Microsoft has added live captions and subtitles to Skype, intended to provide a more inclusive experience for people who are hearing impaired or deaf. The real-time captions and subtitles are optimized to be fast, continuous and contextually updated as people speak. The new feature works on the latest version of Skype for one-on-one calls or to any phone number, as well as in group calls with a work team or friend group.

Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Alastair McEwin, said live captioning and subtitles on Skype will now mean hundreds of thousands of people who are deaf or hard of hearing can engage with Skype functionality in a way they couldn’t before. “I congratulate Skype on this important initiative,” he told F2L. “With the right access, technology has the capacity to provide wonderful opportunities for people with disability but when technology is not accessible, it creates new barriers which results in exclusion.   By having Skype audio conversations converted into text, Skype is showing the marketplace that, as customers increasingly adopt digital technology into their lives, tech companies can create a more inclusive experience for everyone.”

Currently, the captions and subtitles auto-scroll into a call, but in the pipeline are additional viewing options, including scrolling through a side window, in video or live subtitles.  Skype also plans to release translations that support over 20 languages that allow users to read subtitles in the language chosen during a call. The new capabilities are scheduled to arrive natively in Microsoft PowerPoint in Q1.

The subtitles and real-time captions feature are available in Android, iOS, Mac, Linux and Skype for Windows 10.

To turn on live captions and subtitles during a call, select the more+ button and select Turn subtitles on. To turn off, click Turn subtitles off. To enable live captions and subtitles as the default for all Skype calls, select your profile picture, click on Settings > Calling > Call subtitles and toggle on Show subtitles for all voice and video calls.