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CAPTIONING: Providing access for clients who are deaf-blind

close-up of fingers reading brailleBy Megan Rogers

It’s difficult to determine exactly how many people in the United States are deaf-blind because the definition for deaf-blind varies from person to person. The Gallaudet University Library cites two sources: a 1980 national study by the Department of Education that estimated 42,000 to 700,000 people and a 2008 paper by Barbara Miles for the National Consortium on Deaf-Blindness that estimates more than 10,000 children (birth to 22 years) are deaf-blind and 35,000 to 45,000 adults are. Altogether, this is less than 1 percent of the population of the United States.

Even within the group, there is a variety of conditions. Some people classified as deaf-blind may have had no hearing or visual ability since birth and some may have been slowly losing one ability or the other, and the loss could be due to a variety of reasons. Deaf-blind could also mean low visibility or low hearing rather than no ability at all. Because of these characteristics, CART providers and captioners working with this population need to be flexible and tailor their services for the individual client.

Technology and equipment

There are two main questions to consider when choosing equipment for a client who is deaf-blind: 1) What is the client’s visual ability? 2) If the client cannot see at all, does the client read Braille?

“There are a lot of conditions that involve both vision and hearing loss, but most people who have them are hard of hearing and low vision rather than completely deaf and completely blind,” says Mirabai Knight, RDR, CRR, CBC, CCP, a captioner in New York, N.Y. Knight says, “Giving people a tablet with the captioning on it so that they can put it close to their eyes, asking them which foreground and background colors they prefer, and asking which font size they prefer can help a lot.”

Debra Cheyne, a CART captioner in Sherwood, Ore., provided captioning for a juror who has limited visual and audio abilities in November. Cheyne connected a monitor to her equipment and arranged for white text on a black background using Arial font that was sized as large as possible; each letter was about two to three inches tall. In some cases, such as with a client who experiences tunnel vision, it may be more helpful to have smaller text in the middle of a screen.

Clients who were born blind or deaf-blind are more likely to read Braille, although this is not always true. Kolby Garrison, a court reporting student at College of Court Reporting who is blind, explained that Braille is not taught as often anymore because people are more likely to use screen-reader software on a computer. Clients who can read Braille may have a refreshable Braille display that connects to the client’s computer (or other devices) and translates English text from a screen-reader program into Braille letters. Garrison, for example, prefers a 40-cell display because it’s easy to carry around along with her other equipment, although the size ranges from 14 to 80 cells. Some displays also come with a keyboard so the user can input information in Braille, which Garrison prefers because then she can use the display with other devices. The American Foundation for the Blind lists more than a dozen screen-reader programs on their website; JAWS is the most popular. Even for clients who read Braille, their fluency level determines how quickly they will be able to follow along with the text. It is important for a captioner to keep in mind that their client may not be able to read as quickly as the speaker is talking, even if the captioner can keep up.

Depending on the method of caption delivery, the client may be able to control the display settings. Jennifer Aggeler, a broadcast captioner in Kneeland, Calif., who has provided on-site CART for clients who are deaf-blind in the past, noted that the technology has changed quite a bit over the years and suggests using the free applications Google Docs or Microsoft Word Online. “The CART provider, after creating an online text document and setting it to ‘share,’ simply writes realtime text directly into the document on their computer while the viewer simultaneously has the same document open on their computer and reads at their own pace,” Aggeler said.

Text on Top is a paid option for delivering captions to a client who is deaf-blind. Sander Pasveer, who developed Text on Top, explained, “When reading from a screen is not possible because of a visual impairment, Text on Top comes with an application called Text on Top Vision. An individual user can read the text from his or her own laptop or tablet and adjust the appearance to his or her own needs. It also allows the user to scroll backwards.”

For clients who are using refreshable Braille devices, the technology may need to be adjusted a bit. Nick Wilkie, CEO at StreamText.Net, another paid option for delivering captions, explained that screen readers are set up to work best with static text, so the dynamic text of captions makes that tricky. StreamText.Net has a workaround that allows users to keep the cursor at the bottom of the text.

Since Cheyne worked with her equipment connected to a monitor, she also removed all of the distracting information from the software so the screen displayed only the captioning feed. She also arranged to have as many lines of text available as possible with a continuous flow. Aggeler also adjusts her format slightly for a remote CART job by removing chevrons and identifying speakers with names, ensuring all text starts on the left, using true dashes rather than two hyphens, and having single spacing.


Many on-site and remote CART jobs with a client who is deaf-blind require the same preparation for a client who is deaf or hard of hearing. Garrison suggested talking with the client about what the job would entail and provide as much detail as possible. She also stressed the importance of testing the equipment ahead of time, which Aggeler echoed, with the reminder that everyone is different and the way that everyone does or accomplishes things is different.

However, Cheyne often provides captioning in the Oregon court system, and since the court staff is usually not made aware of the client’s particular disability, she may not get many details before a job. Since Cheyne needs to be prepared for any situation when she arrives in court for an assignment, she prepares for the factors she can control, such as being well-rested and packing water and small snacks. She does, however, emphasize the importance of asking for an ergonomic chair if possible to make sure her back is supported throughout a potentially long day.

All other duties as assigned

Sometimes, providing captioning for clients who are deaf-blind involves a few extra responsibilities.

Cheyne said it is particularly important to make sure, when appropriate, that whoever is speaking provide a verbal account of any visual representations, such as drawings on a whiteboard. This information will most likely need to get to the client through the realtime stream unless the client has alternative technology; Cheyne’s client used an ELMO document camera to scan written documents and project reverse imaging onto a second monitor. Depending on the situation, the captioner may also need to be prepared to include side conversations or other language so the client can fully participate with the people around them, although Aggeler pointed out that any captioner should be used to providing sound description parentheticals. While some clients may want to get extra information like how many other people are in the room, others may not. “Know your client,” Aggeler said.

Cheyne also pointed out that the captioner may also need to consider physical logistics, such as making sure a client who is a juror is sitting at the end of a row so other jurors aren’t distracted by the captioner’s screen but also keeping in mind where the plug is located (and don’t forget to tape down those cords). If the client has a service animal, where the animal sits may affect where the captioner’s equipment is placed as well. These other considerations highlight the importance of being flexible with clients who are deaf-blind to make sure their experience runs smoothly.

The importance of accessibility cannot be understated. With a little extra knowledge and preparation, captioning for a client who is deaf-blind can be similar to providing captioning for any other client. At the same time, being flexible with clients who have unique needs can also serve as an important reminder. As Aggeler put it, “CART is best when it includes an individual approach, something tailored to the consumer, instead of a one-size-fits-all approach.”


Megan Rogers is NCRA’s Communications Assurance Specialist. She can be reached at

Court reporting student considers blindness a characteristic, not limitation

Nearly two years ago, Kolby Garrison from Greensboro, N.C., enrolled as an online student at Brown College of Court Reporting in Atlanta, Ga. Like other court reporting students around the country, Garrison practices daily, attends her classes, and says that speed building is one of the most challenging aspects of learning the court reporting profession. Garrison, who is blind, attributes much of her success so far in reaching her educational goals to Brown College and looks forward to graduation when she can also provide captioning and CART services.  The JCR Weekly recently interviewed Garrison about what drew her to the field of court reporting and more.


JCR Weekly: What drew you to the court reporting profession?

Garrison: I was drawn to the court reporting profession by my mother encouraging me to look at court reporting as a career option. I debated between court reporting and law school. I chose court reporting over law school based on the position held by the court reporter within the legal field and the skills that are required to be a stenographer.

JCR Weekly: What are your goals for the future when you graduate?

Garrison: My goals for the future include working in the court reporting, captioning, and Communication Access Realtime Translation provision fields.

JCR Weekly: Can you share how you access and participate in online classes?

Garrison: I use assistive technology to access information. I have software on my computer that speaks the text on the screen, and a device that displays the text on the screen in Braille. The Braille display enables me to read back and edit my writing. I participate in online classes on an equal level with my fellow classmates. Materials are provided in the formats that are accessible to me, and my instructors verbally describe anything that they present during class.

JCR Weekly: How supportive has Brown College of Court Reporting been in helping you to achieve you goals?

Garrison: I cannot say enough about the support that I receive from Brown College of Court Reporting. I contacted numerous court reporting schools with online programs, and Brown College of Court Reporting was the only school to express enthusiasm about accommodating my needs as a student who is blind.

JCR Weekly: What has been the most challenging part of learning the profession for you?

Garrison: For me, the most challenging aspect of learning the court reporting profession is building speed.

JCR Weekly: Some will consider you to be a true role model given what you have overcome to pursue this profession. What would be your response to that?

Garrison: I view my blindness as a characteristic. My not being able to see does not limit me if I can help it. Blindness presents challenges and difficulties at times, but where there is a will, there is a way. Finding the way might require alternative approaches, but the way will be found if you have the right tools and the right attitude. I have the will, and I will find the way!

WKT given in braille for the second time

Amy Davidson and Eva Liu

Along with the many people who will be taking the RPR Written Knowledge Test in April is a student who is blind and will be reading the test in braille.

It is the second time a person has taken the test in braille. The first was Kayde Rieken in April 2017.

To make the braille test possible took the efforts of NCRA’s Director of Certification and Testing Amy Davidson and Certification and Testing Program Manager Eva Liu. They found a company to translate the test into braille. The current test taker will be answering the same questions as the other April 2019 test takers.

Davidson and Liu make accommodations for a variety of disabilities and special situations.

“NCRA really strives to provide the best opportunities for all of our candidates,” Davidson said. “Anyone who has a medically documented type of requirement for accommodation needs to reach out to us, and we will work with them. Please reach out to NCRA early so we have time to make it work.”

NCRA covers the cost of creating the braille test and the additional accommodations that are needed  with the testing company, Pearson VUE. Davidson and Liu work with each candidate who needs special accommodations to give them an individualized plan with Pearson.

The current braille test taker will be in a room with a personal proctor who will be timing her and also recording her answers. For example, the test taker will say “question 1, answer B,” and the proctor will repeat it back to her and then mark the answer on the test.

“We go above and beyond to make sure our testing candidates have a positive experience,” Liu said.  “We are walking alongside them every step of the way through the testing process.”

Besides accommodations for disabilities, NCRA staff has also worked with test takers on issues like test location. They worked with Pearson VUE to authorize additional locations in Jamaica and the Bahamas so that candidates can test locally.

“We do everything in our power to help candidates succeed in their testing,” Liu said.

Accommodations also happen for the online skills testing within the online testing platform.

In striving for success for all candidates, NCRA’s online skills test registration includes the opportunity for a proctored practice exam before the real test. It’s a great way for test takers to check equipment, Internet connectivity, test procedures, etc., to help candidates successfully take and pass their skills tests.

Visit our Certification Test Center to learn more about NCRA testing.

Register now for the premier advocacy education experience

If you are a state leader or are aspiring to become one, don’t miss NCRA’s 2019 Leadership & Legislative Boot Camp happening May 5-7, outside of Washington, D.C. Registration is now open, and spots are filling fast. This event is NCRA’s premier advocacy educational event designed to teach state leaders how to be effective for the court reporting and captioning professions and experience what it is like to advocate on Capitol Hill.

“This is absolutely the best investment state associations can make in their leadership teams,” said Phyllis Craver Lykken, RPR, a freelance court reporter from Yakima, Wash., who has attended NCRA’s Boot Camp before. She noted that the Washington Court Reporters Association (WCRA) is planning to send at least one of its future leaders to “muscle up” at this year’s event.

The cost to participate in the 2019 Leadership & Legislative Boot Camp is $225 per NCRA member and $175 for a second member attending from the state. The nonmember rate is $325. Registration ends on April 5. Once an attendee registers, they will receive a confirmation email with a link to book a hotel room at a special rate of $239 per night at the Embassy Suites in Old Town Alexandria, Va. The deadline to book a room at the special rate ends on April 12.

Craver Lykken said that, while serving as WCRA president, a bill was introduced in the state legislature to eliminate the state’s mandatory Court Reporting Practice Act.

“Our association was without a lobbyist at the time, and although we were blindsided and utterly panic-stricken, we were able to swing into action and utilize literally every aspect of the steps several of us had been trained to undertake by attending NCRA’s Boot Camp,” she said. “Working together, our board was able to quickly mobilize reporters from across the state into a boots-on-the-ground grassroots effort to convince members of the legislature that dismantling our existing law would be a big mistake. We succeeded in the very first hearing and saved our Court Reporting Practice Act. We could not have done that without the necessary training. This year it’s been expanded to include more aspects of leadership training. Fantastic idea! I’ve attended it three times, learning something new every single time.” 

The 2019 Leadership & Legislative Boot Camp will kick off with a session that will cover what attendees need to know about participating in the event. Other sessions will focus on the nuts and bolts of association work, politics 101, understanding NCRA’s 2019 federal initiative, more about the state of the court reporting, captioning, and legal videography professions, and how to mobilize a membership and successfully use grassroots advocacy — and that’s just the first day!

Click here to read more about what the 2019 Leadership and Legislative Boot Camp has to offer as well as more about the presenters.

“Boot Camp is a truly immersive experience. If there’s one thing you need to know in advance, it’s don’t plan on bringing any work with you or doing any sightseeing during the event. You’ll be busy every single minute,” said Liz Harvey, RPR, CCR, a freelance court reporter from Seattle, Wash., who has attended before.   

“The fact that Boot Camp is held in our nation’s capital makes it especially inspiring. To be able to take the training we received and immediately put it into action on Capitol Hill is truly rewarding. It’s an experience you won’t duplicate anywhere else,” Harvey added.

Remember, registration closes on April 5 so don’t wait! Secure your spot now.

NCRA proclamation contest and NCSA Challenge winners announced

Lisa Wagner

Congratulations to the Arizona Court Reporters Association (ACRA) on winning the NCRA 2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week proclamation drawing. ACRA President Kate Roundy, RPR, a freelance court reporter from Phoenix, Ariz., submitted the proclamation signed by Gov. Douglas A. Ducey.

This was the first year NCRA has offered the chance for state associations to enter a drawing for a free national Convention & Expo registration. A total of 16 states submitted proclamations.

“Arizona participates every year in NCRA’s Court Reporting & Captioning Week because, heck, we deserve the recognition, don’t we! We are a proud state that believes wholeheartedly that promoting our profession and recruiting for the future is our #1 priority,” Roundy said. “It’s important that we continue to educate our country of our vital role in the integrity of our judicial system as well as our essential role in providing captioning to the public.”

NCRA member Lisa Wagner, RPR, an official court reporter from Highlands Ranch, Colo., won the grand prize of a free NCRA Convention & Expo registration sponsored by the National Committee of State Associations (NCSA). Wagner delivered 11 presentations promoting the profession during the NCSA Challenge that kicked off at the 2018 NCRA Convention & Expo in New Orleans, La., and ended with the last day of 2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week held Feb. 9-16.

“I think it’s so important to participate in not only Court Reporting & Captioning Week but also other events such as career fairs and presentations to help promote the court reporting and captioning profession,” said Wagner.

“We really have a unique skill, and students are truly amazed and excited to see realtime or to touch and write on a steno machine. I asked a group of eighth grade girls what they thought a court reporter did. One girl answered hesitantly wasn’t it some kind of code. When I told her that she was exactly right, that it is a code or shorthand, she had a wonderful look on her face and said, ‘I never get anything right!’ That young lady will remember court reporting. That’s why I do this, to see the looks on their faces,” she added. 

First prize in the NCSA Challenge went to Kristen Wurgler, RPR, a CART captioner from Cottage Grove, Wis., who participated in six events promoting the profession including educating co-workers about the benefits of CART captioning.

“Honestly, National Court Reporting & Captioning Week is one of my favorite celebrations of the year. It’s my privilege to work as a CART provider at the University of Wisconsin-Madison,” Wurgler said.

“My colleagues at the McBurney Disability Resource Center are disability accommodation specialists who potentially will be recommending a CART accommodation for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. They need to be familiar with how CART works, the challenges of it, and the environments in which CART can be beneficial (remote or in the classroom).  I believe every member in a team needs to be celebrated so that we can encourage and support not only each other but, as a CART provider, the students we serve as well,” she added.

NCRA’s 2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week was celebrated by state associations, members, students, schools, and vendors in a variety of ways that showcased the profession and the skills needed to learn and write on a steno machine. Several-last minute activities adding to the long list of how people celebrated the week are listed below.

NCRA member Patti Ziegler, CRI, CPE, court reporting program chair at the Des Moines Area Community College was featured in a segment about court reporting that aired on about the court reporting and captioning professions.

Watch the segment.

Madison College

The Madison College in Madison, Wis., court reporting program produced a video for YouTube about court reporting and captioning careers that features Jane Kohlwey, a current student and attorney. The school also hosted an information table on campus to showcase the professions.

Watch it here.

Plaza College in Queens, N.Y., produced a radio announcement to celebrate Court Reporting & Captioning Week that was aired on AM970 during the Joe Piscopo show. The school also hosted reporters from local newspapers and participated in the NCRA Student Speed Contest.

Students at Ohio’s Cuyahoga Community College’s (Tri-C) court reporting and captioning program also held a number of events in honor of Court Reporting & Captioning Week.

Ohio’s Cuyahoga Community College

In addition to an annual write-a-thon and bake sale in the school’s Galleria, the students obtained sponsor funds from professionals, friends, and family to write on their steno machines for four hours. While writing, they mirrored the Birdbox Challenge, by putting a blindfold on to prevent them from watching their screen. 

Other activities included a professional pop-up sponsored by the Court Reporting and Captioning Club that afforded students the opportunity to see live demonstrations and chat with professionals, and a mock deposition was held that featured Timothy Peters, a Tri-C graduate and official court reporter in the role of the court reporter. In addition, Tri-C’s associate dean, Dr. James Ploskonka, acted as one of the attorneys, while full-time faculty member Dr. Jen Krueger served as the opposing counsel. Finally, a real detective from the city of Cleveland’s police department served as the witness.

Ohio’s Cuyahoga Community College

Students were also treated to a remote demonstration of CART and caption by Tri-C graduate Deana Kohn via WebEx, during which she captioned a wide variety of events from game shows to live news broadcasts. 

Read more about NCRA’s 2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week.

2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week celebrated big across the nation

NCRA members gear up for 2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week

2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week is happening nationwide

2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week celebrated in the media and on social media

Thanks again to everyone who participated in 2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week and who made this seventh year of celebration a great success! Mark your calendars now for 2020 Court Reporting & Captioning Week happening Feb. 8-15.

Remember, even though 2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week is over, you don’t need to stop showing your pride in being a court reporter or captioner. Keep up your activities to promote the profession year-round. NCRA has a number of resources to help members promote the profession throughout the year. Below are just a few:

NCRA’s Press Center

NCRA’s Information Center

NCRA’s Court Reporting & Captioning Week Page

NCRA DiscoverSteno

Contact for more information about what’s available.

NCRA and PCRA respond to article on accuracy of transcription

On Jan. 22, an article was published on, the website of the Philadelphia Inquirer, with the provocative title, “Are Philly court reporters accurate with black dialect? Study: Not really.” The article is based on a study of selected sentences taped and played for the study volunteers, who were asked to transcribe them as if for court. In asking questions about the accuracy, both the article and the study reinforce the importance of the court reporter’s role in the U.S. legal system.

The following is the letter sent on behalf of the National Court Reporters Association and the Pennsylvania Court Reporters Association by NCRA President Sue Terry, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC, and NCRA member and Pennsylvania Court Reporters Association President Melissa Keating, RPR, to the newspaper and to the study author.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on Cassie Owens’ article of Jan. 22, 2019, “Are Philly court reporters accurate with black dialect? Study: Not really.”

First, we appreciate the principle implicit within both Ms. Owens’ and the study’s content that court reporters are an indispensable part of the judicial process. We agree with the importance of interrupting when proceedings are not fully intelligible, as the resulting transcript imports verity to all who review it. Only a human being, charged with care of the record, is capable of instantly determining unintelligible speech and pausing the proceedings for clarification.

We support the goal of improvement within the legal system to protect the rights of those in the system. Court reporters are the last line of defense for the public against process abuse. Our absolute devotion to impartiality and accuracy is designed to ensure a reliable record for readers one day or one hundred years later.

It is from that ethical framework of impartiality and accuracy that we note possible misconceptions within the article and foundational study. This study was not live testimony where court reporters do their job. This was a study independent of their employment where taped phrases were played and they were asked to write them and then asked to paraphrase the statements on what the reporters thought the statement meant. In their jobs, court reporters do not interpret; we do not paraphrase. The very nature of our work demands that we not place our subjective judgment of what an utterance should be, or what may have been intended, over what is actually said.

In testimony that is difficult for a given listener to understand, there are options available to the court reporter and participants: 1) the reporter can interrupt to gain clarity; 2) engagement of a qualified interpreter to ensure that meaning is conveyed accurately; 3) consulting the court reporter’s realtime display of the transcript to resolve potential misunderstandings. (Only court reporters can provide such realtime displays.) We note that none of these vital options appeared to be available in the foundational study.

Protection of the measured and faithful administration of justice is the basis for court reporters’ very presence in the judicial process. Our system of jurisprudence demands that justice be blind, but justice cannot be deaf. We offer our support and expertise for opportunities that help to ensure that words spoken on the record are accurately preserved.

NCRA member shares how teenage intern inspires court employees while chasing her dream

Television station KRQE, Albuquerque, N.M., aired a story on Sept. 17 that features NCRA member Diona Gibson, RPR, an official court reporter for the Bernalillo County District Court, sharing her experience with a summer intern who was born blind and plans to become a court reporter.

Read more.

Disaster Preparedness and Evacuation Tech Essentials

By Christine Phipps

Were you prepared for last year’s emergencies? Hurricanes Harvey and Irma may now be behind us for the most part, California has started to rebuild from their wildfires, and innumerable other areas have worked through dangerous weather conditions, and during that time many of us discovered how ready – or not – we were to deal with these impending crises.

A disaster tech kit that you can get ready in advance will help you be prepared in the event catastrophe strikes — be that rioting, terrorist threat, breakdown somewhere, or natural disaster.  Your mission in preparing your tech kit is to ensure that your basic needs are met if you’re forced to evacuate your home or leave a dwelling or abandon a vehicle. The kit should include nutrition, water, medical supplies, and some way to communicate with loved ones and stay up-to-date on crisis alerts. Of course, your smartphone is the number one piece of technology to help with the latter, but the following apps and gadgets are also essential for a bug-out bag should you ever need to cut and run.

Motorola Consumer Radios MT352R
Should phone networks get overloaded with cities full of people trying to reach each other, a long-range walkie-talkie set could help you connect with your loved ones. The Motorola MT352R walkie-talkies can work over a 2-mile range in an urban setting through buildings, 6 miles over water, and up to 35 miles if nothing is in the way. $74.99 at Amazon.


Kaito KA550 emergency radio
If phones, internet, and electricity are all down, you’ll be glad you have this hand-crank multifunction AM/FM and shortwave radio to get updates on breaking situations and access to the Emergency Alert System. It doubles as a portable lamp with a 5-LED reading light, a flashlight, and an SOS beacon mode. It can be charged by a NiMH rechargeable battery pack, 3 AA batteries (not included), hand-crank generator, solar panel, or AC/DC wall adapter/charger (not included), should you have access to power; the radio also has a USB port to charge other mobile devices when you’re on the move. $49.99 from Amazon.

Gerber Bear Grylls Fire Starter
“Society is three square meals away from complete anarchy” suggest researchers — but with the Gerber Bear Grylls Fire Starter, you can hold off hunger-fueled rioting by rubbing together a ferrocerium rod and metal striker to make a nice big meat- (or portobello)-grilling fire. It comes with a waterproof storage compartment for tinder, as well as an emergency whistle and a pocket survival booklet with instructions on attracting rescuers’ attention. $13.30 from Amazon.


GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier and Bottle
If ‘they’ have gotten to the water supply, filtering your H20 will be crucial for survival until order is restored. Fill up the GRAYL with water from any fresh or tap water source, then push the purifier like a French press to remove 99.9999 percent of viruses and bacteria, and filter out particulates, chemicals and heavy metals. Bonus: It’s also handy for travelers who want to avoid the eco-impact of buying bottled water. $59.50 from Amazon.


ThermaCell Heated Insoles
In addition to the head, the feet are one of the greatest areas of heat loss in the body. Should a freak heavy rain or snowstorm come your way, these rechargeable heated insoles will keep your toes toasty, saving your energy for figuring out an escape plan. From $60.21 at Amazon.



Luci EMRG solar-powered light
You can’t overestimate the fundamental human need for light. In disaster scenarios, reliable, solar-powered and portable lighting like the Luci EMRG can reduce stress simply by providing illumination for your community to come together. The EMRG has long-lasting, solar-powered LEDs that can be used in four intensity settings, including flashing SOS alert. It’s also inflatable and collapsible, so you can pack several into your bug-out bag. $14.95 from Amazon.


VividLed rechargeable headlamp
If you have to brave a flooded cellar when the power’s out, this rechargeable headlamp keeps both your hands free for fussing with the fuse box. There are five light modes, including a strobe for getting attention and a red light, which helps you see your surroundings while keeping your eyes adjusted to the dark — handy to avoid feeling temporarily blinded when you look away from the lighted area. $12.97 (on sale from $29.99) from Amazon.


ThruNite TN4A LED Flashlight
A flashlight is an essential for any emergency kit, so pick a long-lasting LED one like the ThruNite TN4A, which has a lifespan of over 20 years. You can use it in one of five brightness settings, going up to a hyper-bright 1150 lumens with a range of up to 450 meters, or put it in strobe mode to attract attention. It’s also waterproof to 1.5 meters and impact resistant to 2 meters. $49.95 from Amazon.


Gold Armour Camping Lanterns
Brightest LED lantern for its size: Latest technology Chip-On-Board LED technology illuminates more area with more light than the commonly found 30 LED camping lanterns. Its light is also warmer in color than the competition’s 30 LED lanterns, eliminating that cold, harsh feel. The warm light also leaves your sleep rhythm intact, helping you to avoid the insomnia that other brands might cause. Dependable build: Each of our premium LED Camping Lanterns are hand-built with military-grade, water-resistant plastic — making them extra durable wherever you may be. The lantern is built for both the indoors and outdoors. Advanced collapsible design: Superior design and construction allows our lantern to be super lightweight and compact. It is also collapsible with a simple push. $35.99 on Amazon.

Portable battery pack
Murphy’s law dictates that when you need your smartphone most, its battery will be nearly empty. Sidestep this by keeping a charged-up portable battery pack in your bug-out bag, and you’ll be good for at least 72 hours. We like the Anker PowerCore, which can fast-charge an iPhone 7 or Galaxy S8 around three times from its 10000mAh battery. Or if you need more power, try the three-USB RavPower Portable Charger, whose 22000mAh, can hold about a week’s worth of power (or charge an iPhone eight times). Anker PowerCore $25.99 (currently on sale from $49.99) from Amazon. RavPower Portable Charger $39.99 (currently on sale from $109.99) from Amazon.

Birksun solar backpacks
Get maximum use out of your bug-out bag itself by using a solar-powered, charge-packing backpack. Bags in the Birksun range cannot only store all of the above survival essentials, but also charge up your gadgets so you can access critical updates and communicate with others. Every two minutes of sunlight provides enough energy to charge your phone battery another 1 percent. The waterproof, scratch-resistant solar panel can juice up your tech for up to 20 years, with a 3000mAh battery that stores around one full charge for a new-ish smartphone. When you get back to civilization and power sockets, you can also charge the bag from the mains. From $109 at Birksun or from $99 on Amazon.

For your smartphone

First Aid app by American Red Cross
This app has step-by-step advice for everyday first aid for issues from asthma attacks to strains and sprains, as well as instructions on handling out-of-the-ordinary scenarios such as hazardous chemicals. It’s integrated with 911, so you can call emergency services directly from the app. It also has safety tips for dealing with extreme weather, from severe cold to hurricanes and tornadoes, and includes addresses of the nearest hospitals. And in case of a power loss or evacuation off-grid, all this content is available offline. Free, Android, iOS.

Life360 Family Location app
In the event of a disaster, it can be a vast relief just to know where your family members are. Get your loved ones to download this app, and you’ll be able to view their location on a map — either whenever they make it available or continuously if they so allow. You can add emergency contacts to alert others on behalf of anyone in your family group, or press a panic button in the app to alert each member of a group that you’re in trouble. Other handy features include the ability to save “Places” so you can be notified when one of your group arrives at home, school, or another designated location. The paid-for Plus service lets you save unlimited places, while the Driver Protect add-on can detect a car accident, then call for an ambulance, and raise the alarm within the app. Free, Android, iOS; from $2.99/month for Plus; $4.99/month for Driver Protect.

An app designed for personal safety can be well-suited for emergency use. bSafe lets out an audible alarm that can aid in rescue attempts and will also broadcast video of your surroundings, along with your GPS location. Outside of emergency situations, the Follow Me Timer can automatically send an SOS message to your chosen contacts if you don’t check in before a preset time — handy for staying safe if traveling alone. To receive this info, however, friends and family also need to download the app.


Dropbox truly is the easiest way to back up your entire life, from court reporting note and wav files to pictures of generations of family members.  This was probably the number one thing I heard during these disasters: massive scanning going on and putting pictures into Ziplocs. Endeavor to get all those pictures scanned. (Perhaps the court reporting firm you work with would work out a financial arrangement to have their production department perform the scanning for you.) Make sure you have your most important documents that you keep in a safe like birth certificates, estate planning documents, and insurance policies scanned to a folder stored on Dropbox also.  Be sure to download the app to your phone so that you can easily access the documents as well.

As we begin hurricane season, take advance precautions while there are no threats to protect your loved ones and the irreplaceable photos and documents.

Christine Phipps, RPR, is CEO of Phipps Reporting in North Palm Beach, Fla., and Vice President of the NCRA Board of Directors.

NCRA Announces Winners of the 2018 CASE Scholarships

The Council on Approved Student Education (CASE) is pleased to announce the winners of the 2018 CASE Scholarships. Ashley Stahl, a student at Gateway Community College in Phoenix, Ariz., has been awarded a $1,500 scholarship for first place. Four other scholarships were awarded: Courtney Petros, MacCormac College, Chicago, Ill., $1,000; Suzanne M. Stone, Bryan University, Tempe, Ariz., $750; Robin Rieger, Brown College of Court Reporting, Atlanta, Ga., $500; and Ann Marie Gibson, College of Court Reporting, Valparaiso, Ind., $250.

Ashley Stahl

“I am so honored to receive this scholarship! I think it’s wonderful that the court reporting community offers so many scholarship opportunities like this for aspiring students. My state requires the Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) certification in order to work, so the prize money gives me the freedom to finish the last semester of school, take the legs of the RPR, and purchase professional equipment once I get certified. I plan to start my career as a freelance reporter in Phoenix,” said Stahl.

Each year, CASE awards several scholarships to students who attend an NCRA-approved court reporting program. To be eligible to apply, students must also hold a student membership in NCRA, have attained an exemplary academic record, and passed one skills test writing at between 140 and 180 words per minute. Students are also required to submit a speed verification form, three recommendation forms, a copy of their most recent transcript, and an essay in response to a topic chosen by members of CASE. The 2018 essay question was: “Pick an experience during your court reporting education and explain how it has influenced your development.”

In her essay, Stahl wrote about how common it is for court reporting students to fail tests as they progress in their education and how her failures have helped her become more successful.

“Failing tests is a way of life for court reporting students. However, I have come to appreciate that every failure offers an opportunity to learn and improve. By studying notes and scrutinizing tests, I have figured out where I am misstroking or hesitating in my writing.”

Courtney Petros

Courtney Petros, a student at MacCormac College in Chicago, was awarded a $1,000 scholarship.

“Winning this scholarship means that I can begin purchasing the equipment that I need in order to become a working court reporter. This scholarship has also given me the opportunity to attend the NCRA Convention in New Orleans,” Petros said.

“I am so excited for the opportunity to attend the convention so that I can network with other court reporters, learn new information at the seminars, and see what new technology exists in the court reporting field,” added Petros, who noted that he plans to work as a freelance court reporter upon graduation.

In his essay, Petros wrote about how his bachelor’s degree in psychology became an invaluable asset to him during court reporting school: “There are many highs and lows that a court reporting student feels. It is near impossible to explain the joy that you feel when you finally pass that 160 words-per-minute literary test that catapults you into a new speed. On the contrary, it is defeating when you miss passing a test by just one or two small errors. I realized early on that in order for me to be successful in school, it would not only require the coordination of my hands and mind, but also a strong relationship between my emotional responses and my ability to keep my mind clear.”

Suzanne Stone

Suzanne M. Stone, a student at Bryan University in Tempe, Ariz., was awarded a $750 scholarship.

“I am extremely grateful to be receiving a CASE Student Scholarship. Court reporting school has been the most challenging goal I have undertaken, so being recognized in this field is an honor. As I near the end of school, I will be investing in a new laptop and professional software, and this scholarship will help tremendously with these purchases,” Stone said. “After graduating and attaining my certifications, I plan to work as a freelance reporter.”

In her essay, Stone wrote about how attending an NCRA convention helped her to overcome her tendency to be an introvert and meet fellow students: “Court reporting is such a different field of study, and sometimes it is difficult explaining the challenges to someone who is not in the field. Meeting my classmates and other students in person was comforting because you know that they understand what you are going through. I have become closer with some of my classmates as well, and I don’t think that would have happened if I had not attended the national and the state convention.”

Robin Rieger

Robin Rieger, a student at Brown College of Court Reporting in Atlanta, Ga., was awarded a $500 scholarship.

In her essay, Rieger wrote about how changing the structure of how she practiced improved the overwhelming task of cleaning up her writing and her dictionary, which laid a solid foundation for her ability to write in realtime: “The first time writing a dictation, I wrote for speed to see what I could get; but instead of continuing to speed drill, I changed my focus to the untranslated words and conflicts and immediately made those changes.”



Ann Marie Gibson

Ann Marie Gibson, a student at the College of Court Reporting (CCR) in Valparaiso, Ind., has been awarded a $250 scholarship.

“I am honored to have won this scholarship from such a prestigious organization as the National Court Reporters Association.  As a student with a full schedule, I have had to cut back on some of the hours that I work, so being awarded this scholarship helps to alleviate some of the financial burden associated with school,” said Gibson, who attends CCR as an online student.

“I would like to put this money towards a new desktop computer so the technology I have at home keeps up with my educational needs as well as my future career,” she added.

In her essay, Gibson wrote about a health scare part-way through her education that has aided her in successfully working toward graduating from court reporting school.

“Going back to school after 30 years has been the opportunity and challenge of a lifetime. I have learned as much about myself in the last year as I have about becoming a court reporter. One experience that has influenced my development as a student was a major health scare that happened near the end of my third semester at CCR,” she wrote. “I had a brush with death and blindness, and I had to learn to live by my new philosophy of the three Ps: Priorities, Permission, and Please, if I was going to successfully continue as a student.”

Gibson said she is still undecided about which area of court reporting she will pursue after graduation, although her ultimate goal is to work as an official court reporter or possibly as a CART (Communications Access Realtime Translation) captioner.

Steno on the go!

What’s the strangest place you’ve had to tap-tap-tap away on your little machine, knowing that people are relying on your speech-to-text output? A bus perhaps? No? Well, Michelle Coffey, RPR, CRI, CPE, has done just that, and she shared her story with the British Institute of Verbatim Reporters. Coffey owns Premier Captioning & Realtime Ltd in Wicklow, Ireland, and is a seasoned reporter. To know what it was like to caption on a moving bus, read her story below. Sounds like a whole heap of fun!

By Michelle Coffey

We all know that every day in the working life of a captioner is different and can be a challenge, and then there are days like Tuesday, November 26! It began like any other day, with a booking for a regular client at a conference they were holding to discuss accessible tourism in Ireland.

But then I was told we wouldn’t be needed till after lunch as the morning was being spent on an ‘accessible bus tour’ to some of the accessible sights of Dublin. Hold on a minute, though. If I’m there for access for the deaf/hoh tourists and I’m not needed, then how accessible is this tour going to be for them? So I asked how they’d feel if we tried to make the tour bus accessible. Without hesitation, we got a resounding yes! If you can do it, the organizers said, let’s go!

On the morning of the job, I arrived at their office with laptops, screens, projectors, extension cables, etc. I could see the perplexed expressions as they tried to work out how best to break it to me that I wouldn’t be able to plug in my extension lead on the bus or indeed my projector! But once I reassured them that I did really have some clue about what we were about to embark on and that the screens were for our final destination, everyone relaxed.

And I have to say, it was by far the most fun job I’ve done.

Three double-decker Dublin Buses pulled up outside the office, where everyone was given a name tag and allocated a bus. The idea was that as the buses traveled between destinations, the facilitator would lead discussion and debate onboard; and then in the afternoon all three busloads would feed back their information to the group at large. As our bus was now equipped with live speech to text, the occupants of the other buses could see what we were discussing or joking about! The tour very quickly descended into a school tour mentality (we were even given some snacks) with lots of good-natured joking, and one of our blind facilitators even scolded me for shielding my screen from him which meant neither he (nor Cookie his guide dog) could copy my answers to the quiz.

It soon became apparent that our driver was quite new to the concept of braking in a timely fashion and had probably never passed a pothole he didn’t enter! This being the case, I was finding it increasingly difficult to stay upright myself, much less my machine; with that in mind, the guys and gals on our bus decided to take bets on when the next bump in the road, traffic light, or such thing would cause me and/or my machine to slip! It really lightened the mood, everyone had a laugh, and it brought home to people in a very real and tangible way that accessibility for everyone is not just a soapbox topic. In fact, it became something that everyone on our bus played an active part in (even if some of them were “accidentally” bumping into me to get an untranslated word — and a laugh).

But it showed that access matters, and that it should matter to us all!

What I didn’t know before that morning was that not only were we doing a tour on the bus, but we also had two stops; one at a brand-new and very accessible hotel and one at a greyhound race track. Initially, it was suggested that I would stay on the bus and not transcribe the tours, but where’s the fun in that? And more importantly, where’s the accessibility in that? So, I picked up my steno machine, laid it against my shoulder like a carrying hod, and off I trooped to join the fun once more.

Once we got off the bus, the bets turned to how many different positions they could get me to write in; standing (we weren’t in the lobby of the hotel long enough to procure a chair); sitting (in the bar I managed to find a stool); balancing on a bed (with a busload of people crammed into even the most luxurious of hotel rooms, it tends to get a little cramped; never before had I cause to utter the sentence “Any chance a few of you guys could move over a little, I’m nearly falling off the bed!”); squatting (trackside at a greyhound racing park); machine stand on a bar table (at the betting counters in the racing park), and finally, my machine held by another tour member in the lift — it was a truly interactive tour.

And to finish the day off, we went back to the Guinness Storehouse for our panel discussion and debate about accessible tourism in Ireland (and free pints of Guinness, of course). All in all, a brilliant day. An important topic discussed, debated, delivered, and demonstrated in our different locations — the best job ever.