Grey Cup Makes History with Mobile Captioning

By Sheila Serup, MBA

The 107th Grey Cup Game made history on November 24, 2019. Not only did the Winnipeg Blue Bombers end one of the longest CFL championship droughts, but the Grey Cup increased accessibility for people with disabilities by streaming mobile captioning for all “in-the-bowl” commentary.

CHHA-Calgary worked closely with the Stampeders host team, Calgary Flames and CFL to offer mobile captioning. The decision to move away from ribbon captioning on LED screens or Jumbotron was driven by limited access in the aging McMahon Stadium.

Instead free Wi-Fi was strengthened throughout the venue, and a platform set up on Streamtext and linked to the Grey Cup website. A live audio feed was provided to the sports captioners who worked remotely. An announcement was made in the stadium at the start about captioning being made available for fans. Captioning started pre-game and did not cease until the end of the trophy presentation. It included the game commentary, music lyrics of the dazzling half-time show by Keith Urban, all interviews, contests and trophy presentation.

The result was an amazing experience of accurate, timely streamed text which created full inclusion to the 107th Grey Cup. The benefits of receiving captioning on personal devices or cell phones meant that up to 30 lines of text would be visible at one time. Streamtext allowed users to scroll back to read earlier text. Fears that batteries of cellphones would drain rapidly in the outdoors were unfounded. After four hours of captioning, my cell phone was at 75 per cent. The gaps between commentary enabled me to keep my phone warm in my pocket.

Captioning or CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation) is the professional word-for-word transcription of speech to text in real time and full access to all spoken words. Delivered by Streamtext it was excellent. This was the first time I had attended a live sports event with full access to all spoken words, and it was an incredible moment of feeling fully included in the total game experience.

CHHA-Calgary sponsored the captioning while the Stampeders provided the audio feed and free Wi-Fi. Sports captioning was provided by AB Captioning & CART Inc. Mobile captioning at the 107th Grey Cup will demonstrate to other major sports organizations, including the NHL, that offering “in game” mobile captioning is a low budget expense that dramatically increases accessibility and inclusion for fans with invisible disabilities.

Austin Shaw, Manager, Game Presentation and Events, Calgary Stampeders, said: “We aimed to make this an awesome experience for all fans.” And judging from the results, the 107th Grey Cup delivered.