Hiring Qualified Speech-to-Text Providers

Speech-to-text is one method of providing effective communication access to deaf people under the law. However, it is not enough to simply provide the technology; speech-to-text services are only as good as the skills of the service provider. When hiring a service provider, a number of factors must be considered. Institutions must evaluate the quality of service to ensure that effective, realtime communication access is occurring.

Defining Qualified Service Providers

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a qualified speech-to-text provider is defined as someone who effectively, accurately, and impartially conveys realtime communication access in text, either on-site or remotely. A qualified provider will exhibit a high level of comprehension, ethical behavior, realtime speed, and accuracy.

The first step to assessing qualification is to determine the provider’s relevant education, training, and experience in their specific speech-to-text system.

Different Types of Providers


A CART provider should hold either an associate’s or bachelor’s degree from a National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) certified school. The NCRA also grants qualified candidates a Certified Realtime Captioner (CRC) certification.


A C-Print® provider should hold a certificate of completion of the online training program from the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, a college of the Rochester Institute of Technology.

TypeWell Provider

A TypeWell provider should hold a certificate verifying successful completion of the online training program from TypeWell.

What is the Realtime Standard for a Provider?

The standard for a CART provider using a steno-keyboard is a minimum of 180 words per minute (wpm) with 96% accuracy, as measured by the word error rate. In that calculation, errors are identified as a “substitution” of a word, “deletion” of a word, and “insertion” of a word that was not spoken. The word error rate = (the number of substitutions + deletions + insertions) ÷ the total number of words spoken.

The standard for C-Print® and TypeWell using a standard keyboard is a minimum of 60 wpm with 96% accuracy. As CART is a word-for-word transcription, its accuracy can be easier to measure than C-Print® and TypeWell, which use a “meaning for meaning” standard. In this case, the essence of what is being said is conveyed, but word choice may be different. This means that a more nuanced analysis of the content is needed to determine completeness and equivalence. Accuracy can be assessed in realtime by observing the captioning produced by a service provider during an assignment. Alternatively, it is possible to review a transcript after the fact and comment on the completeness and equivalence of the content.

The Role of References and Referrals in The Hiring Process

Interviews with the service provider’s current and former colleagues, clients, and supervisors are always a good source of information about the provider’s qualifications. Seek references that provide insight into not only the provider’s skill level and experience, but also their ethics and professionalism, which are equally important factors when assessing a provider’s qualifications.

What Work Experience is Important to Consider?

As in most professions, education and training establishes the foundation of functional skills. Competency and realtime skills develop further in an internship or with structured mentoring, and these types of professional development activities lead to a higher quality of service.

Work experience in a particular setting makes a provider more qualified to work in that same setting again, though realtime skills are transferable to other settings in most circumstances. For example, a provider working in K–12 schools may transition easily from elementary to high school, but require more mentoring when transitioning to a postsecondary environment.

Professionalism and Ethics

Each system of speech-to-text services has a code of ethics that describes the high professional standards expected of providers.

Finding a Provider

Professional organizations and job boards associated with each system may help in identifying service providers. Agencies that provide media captioning may also provide realtime captioning.

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