Making online meetings more accessible with live translation

Making online meetings more accessible with live translation

by Susan Charland and Charvi Gupta

At Highland Planning, we are focused every day on digital accessibility and inclusion. One way to make online meetings more accessible and inclusive is to ensure participants have easy access to translation services. Highland Planning team member, Charvi Gupta, explains:

How do you know when you need translation services?

Charvi: You may have to research the demographics and langauges spoken in a particular community. We can also trust our clients and partners to understand their communities. For example, we were recently planning an online public meeting for a Strategic Housing Plan in Texas, where we learned that a major segment of the population we were trying to reach speaks Spanish. We wanted to make the meeting accessible to them by offering Spanish translation.

In a previous public meeting, we had invited a translator to conduct sequential translation, where everything was first stated in English and then repeated in Spanish. That technique proved to be a bit confusing for participants and extended the meeting time significantly. This time around, we found a way to streamline the process.

How did you streamline the translation process?

Charvi: Zoom recently introduced a new feature in which an interpreter translates simultaneously through a separate channel. Before the meeting date, we contacted the translator and got them set up in Zoom first (although you can also assign a translator to their channel after a meeting has started). During the meeting, participants who select the “Translate” icon were taken to a channel where they could see the presentation and listen to the translated discussion in real time. You can have multiple interpreters/languages during the same meeting. Participants simply choose which language they want. Attendees can listen to the English language in the background, or they can choose to listen to just the selected language.

Was the meeting recorded in Spanish, too?

Charvi: If the host is recording, by default it will be recorded in English. The translator can record a version of the meeting on their channel, which will be recorded in their language.

What did participants think?

Charvi: Participants were happy to have the meeting content translated simultaneously because it was more efficient and took less time out of their day. Overall, it was a great way to broaden the reach of our online public meeting.

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