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Real-Time Captioners


Real-time captioning technology arose from a need to make live broadcasts accessible to people who are deaf or hard of hearing. To meet this need, the National Captioning Institute (NCI), founded in 1979, became the chief architect of the computer-based technology needed to bring captions to real-time audiences nationwide. At first, the NCI provided captions only for prerecorded programs. Captions were prepared in advance by people who were not court reporters. It soon became apparent, however, that captions were needed for live television, so the NCI went to work developing a system that could prepare captions for live broadcast.

The NCI first introduced real-time captioning to eager audiences in April 1982 when it captioned the Academy Awards. Today, real-time captioners create captions for a wide range of live broadcasts on network, cable, syndication, and pay-per-view services. All programs on prime-time schedules of the four major commercial networks are now captioned, many by real-time captioners.

Real-time captions are generated within seconds after a word is spoken. They are made possible by highly skilled court reporters, who receive months of specialized retraining to become first-class real-time captioners.