For the 37 million Americans who experience hearing loss, COVID-19 and national social distancing measures have created a new set of challenges, according to a new survey released by InnoCaption, a mobile app-based provider of real-time captioning for phone calls. Innocaption announced the results in a press release.
The survey found that whether it’s healthcare needs, connecting with friends or family, or continuing with day-to-day remote job responsibilities, all ages of the deaf and hard-of-hearing community are uniquely feeling the impact of these global changes. The community agrees that the biggest obstacle faced during the current COVID-19 pandemic situation has been communication difficulties due to social distancing and the use of masks. The survey also confirms that those with hearing loss are utilizing real-time phone call captioning technology to help them effectively do their jobs, touching on the challenges of increased remote conferences and video calls.
The company surveyed more than 840 respondents online from the hard-of-hearing community from May 22, 2020 to June 10, 2020 during the first phase of the coronavirus pandemic. Additionally, InnoCaption conducted a poll of its community via its Facebook page with regards to the impact of masks. The poll was conducted from June 30, 2020 to July 7, 2020 and surveyed 64 respondents. Findings from both are captured within the survey results.
Highlights from the survey include:
- Of the most important needs for access to communication services for the hard of hearing, healthcare needs ranked consistently high for users across age groups with 90% of respondents feeling that real-time phone call captioning was somewhat to very important for emergencies and 85% expressing it’s somewhat to very important for healthcare needs.
- 55% of respondents indicated that usage of smartphone apps like InnoCaption has increased since the start of COVID-19, where almost 60% of users now use the app more than 10 times per week, indicating an increased need for alternative accessible communication options.
- 56% of respondents answered “Definitely yes” when asked whether phone call captioning mobile apps have helped to stay in touch with their respective communities; 50% of both the youngest and oldest age groups (70+ and <30) indicated real-time captioning apps are helpful for staying in touch.
- Across all age groups 40 and older, at least 80% of respondents indicated smartphone apps like InnoCaption are important for keeping in touch with friends and family, while younger age groups still noted using phone call captioning apps for staying connected, they ranked lower (29%) potentially due to more prevalent use of social media and messaging apps.
- Of the age groups who ranked the real-time phone call captioning service very important for emergencies, those 30 and under ranked the highest at 86%.
“When COVID-19 hit, no one could predict the impact it would have on our lives, however, for those with hearing loss like myself, the impact has created an even larger set of challenges for day-to-day activities,” said Joe Duarte, Co-CEO of InnoCaption. “Our users represent a community who has been forgotten as the use of masks and virtual conversations has become widely used. This survey shows that while technology such as real-time phone call captioning can help bridge that gap, there is still much work to be done as a society to create accessibility and inclusiveness for all.”
The deaf and hard of hearing have long struggled to make and receive cell phone calls with confidence. The need for technology to assist with virtual communication has grown over time and, most recently, became a necessity as a result of the pandemic. Users of InnoCaption are able to choose between live stenographers or automated speech recognition (ASR) for all of their real-time phone call captioning needs, whether at home, at work, or in emergencies. InnoCaption is “the first mobile app to provide real-time captioning of smartphone calls to the deaf and hard of hearing at no cost primarily through stenographers.” The company also recently launched DeskView, a new feature that enables users to view captions via the desktop, making conference calls more accessible and eliminating the need to toggle between screens.
For a more comprehensive view of the survey data, please see the full report and infographic here.