VITAC in 2018: The Year in Review

by: David Titmus

The end of the year often is a time for reflection — a chance to pause and take stock of the year that was, and an opportunity to look ahead. It’s a time to celebrate the successes of the past 365 days and consider future challenges.

As always, 2018 was a busy year for VITAC. We captioned more than 550,000 hours of programming this year (or a little more than one hour’s worth of captions for every minute of every day), and made some of the biggest broadcast events of the year accessible to all audiences.

Commitment to Clients

VITAC provided captions for 2018’s biggest sporting events, including the XXIII Olympic Winter Games and Paralympic Winter Games, Super Bowl LII, the 2018 World Cup (both English and Spanish captions), the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, and the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs and Winter Classic as well as NFL and college football and the US Open Tennis tournament.

Athletes at the Winter OlympicsWe provided captions for more than 1,300 hours of programming and events for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games. Our captioners, coordinators, schedulers, and engineers brought captions to 630 hours of broadcast coverage across NBCUniversal and its affiliated television platforms as well as more than 750 hours of webcast video.

The PyeongChang games marked the 12th Olympics captioned by VITAC, including, most recently, the Olympic Games in Rio (2016), Sochi (2014), London (2012), Vancouver (2010), Beijing (2008), and Athens (2004).

And while we’re talking about sports, VITAC teamed up with Major League Soccer’s New York Red Bulls to bring inclusive, accessible soccer action to all fans. VITAC provided live, in-game captions on the scoreboard of Red Bull Arena that display all of the public address announcements, such as player, scoring and penalty information, in-stadium promotions and advertising, and end-of-game announcements, among others.

And the hits kept coming. We’re also proud of our work with Major League Baseball’s (MLB) “Ballpark” mobile app that incorporated VITAC captions directly into team applications. Available at the touch of a button, the app allows users to access team schedules, scoring summaries, stadium maps, social media updates, special offers, MLB-exclusive content, and even order food. VITAC-provided captions currently are available through the San Francisco Giants, Atlanta Braves, Colorado Rockies, Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Angels, and New York Mets.

Commitment to Accessibility

And, yes, we know that high-quality, professionally produced captions and accessibility for all is no laughing matter. Unless, of course, we’re providing captions for the Lucille Ball or Pittsburgh comedy festivals.

VITAC was proud to partner with the National Comedy Center (host to the annual Lucille Ball Comedy Festival) in Jamestown, New York, and the Pittsburgh Comedy Festival to bring captions to stand-up comedy shows, making all the punchlines accessible and ensuring that everyone is in on the joke. The captions were displayed on dedicated hand-held devices or in-venue video monitors so that people could read along with the performance.

Students using computers in the classroomIn 2018, VITAC also was named a pre-approved vendor for the California Community Colleges’ Distance Education Captioning and Transcription grant that enables California Community Colleges to expand video accessibility by providing funding for live and pre-recorded captioning and transcription for all students in distance education courses.

VITAC is an approved vendor for live, realtime captioning, which includes realtime captioning of classes, lectures, and podcasts that are delivered live via webcast, broadcast, Internet TV, and other means.

According to the California Community Colleges, distance education – the education of students who may not always be physically present at a school – comprises the college system’s fastest growing segment of enrollment.

Commitment to Advocates, Industry

VITAC’s goal always has been and continues to be centered around providing more access, more information, and more ways to communicate, thereby creating a more inclusive world serving all people — deaf and hearing — by enabling information access to all.

To that end, as we have for the past 30-plus years, VITAC continued to work with caption viewers, advocacy groups, consumer organizations, and broadcasters in 2018.

We continued our work with the Federal Communications Commission this year, serving on the commission’s Disability Advisory Committee, which provides advice and recommendations to the FCC on a wide variety of disability issues. (VITAC previously was appointed by the FCC in 2014 to help create and draft the language for the Closed Captioning Best Practices guide, and from 2010-12 served on the FCC’s Video Programming Accessibility Advisory Committee for benchmarking captioning TV shows via IP).

VITAC Captions at SHRM ConferenceVITAC also made its mark at a number of important industry conferences and events in 2018, and was a proud sponsor of the National Association of the Deaf’s 54th Biennial Conference, TDI’s 50th Anniversary Gala, the Colorado Broadband & Communications Conference, and the 2018 SHRM Diversity & Inclusion Conference & Exposition.

We also attended the National Association of Broadcasters annual conference, where we showcased VITAC Control Tower™, a new cloud-based component of the VITAC Power Connect family that allows easy connections between captioners and customers, and our CMO, John Capobianco, was among the featured speakers at this year’s annual Streaming Media West and National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors conferences.

As a leader in captioning and accessibility for more than three decades, we’ve gained a lot of knowledge and experience, and we’re always more than happy to share that with customers and consumers.

VITAC hosted two successful, well-attended webinars over the past few months, discussing the importance and myriad benefits of captioned (both live and prerecorded) content, and also unveiled a new online look at VITAC.com, with updated pages, improved site navigation, and a revamped “Frequently Asked Questions” page, all designed to give visitors more access to information.

The world of captioned content continues to expand. Today, most television programs — taped, live, and near-live — are captioned in the United States, and organizations across various industries, including those in the tech, finance, government, education, and sporting and events sectors, are using captions to help employees, customers, partners, and students access and navigate the world around them. Simply put, captions have become part of our everyday lives.

A leader in the captioning market for more than three decades, VITAC is extremely proud to employ the most highly trained, qualified, and experienced professional captioners in the business, supported by a team of highly skilled engineers, schedulers, and coordinators.

VITAC will continue its dedication to people, processes, and technology in 2019, investing in solutions to increase the reliability, delivery, and monitoring of captions. The company sees a future where captions are ubiquitous, and not just on the TV screen.