purpose, please let us know in your request and contact DHOH services at to discuss further.

The captioner will need to access the event, such as Zoom link and passcode, or social media account information. They will also need to know if there are any security restrictions (such as requiring to have a Zoom account to access the event). If the event is set up as a webinar, please make the captioner a co-host to ensure they can access the Zoom event to communicate with the event hosts before the event opens to participants.

Captioners will need prep material to prepare for their work. Prep material includes:

  • Program or agenda
  • Speaker outline or scripts
  • Name(s) of speaker(s) and people to be recognized (such as graduates, honorees, and award recipients), if applicable
  • Specialized terminology related to the subject matter of the event/expected to be used during the event

In many cases, requests should be made at least 1 week prior to the event. Major, high-profile events and requests requiring broadcast-compatible captioning require 3-4 weeks’ notice, as additional time is necessary to procure the appropriate service provider(s) and for any necessary setup and testing prior to the event. As soon as you believe real-time captioning will be needed, even if you do not have all of the details finalized for your event, feel free to contact DHOH Services at as we are happy to discuss specifics related to your event.

Requests made with less notice than the above guidelines may be fulfilled depending on the availability of services providers and the ability for DPRC to reasonably coordinate the service with the requesting party before the event takes place. If you receive a request from a participant with short notice, please make the request with DPRC. We will advise if the request can be fulfilled before the time of the event.

If you do not receive any requests for real-time captioning, please notify DHOH Services at to cancel your request. DPRC requires at least 48 business-hours’ notice to avoid incurring late cancellation fees. Cancelling real-time captioning services in advance, when possible, frees up resources, including allowing captioners to cover other needs that may arise.

While automated captioning has improved over time, it does not yet meet legal requirements for events requiring real-time captioning. If your event does not require real-time captioning, you may consider enabling automated live captions for your event in light of Universal Design principles.

Visit Video Accessibility and Universal Design for Learning for information on how captioning supports many people, and visit the DPRC Accessible Events Checklist for further information on how to make your event accessible.