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Closed-Captioning Comes To Web Conferencing

The Web has been a great place for those who have difficulty hearing - it's mostly a silent world of pictures and text. But for the growing world of Web Conferencing and e-Learning where sound is a factor, many users were left behind.

Coming to the rescue is PlaceWare, which specializes in Web conferencing services for Internet-based business communications.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company Wednesday announced a deal with Newport Beach, Calif.-based Rapidtext to provide the first closed-captioning service for Web conferencing services.

The service is available through PlaceWare's "Services" organization and is delivered on an individual event basis rather than as part of the customer's subscription.

These services provide two important benefits for all web conference users. One is eliminating delays for live conference users who rely on TTY machines or relay communications for delivering audio; and the other is allowing participants using the new PlaceWare Replay recording feature to review presentations with transcribed and/or captioned text, eliminating the need for audio.

The other added benefit of the service say the companies, is that it makes the Webcast fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) - a must have for any site dealing with U.S. government organizations.

"We can now provide additional value-added services in an efficient way to current customers while reaching out to customers with non-native English speaking employees as well as hearing-impaired users who have been unable to efficiently utilize web conferencing technology to date," says PlaceWare president and CEO Barry James Folsom.

How it works is that PlaceWare will offer its customers a line of services that include Rapidtext's technology as part of its Web conferencing packages.

Users will get streaming media support including 24 hour turnaround transcription, time coding in any format, direct transcription from RealVideo, Windows Media or QuickTime files, scalable large volume capacity, custom interface, video keyword search, and on-demand file retrieval.

The captioning services will allow real-time and simultaneous Internet textcasting, translation, transcription, and broadcast and audience captioning.

The system has been heavily field-tested. For the last six years, Rapidtext has provided a similar service for students with hearing disabilities at USC.

"The academic settings have been varied and challenging," says Judith Bushnell, associate director for disability services and programs at the University of Southern California. "In a larger venue, Rapidtext has provided captioning for our annual Commencement event. Rapidtext has always been supportive and very focused on providing the very best service possible."