Thank you for your (volunteer) service

NCRA would like to thank those members who have graciously volunteered their time to caption events ranging from Town Halls with the president to the numerous webinars the Association has made and continues to make available to members. Here’s a special shout-out to those volunteers:

  • Tina Dillon, RPR, CRR, CRC, Chicago, Ill.;
  • Lisa Doyon, RPR, CRC, Eagle, Idaho;
  • Kim Falgiani, RDR, CRR, CRC, Warren, Ohio;
  • Patty Nelson, CRC, Annapolis, Md.;
  • Anissa Nierenberger, RPR, CRR, CRC, CRI, Boise, Idaho;
  • Sheri Smargon, RDR, CRR, CRC, Riverview, Fla.;
  • Angie Starbuck, RDR, CRR, CRC, Columbus, Ohio
  • Carol Studenmund, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, Portland, Ore.; and
  • NCRA Director Heidi Thomas, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, Kennesaw, Ga.

The JCR recently reached out to these volunteers to learn more about what motivates them to serve their association and fellow members. Tina Dillon told the JCR why she volunteers. Here’s what we learned from our other volunteers.

JCR | What motivates you to volunteer to caption for NCRA’s events and webinars?

Kim Falgiani, RDR, CRR, CRC

Kim Falgiani | The challenge of captioning before my peers is what motivated me initially. Once I volunteered and was a part of planning, I saw how much others contributed and wanted to continue being a part of all the hard work that goes into these events. 

Anissa Nierenberger | To encourage others to volunteer for our national Association and to highlight the awesome career of captioning.

Sheri Smargon | I would love for other members of the Association to branch out and do something they may find terrifying, writing live in front of their peers. It’s a great way to promote the Association and show why we are the gold standard over other methods of taking down the record.

Angie Starbuck | I enjoy giving back to a profession and Association that has given me so much in my career. I have been a member since graduating from court reporting school, and I am honored to give back as a way to thank all of those people who have served NCRA over the years and helped shape me into the court reporter I am today.

Carol Studenmund, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC

Carol Studenmund | I volunteer to caption for NCRA out of a love for our profession, the friends I have in this organization, and the need to bring more people into the profession

JCR | Why is it important to volunteer your time and skills to assist the Association?

KF | As a member, I have a responsibility to participate in NCRA. Not everyone is at a place in their careers where volunteering fits into their hectic schedules. If you can find the time to volunteer, then go for it! You will have so much fun and overcome the trepidation of sitting before your peers and writing realtime. 

AN | As a past president of the Michigan Association of Professional Court Reporters and after volunteering five years on the Board, I saw the benefits of volunteerism to boost up others so that we can all represent our industry as professionals. The same applies at the national level.

SS | The profession can only move forward in its advocacy and its mission of proving we are the gold standard for preserving the record as well as a channel of communication in the deaf and hard-of-hearing community if we all support it through our deeds and our words. When we showcase our skills, in whatever way we practice our profession, we bring awareness of the skill, professionalism, and dedication to people who may not realize we’re even there.

Angie Starbuck, RDR, CRR, CRC

AS | An association needs its members as much as the members need the association. We wouldn’t be able to advance our profession without volunteers! If you want to see a change in your profession, you have to be willing to step up and volunteer. Getting involved in your association is the best way to make a positive impact for others in the court reporting and captioning field.

CS | I’m a big believer in organizations. I make friends; I learn about captioning; I spend time with people who understand what my work is.

JCR | What would you say to encourage others to volunteer their time to caption for NCRA events and webinars?

KF | For any captioners who may feel that they are not fully engaged in the organization, volunteering is a great way to get involved. Participation helps the Association promote captioning. It also fosters an appreciation for the work NCRA does to support court reporters and captioners alike.

AN | Don’t let self-consciousness hold you back! Thousands of people have already seen your captions, so go for it!

SS | When I volunteer within the Association, I honestly feel like I’m giving back to something that has given me so much. When you are able to pay it forward by donating your time, talent, and energy, you’re giving back. If this career has been good to you, it’s definitely something you should consider. You don’t have to live caption a Town Hall. You can serve on a committee that piques your interest. Are you interested in deciding what seminars are on tap for the next in-person convention? Join the Education Content Committee. Do you want to be part of writing the questions that appear on the certification exams? Join the WKT Committee. Do you like the thought of shaping where your profession is going and how your association is going to best represent you and what you need? Become a Board member. There are so many avenues within NCRA that don’t require you to be “live, on stage.” Our Association runs mostly through reporters willing to step up to the plate and volunteer.

AS | It’s a great feeling to volunteer your services, and it’s a way to help the Association by doing what we do best. Many times, captioners are so busy with families and their career that they may not have time to serve on a committee. This is a perfect opportunity to serve NCRA and its members without a large expenditure of your time!

CS | You will only grow in experience and knowledge but also in friendships when you volunteer for NCRA.

JCR | How long have you been a captioner?

KF | Eighteen years now, but I had a 22-year court reporting career first, both as an official and a freelancer.

Anissa Nierenberger, RPR, CRR, CRC, CRI

AN | I’ve been a captioner for 28 years!

SS | I have been captioning since 1992. I graduated court reporting school in February 1992 and began working for my local county government captioning the Board of County Commission meetings. The team I was a part of was the first county in the nation to open caption their government meetings. I think I’ve come a long way from the stage fright that caused, “You need to slow down. I think it’s coming up in Russian up there” to writing live for an NCRA Town Hall. I couldn’t have done that without the support and guidance my Association provides.

AS | I have been providing CART and captioning services since 1995. It is the most rewarding part of my job!

CS | Since 1992.

JCR | How did you hear about the profession?

KF | During my senior year in high school, I was involved in a Gregg Shorthand contest at a local business college. During that competition, we were shown the school. We were taken to a classroom where students were writing away on these strange machines. I inquired that day about the program, and I couldn’t be convinced to pursue any other career after that day. 

AN | I sat in with a court reporter at a career day in high school, and I knew at age 14 that this was what I was meant to do.

SS | When I was a senior in high school, the local tech school presented at a career day. I had never heard of stenographer or court reporters, but it seemed mildly interesting. I am an incredibly bad procrastinator. I didn’t have the grades to get a scholarship into college, and I certainly couldn’t pay for it myself. And I knew if I didn’t do something after high school, I would end up doing nothing, so to speak. I would have no career and would just work an anybody-can-do-it job.

AS | My husband heard a famous radio advertisement in our city for “court reporting jobs going unfilled” back in 1990. He came home and told me I should check it out. I became a court reporter first and then was trained by my mentor, Linda Sturm, to provide CART and captioning. Here I am 30 years later still doing a job I love and working with amazing colleagues!

CS | My grandfather was a court reporter in Oklahoma in the 1910-1940s. I knew he made a very decent living through the Great Depression. Then a friend told me about the court reporting school here in Portland and how the classes were organized, and I thought I’d give it a try. It was a great match from the start.

JCR | What is the most interesting event you have captioned in your career?

KF | Earlier in my captioning years, I would have said the Tour de France without hesitation. But it’s difficult for me now to pick one since my remote broadcast captioning has expanded into on-site CART and open captioning. On-site CART for the Democratic National Convention in 2016 was very interesting, in the true sense of interesting. Traveling to Harvard to be a part of “Jagged Little Pill” was a joy. In fact, “isn’t it ironic, don’t you think” that I am scheduled on a virtual reception now with Alanis Morissette and the cast of “The Jagged Little Pill” in just a couple days? Those types of jobs among common captioning jobs make every day interesting. 

AN | I’ve traveled to Menlo Park, Calif., numerous times and captioned Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook. I love tech captioning along with sports and anything that challenges me. Professional trainers and mentors got me to where I am now: Janet Cassidy-Burr, Larry Driver, Judy Brentano, Jen Schuck, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, among others. I’m a very fortunate girl. I encourage all reporters/captioners to do something today that makes you better than you were yesterday. 

SS | I have captioned a lot of interesting things. My first day on the air when I worked for VITAC was the Oklahoma City Bombing. Nothing like trial by fire. Sept. 11. There’s always good, bad, and indifferent when you’re captioning. I may have started my captioning day captioning a fluff tabloid show and ended the day by captioning hard-core national news.

I’ve captioned the Golden Globe Awards a couple times. I captioned the Stanley Cup Finals one year. “My” team wasn’t playing, so I didn’t have a dog in the fight. I used to love when I’d caption a show I’d watch anyway, like “The Voice” or “Saturday Night Live.”

I’ve captioned the Olympics eight times. There’s nothing like preparing for something “easy,“ like track and field, only to end up with soccer between two countries that you are almost sure are made up.

But no matter what I’m captioning, if possible I try to learn something from every event. I have learned to expect the unexpected and remember that I’m there to help someone understand. If I find myself wavering and getting annoyed with a job, I recenter and think about my Dad, and now Mom, who almost wholly rely on closed captioning to watch television. Would they be proud of the job I’m doing?

This profession gives back in so many ways, noticeable and unnoticeable. You just have to pay attention.

AS | There have been so many interesting things over the years: presidential commencement speeches, Big 10 football games, NHL hockey games to name a few. I would say my favorite was probably captioning an in-person Joe Rogan comedy show! My most proud (and most challenging) moment was being asked to provide on-site captions for one of the presidential debates in Ohio in 2019.

CS | It’s hard to pick between captioning onsite for the Dalai Lama and captioning for the stadium where the Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl.

If you are interested in captioning an NCRA event, please contact Laura Butler at lbutler@ncra.org.

What motivates me to volunteer

Tina Dillon

By Tina Dillon

We all know how much it takes for an organization to serve its members. I have sat on the sidelines for much of that time and have watched so many of my colleagues tirelessly work on behalf of their peers. What I’ve given is small in comparison but something I can offer and will do so whenever possible. 

It’s important to give what you can. We are not all meant to take on leadership roles, and some may feel as though they don’t have time or skills to serve on a committee. However, if you are a captioner, I would encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and volunteer to caption an event. Now more than ever we need to showcase what we do to separate ourselves from the threat of technology replacing our skills. We need to encourage each other to hone our skills and be the best at what we do. We know we can offer speaker identification and insert punctuation where Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) doesn’t. We also know we can insert human noises, such as music playing or applause, something ASR doesn’t do. Together we can work to overcome what we are facing and remain the gold standard for captioning.

I have had a relationship with my steno machine for 41 years. It’s been a labor of love that started when I was 18 years old. As I watched all my friends leave for college, I went to a local “trade school” where I learned and practiced every day to eventually pass my CSR exam. I remember the elation I felt that day. Eighteen months prior, when that journey began, I didn’t know how excited I would be to begin a career with a little machine that feels almost like an appendage to me. While in high school, my mom had a friend whose daughter became a court reporter. After hearing the glowing description my mother conveyed, I look back now and think she had more than an inkling I would succeed. We went to a local school where the administrator asked me a few questions: Are you a good speller? Are you a fast typist? Do you play a musical instrument? All to which I said yes. It apparently was a foundation to the path of becoming a court reporter. To this day I ask the same questions of anyone thinking about entering the field.  

For the last 13 years of my career, I have almost exclusively been a CART captioner. I didn’t intend to give up reporting, but there was and still is a great demand for captioning. Another bonus is I have been able to attend and be a part of so many wonderful and interesting events.  It’s always something new, which can sometimes give you jitters but a great feeling of accomplishment afterward. One of my more memorable events was captioning a keynote speaker, James Sinegal, cofounder of Costco. He sat with me and marveled at my captioning skills. All the while I kept thinking, weren’t you interviewed on Dateline for opening one of the biggest wholesale chains?

I remember relying on a few colleagues to help answer questions and get me started. I didn’t have the benefit of the many seminars and workshops that are now offered. If you love to focus on your writing, dip your toe into captioning and give it a shot. You might just become addicted to it like me!

Tina Dillion, RPR, CRR, CRC, is a CART captioner and freelance court reporter from Chicago, Ill. She can be reached at tina@dillonreporting.com.

New live webinar teaches commencement captioning

The idea for a new live NCRA webinar started when Alan Peacock, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, a freelancer and CART captioner in Mobile, Ala., realized there hadn’t been a class on best practices for commencement captioning. He said he took that as a challenge.

The live webinar Captioning and Scripting for Commencement Ceremonies 101 is being offered Nov. 2 from 7-8 p.m. Eastern time. It is worth 0.1 CEU and costs $55 for members and $79 for nonmembers.

“More educational institutions than ever are now web-streaming their commencement ceremonies with captioning, especially now with social distancing during the pandemic we are experiencing,” Peacock said. “So this is an excellent time to attend this seminar to pick up the skills you need so that you can market yourself as prepped and ready when graduation season falls upon us. Companies will be looking for a lot of help this year. Come attend my seminar and you will be ready to go!”

The webinar will cover what prep materials you will need to successfully caption a commencement ceremony. Participants will learn the pros and cons of YouTube and various other platforms. The session will also discuss commencement captioning best practices for scripting songs/traditional vocabulary/graduates’ names.

“Although different universities and colleges have differing formats and delivery methods, the one thing that is pretty consistent is the format,” Peacock said. “For example, most every convocation will have the school fight song at the end. So you have to know that in advance and prep your scripts in advance and be ready for what’s to come.”

Participants will also receive a complimentary copy of “Text Converter,” a small application used to aid in scripting for the professional captioner.

Registration is open now.

StreamText and Zoom

By Teresa Russ

Since the pandemic, Zoom and StreamText are as popular as peanut butter and jelly.

End users to first-time users are asking questions or offering suggestions on how to best use these two platforms. The developers of StreamText have listed on their website many frequently asked questions, such as, “Can screen readers read my realtime text in the player?” to “This is a long event and another realtime writer is going to help me. Can we switch writers without interruption?” And the answer is, “Yes! You can seamlessly change writers during a live event. For events that span long periods of time, you can easily pass control to a new writer. Just click on the event control and select the new writer for the event.”

Here is one discussion that appeared on Facebook. I myself had a question on how to prevent losing captioning while using Zoom. The question was asked on June 7, 2020, and Nicole Terlizzi Kochy, RPR, CRR, CRC, a CART captioner in Edison, N.J., said, “Did you try just straight into the box without StreamText? It’s a little more of a pain for the captioner, but it looks nice for the consumer with no delay. I find with StreamText only one line pops on at a time, and then it disappears, or if they are sending the Zoom to Facebook Live, the captions seem to disappear regardless. My personal preference is to give them a separate StreamText link, but I find consumers like it best directly into the box.”

As the discussion continued, more Facebook users chimed in. Mike Rowell, RDR, CRR, CRC, a freelance captioner in Placerville, Calif., shared this when someone asked about paragraphing: “Every time you send through a new paragraph, it wipes the subtitle box for the other viewers. If you’re fairly new to captioning directly to Zoom, I recommend setting up a test session using two devices and two separate Zoom logins. Caption from one and view subtitles from the other. I’ve seen some advice that you should include a new paragraph with every period or question mark in order to avoid accidentally filling up the box, but this is very problematic for a reader relying on subtitles who has a different view of the subtitles than the captioner.”

Rowell is very comfortable with the various platforms. When I contacted him and asked about the various platforms, he said, “There’s also Blackboard Connect, which works a lot like direct to Zoom, and there’s a way to do direct into Zoom with StenoKeys while also sending a separate stream to StreamText in a standalone window. Using multiple outputs in CaseCAT translation settings, you can write StenoKeys to Zoom and ASCII to StreamText at the same time.

“Still another option is to set it up so everything from StreamText flows into Zoom. It involves telling StreamText which Zoom URL to use, using something called an API token that you can pick up in Zoom once the host uses the ‘Assign to Type’ function.”

Denise L., a CART captioner, when asked about using the two platforms said, “The tough part about breakout rooms is you have to be assigned a new API token to embed the captions on the breakout room and do it again when going back to the main room.”

Nicholas Wilkie of StreamText said he gets a variety of questions on Zoom. I asked Wilkie whether there will be any update to the API token, and he said that Zoom has not released anything as of today. He said “Zoom is not really a CART platform.” However, what he likes is its “ease of use.” It’s remarkable that we have this technology available, especially now. Wilkie shared that users can find summary tools on Facebook, YouTube, as well as on their website to learn the different functions of using Zoom and StreamText.  

It’s always nice to have options. Wilkie said that StreamCast is used a lot. StreamCast is an application designed to allow you to overlay captions onto any application that does not have native captioning support. The application is similar to Text On Top but allows a direct feed from StreamText.Net. You don’t need to do anything special to the event when you schedule it. Just start the application and set the event name to the event you want to StreamCast

You can find information on how to use StreamCast on StreamText.Net. One really nice feature about StreamCast is that it stays on top, and you never lose the text, and it “looks great.” He said he does not get a lot of questions because users can learn how to manipulate the features. Another nice feature is that the user can use StreamText along with StreamCast at the same time. This allows the client to pick what they prefer.

(Excerpts taken from StreamText.Net)

Teresa Russ, CRI, is a CART Captioner and freelance reporter in Bellflower, Calif.

Behind the tech of captioning for Coachella and Stagecoach

By Jackie Hippolyte

NCRA member and captioner Stanley Sakai, CRC, helped us delve into the technical aspects of his collaboration with captioner Isaiah Roberts, RPR, on the Coachella and Stagecoach captioning projects.

Stan’s friendship with Isaiah began on Facebook and later blossomed when they met at an NCRA Convention & Expo. The Coachella and Stagecoach projects in early 2019 were their first work-related collaboration.

Stan’s background

Much of Stan’s background is self-taught. In 2011 when Plover was in its infancy stage, he purchased a Gemini machine of eBay and took it to class. From there, he started to build his dictionary and the beginning of his captioning career.

As with captioning, Stan was also a self-starter with regards to software programming. It was actually his frustration with an experience that led him to pursue this arena, and his skills developed from there. Stan wanted a better way to live stream captioning — something that was clean and worked on the web where he could stream text on a web platform versus asking the user to download the software on an application.

In 2015, after facing some challenges with the equipment he was using while serving as a live cap- tioner in a web development course, he reached out to the course instructors and used their feedback and instructions, along with some of his own research, to teach himself how to program.

 The Coachella and Stagecoach projects … the beginning

In 2018, Isaiah had approached Coachella and in- quired about captioning services for their audience, and soon learned that no such services were current- ly being offered. Coachella admitted that previous captioning requests went unfulfilled as they were not familiar with the service and had not known where to begin.

In learning this, Isaiah offered his services and mentioned that he knew of someone with the techni- cal expertise (Stan), who could fulfill their captioning requirements. In a short amount of time, Stan had developed some code to match Coachella’s website branding (incorporating the use of his app “Meow”) and pitched a demo to Coachella’s team who were soon sold on the idea.

This solution basically paved the way for Coachel-la to provide captioning services to their audience via their app. The solution was perfect as it provided universal access to all, whether attendees needed captioning services or not as all attendees were re- quired to download the Coachella app.

For the full background story, read the first article on TheJCR.com titled Bringing captions to Coachella.

Stan explained a little more about some of the technology behind the projects.

The Skills

Soft skills

Although the success of the projects was obviously in part due to the combination of technological and live captioning skills, Stan admitted that soft skills also played an essential role in the project’s success.

Stan notes that although there are definitely other stenographers out there with the right skills to caption live concerts, it requires a certain personality and level of flexibility to perform captioning services in such an unpredictable and less than “calm” environment, and he was grateful that both he and Isaiah had prior experience with music festivals.

Teamwork

Stan also credits teamwork as being a key reason for the success of this project and says that Isaiah was definitely the mastermind behind the strategy and planning of the projects, while he, Stan, fulfilled the role as the technical guru, which made for a perfect tag team.

Technology:

Start of Coachella project

The initial calls with Coachella began in late 2018, and the official work phase began in January 2019. It took Stan and Isaiah approximately four months to complete the apps for Coachella and Stagecoach.

Stan did not have access to the back-end code of Coachella’s site to mimic their website branding, but he was easily able to develop the code from scratch within his app, Meow. With regards to Stagecoach, the app User Interface was different and required additional customization to match their website branding.

Steno/typing and editing software

Stan used Plover, an open source User Interface (UI) controller — from the Open Steno project — where a user can type into any window, using a keyboard as a steno machine. For web editing, he utilized Upwordly, a web interface editor which displayed directly in the clients app, like the ones for Coachella or Stagecoach.

Servers

The expected traffic for the Coachella app was approximately 130,000 attendees, which used a total of five servers — two in New York, two in Los Angeles, and one in San Francisco. Having multiple servers running the same app simultaneously ensured there was back up in place at all times, in the event one of the servers were to fail. The servers served over 1000 connections per minute (per server). A load test using utility called Artillery JS was conducted to simulate 10,000 users on the app at the same time.

The load on Coachella’s platform was approximately 700 connections per day and approximately 1,200 per day for Stagecoach.

Live streaming the lyrics

Stan and Isaiah were normally given the scripts to the songs twenty minutes beforehand, but in the usual fashion, they found a way to streamline the process to make it easier and more efficient. They created a large text file of all the songs beforehand (when possible). In typical tag team fashion, one would write the lyrics as they heard it to figure out what the song was playing, and when that was determined, the other would search for the lyrics online and would then copy and paste into the text file for upload to the app. If an artist ad-libbed, however, they would then caption the song live.

Some may be wondering how they handled lyrics in a foreign language? Well, there just so happened to be an artist who sang in Spanish  — J. Balvin — and fortunately Stan happens to speak fluent Spanish and had a Spanish dictionary.

Summary of technology used

■   Meow: JavaScript-based app created by Stan that displays live captioning. It buffers events from a local port that CAT software communicates on, and then translates them to object-based instructions that are rendered as text on website.

■   App plugin: Stan built a custom plugin to allow a connection between the app and Eclipse,

and the app and Catalyst. (See YouTube.com/ watch?v=PtlriHufTBA&t=2s for more informa- tion.)

■   Plover: Part of the Open Steno project, which is an open source stenography engine written in Python that allows users to use their keyboard as a steno machine.

■   Upwordly: A realtime transcription delivery tool and a content management system (CMS) for realtime stenographers.

■   Angular and React: Front-end development framework that allows the creation of dynamic web pages.

■   Web sockets connection: Communication pro- tocol that transmits the live text to the server to be sent out to the web page, without refreshing or pinging the server.

■   Artillery JS: A utility used to conduct load test- ing on the servers, simulating a specific amount of traffic/users.

■   Servers: Five servers managed using Docker swarm.

■   JavaScript: A programming language mostly known as the scripting language for web pages. It also works in some non-browser environ- ments, like Apache CouchDB and Adobe Acrobat.

■   Python: Another programming language often used to develop web pages and apps, Python is particularly helpful when building prototypes.

Finding his “sweet spot” and giving back

We asked Stan if he ever considered pursuing a career field as a software developer full time, and his response was that he has found the perfect “sweet spot” where he can use his assets both as a live captioner and program/software engineer to not only fulfill his career aspirations but also promote caption- ing through the use of technology.

In addition to finding that “sweet spot,” Stan says it was gratifying to be able to give back and showcase what is possible with captioning and technology.

Project Takeaways

Stan and Isaiah have created their own niche for captioning and hope to get others excited about the profession and its possibilities. This project with Coachella and Stagecoach was not only a rewarding and fun experience but has opened the door and created a variety of inquiries about the Open Steno Project, Plover, and ways to secure captioning jobs like Coachella.

Stan hopes that projects like Coachella and Stagecoach can put a modern take on the captioning profession and showcase it in a space beyond just depositions, by demonstrating both the collaborative and technical aspects of bringing a project together. Since this project launched, the duo team have been asked via social media if they planned to cover more stages in the future, which Stan says is definitely a possibility.

Stan’s thoughts and takeaways on how other professionals can find and seize opportunities:

• The key is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Always ask how the captioning community can assist with a venture.

 • Insight: Only a fraction of the hard of hearing community uses sign language, and captioning is not something many think about, so making others aware is vital.

• Partner with someone who has skills that you may not have. Be strategic and harness the strengths of the people around you. Stan said: “You cannot do everything on your own.”

• Think beyond your comfort zone — and take action beyond that vision.

Summary

We asked Stan about opportunities for future music festivals and he noted that since the main legwork is already developed, it would be easy enough to reproduce what he needs by just creating the front interface coding and formatting to match the branding of any client’s website.

With regards to his day-to-day, Stan admits he always looks for an easier way to do things and has created other shortcuts and plugins to streamline his daily work routine — such as emailing  files/transcripts, and more.

 Partners and Thanks to…

•   Ten Fifty was quite instrumental in this project and helped Stan and Isaiah connect with Coachella and also arrange all of their housing and other logistics.

•   Stan and Isaiah were fortunate enough to work with the digital production manger of Golden Voice, which produces Coachella.

•   Mirabai  Knight, RDR, CRR, CRC, is Stan’s mentor and the person who taught him steno.

Jackie Hippolyte is NCRA’s Web Communications Manager. She can be reached at jhippolyte@ncra.org.

Caption Masters program offers new opportunity for experienced CRC candidates

NCRA has announced that the Caption Masters program is now a prequalified training course for the Certified Realtime Captioner (CRC). For certification candidates who are experienced in the field, the addition of the Caption Masters program as an alternative to NCRA’s mandatory CRC workshop offers a new learning opportunity in meeting the requirements to earn the nationally recognized professional certification. Candidates completing the Caption Masters Training program from 2018 forward are eligible to take advantage of this new opportunity.

“NCRA is happy to announce this new opportunity for aspiring captioners pursuing the CRC credential. We recognize that the Caption Masters program provides training that further expands a candidate’s captioning skills,” said Cynthia Bruce Andrews, NCRA Senior Director of Education & Certification.

“At a time when professionally trained captioners are in extremely high demand, I’m excited to help reporters transition into captioning with LearnToCaption.com’s 16-week Caption Masters course. Taking and passing the CRC exam after the course will open doors to endless opportunities,” said Anissa Nierenberger, RPR, CRR, CRC, CRI, a captioner from Boise, Idaho, and owner of Caption Masters.

To earn the NCRA CRC certification, candidates must either complete the CRC Workshop or take the Caption Masters training program, as well as pass the NCRA Written Knowledge Test (WKT) and an online skills test for the CRC, which consists of literary matter at 180 words per minute.

The NCRA CRC Workshop is 10-and-a-half hours of online captioning education and is designed to prepare candidates relatively new to the captioning field for the CRC Written Knowledge Test, while the Caption Masters program provides a more intense curriculum of learning geared toward more experienced candidates.

Learn more information about the CRC certification and its requirements at NCRA.org/certification.

NCRA members share insights about captioning with the NGA

Karen Yates, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC

NCRA past President Karen Yates, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC, a captioner from Minden, Nev., and Carol Studenmund, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, a captioner from Portland, Ore., and president of LNS Captioning, recently spoke via conference call with representatives from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) about court reporting and captioning and the challenges of creating transcriptions of audio events.

NGA is a combat support agency under the U.S. Department of Defense and a member of the U.S. intelligence community with the primary mission of collecting, analyzing, and distributing geospatial intelligence in support of national security. It was previously known as the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) until 2003.

Melissa J. Dicker, a researcher with NGA’s Imagery & Video Pod, reached out to NCRA to learn more about captioning as her team continues to work toward providing realtime captioning or transcription in support of the agency’s employees with hearing disabilities. NGA is working to ensure compliance with Section 508. Section 508 is an amendment to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which requires that information and communication technologies are accessible to employees and members of the public who have disabilities in a comparable manner to the access experienced by employees and members of the public without disabilities. Under Section 508, federal agencies provide accessibility for employees and members of the public when “procuring, developing, maintaining, or using information and communication technology.”

Carol Studenmund, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC

According to Yates and Studenmund, the call was fascinating and included at least five representatives from NGA, including staff from the IT, research, and reasonable accommodations departments, as well as a representative from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory (MIT-LL).

“NGA Research has been working on understanding how to comply with Section 508 for several years. They’ve evaluated multiple automated speech recognition (ARS) programs. The NGA contracted with an ASR research group at MIT Lincoln Laboratory (MIT-LL). MIT-LL knew quite a bit about voice writing and what we do with our machines. They had even checked out Eclipse and Stenograph’s programs and wanted to know why we didn’t use them both or why we picked one or the other,” said Studenmund, who chairs NCRA’s Captioner Subcommittee on Captioning Inclusivity, Captioning Regulatory Policy Committee, and also serves as co-chair of the Certified Realtime Captioner (CRC) Certification Committee.

Yates explained that the programs are expensive and complicated. The captioner doesn’t decide today I’ll use Eclipse and tomorrow’s job would be best captioned in Stenograph’s BCS. Studenmund shared her perspective that “Eclipse is the PC model of captioning software, with lots of options for completing a task. And Stenograph’s BCS is like the Apple of our industry. Stenograph will take a request and create one perfect solution for it. Just one solution but it’s great,” she explained.

 “It’s fair to say they were impressed with our certification programs for both court reporting and captioning,” Yates said. “We explained the technical side of each of our tests – Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) and CRC – and then explained the entire program, including the continuing education component and the ethics oversight.”

The NGA representatives asked many questions about the differences between court reporting and captioning and wanted to know about how quickly the captions display for viewers. Studenmund and Yates also explained to the group how captioners can’t tell speakers to slow down or speak up, especially when captioning a live TV show originated on the other side of the country. In contrast, they also explained how the court reporter is obligated to control the proceedings and tell people to slow down or speak one at a time.

“It was so cool to feel these smart, smart folks just soak up our information. They even asked us about our resilience, and how do we do it? How do we maintain our accuracy, etc.?” Studenmund noted.

“They used their in-house ASR program to caption some of their monthly employee meetings. They found their ASR system had 20 to 30 percent errors. They then had a transcriber create a final transcript from the ASR generated file. They knew that was not a good process. When we explained Eclipse’s new technology that allows AI to follow along with our audio and our steno notes to fix errors in process, the person from MIT – I think he gasped. He said that was amazing. He totally understood what we were talking about and understood how awesome that new feature is.”

Studenmund and Yates said the group expressed some concern about how to scale out to provide all the services they need to meet their mission. In response, Studenmund shared the story about the city of Portland’s history with captioning and how the services her company provides have grown in the 20 years since it began working with the city.

“When we started captioning for Portland City Council, we only captioned the official council meetings. Over time, the city understood they needed to expand the services. We now caption for about seven different bureaus and departments in the city, in addition to the council itself. We’ve watched with great interest our client expand the services without inundating itself with new workflows and procedures. It’s reasonable to roll out the services over some period of time. Inevitably lessons are learned that make the next expansion run more smoothly. The NGA group was really glad to hear that,” Studenmund said.

In the end, Studenmund and Yates said the representatives from NGA were pleased to learn more about NCRA and even asked for a history of captioning. A copy of our recent JCR article called “What’s NCRA ever done for Captioning?” has been sent to Ms. Dicker. She and her team were impressed with NCRA and all it has done for captioning.

“Yes, we have done quite a bit for captioning. And, yes, we’re professionals. I really hope good things for our profession result from this. Let’s get those students in the programs and out in the world of captioning,” Studenmund added.

A little thank-you for a captioning job well done

By Sheri Smargon

I realtimed a job a couple years ago for a writers’ national literary conference holding their annual convention in Tampa Bay, Fla., where I live. I was contacted by the Disabilities Coordinator for the group after he did a search of the NCRA Sourcebook to find a local CART provider. The group needed someone to provide one-on-one CART to a member who is Deaf. The job was going to take place at our convention center downtown. As hinted to by the name, the location would be large.

My consumer would be attending four or five breakout sessions per day, but that schedule was subject to change. The agenda I was given only listed the name of the author giving the talk and the title of the book of which they would be speaking. Since I didn’t know which seminars my consumer would be attending, I prepped for every seminar and every topic before I went onsite. I made a dictionary and added names, titles, and any words from any of the authors’ autobiographies that I could find.

On day one of the seminar, I arrived on site about an hour and a half early. I wasn’t exactly sure where I needed to go, but I needed to assess the setup and the best place for me to sit so I could be inobtrusive yet still able to hear the speakers. I learned quickly that I should wear flats the next day, as the heels I had chosen on the plush, lush carpet made for a great leg workout.

I found the on-site Disability Coordinator when I arrived, and they told me where and what my consumer’s seminars for the day would be. I would start in Ballroom A, move to Ballroom C, back to Ballroom A, and finally to Ballroom D for the final seminar. I then had to think logistically the best way to get all of my equipment from ballroom to ballroom in the 15 minutes between seminars. Luckily, Ballroom D’s seminar was after lunch, so I had a bit of time to move and reacclimate.

I determined that sitting at the very front of the room off to the side would work best for me in most of the ballrooms. I was closest to an electrical plug. and I could use a few of the participants’ chairs to create a makeshift desk area. I set up five iPad minis on the chairs next to me. Granted, there was only one consumer that I knew of, but I wanted to ensure there were no tech issues with any of the equipment they needed to use. I set up my steno machine, my Cooltable to hold my laptop, plugged everything in, tested all my equipment, and waited for my consumer. She arrived, introduced herself, gave me her cell phone number to communicate, then wandered off to find a seat, iPad in hand.

Because I use Stenograph’s iCVNet, I was able to provide the iPad and my consumer could sit anywhere in the room she wanted to. I couldn’t get reliable internet access in the convention center, so I used my personal router to stream to the iPads. Seminar one went off without a hitch. My consumer brought my iPad back and said she would see me in the next seminar. So I quickly packed up all my gear, laying my open laptop on top of my steno bag, wrapping cords with a bungee wrap so I don’t trip while moving, “throwing” my iPads into my steno bag and hustled over to the next ballroom.

Seminar two — well, there started the fun. It turned out the seminar presenter had taken up my scoped-out seat site and had friends in the area I had chosen. So I sat at the back of the room for this job. Not my wisest move, as it turned into an impromptu panel discussion with people in the audience. They were all speaking with their backs to me. To do a good job, I decided to leave my computer and setup where it was and move just my steno machine and move closer within the audience, where I could hear better. Luckily, these seminars were only an hour and a half each, but they all ended with a question-and-answer session. Needless to say, I was tired at the end of session two, and I still had two more sessions to go.

At the end of session two, I moved back to Ballroom A for session three, and wash, rinse, repeat with the iPads, cords, cables, etc. That session ended, and it was lunchtime. I packed everything up for the fourth time that day and went to the last ballroom to set up my equipment. By doing that, I could relax for a bit during the lunch break, knowing I was ready to go when the session started.

After two days of this literary seminar, where I was exposed for the first time to people introducing themselves by name and the pronouns they would like people to use when referring to them (she, her/he, him) at warp speed, the last seminar of the day was the only one that had ASL interpreters in attendance. There were quite a few Deaf and HoH participants in the panel discussion. I gave my consumer an iPad, then offered the other participants who wanted one the few remaining iPads I had left. The discussion was fast, intense, and involved a lot of fingerspelling of cities in Africa. But in the end, I still learned something.

A couple weeks after the job, I received a handwritten card from my consumer, thanking me for the job I did. I had never received a handwritten thank-you before, and I was so incredibly flattered and humbled that I was able to help her fully experience the seminar. We don’t take these jobs for thanks, but when you know you provided quality and also learned something, it’s a win-win situation. When the consumer also thinks the same thing and lets you know, it doesn’t get any better.

Sheri Smargon, RDR, CRR, CRC, is a CART captioner and freelance court reporter based in Riverview, Fla. She can be reached at stenorpr@gmail.com.

Checking in with captioners

Weeks into the COVID-19 pandemic, the JCR Weekly checked in with several broadcast and CART captioners to get a snapshot of what has changed and what hasn’t in their work lives. Many already have working from home tackled; so you may find their advice on what equipment to have and the rules to keep your workflow moving useful if it’s new to you.

What are your must-haves in terms of equipment?

Darlene Rodella, RDR, CRR, CRC, Everett, Wash. | Solid internet connection and a mobile hotspot for backup, two computers/laptops updated and loaded with the appropriate platforms and connectors (i.e. Streamtext, 1CapApp, Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, etc.), backup cables for the steno machine to the computer and/or WiFi dongles. Since I’m currently working from the U.K., I have a phone number through Skype that I can either call out on or be called on so no clients have to incur any long-distance charges. I also love my noise-cancelling headphones and comfortable chair!

Toni Christy, RPR, CRR, CRC, La Mesa, Calif. | I need a docking station for my laptop, a monitor (so I have two screens to utilize), a chair that adjusts several ways (mine has a split seat so I can pull my machine into me to write), and a Behringer amplifier.

Brook Nunn, RPR, CRC, Boise, Idaho | Backup equipment! Technology glitches happen frequently. We need to be ready to quickly transition to a different laptop that has our software, dictionaries, and streaming applications loaded. I also highly recommend using noise-cancelling headphones so you can clearly hear everything that’s said.

Adele Helmick-Moorehead, RPR, CRC, CRI, Jackson, Miss. | I have a lot on my list:

1. Two steno machines minimum (one main, one backup). My main is currently a Stenograph Wave. For remote CART, a student model machine is fine because you likely have a stable work environment in your home and are always writing realtime to a computer. You don’t need internal memory or recording capability in the machine itself, nor will you be watching your steno machine for translation. You have your computer for all those things. However, if you want wireless capability, you will need a more expensive professional model machine. For on-site CART, I would recommend a “professional model” machine, because you have less control over your environment for setup, and you really want the ability to be wireless.

2. Two computers and/or laptops minimum (one main, one backup). Consult your CART software company for their requirements as far as memory and speed, etc., and then get computers/laptops with even more than that. In fact, top of the line is recommended. There are always updates that come along, not just with your writing software, but Windows, etc., that will take up more and more memory space, and you will be running numerous programs at one time to provide CART remotely over the internet. So you need computers/laptops with enough memory and power to account for numerous programs running at once and all the updates that come along. I also recommend computers/laptops with numerous USB ports. I need the ports for my machine, mouse, and extended monitor and sometimes a thumb drive to transfer documents. I currently use two laptops (with three monitors between them) on every job. I have an additional laptop and computer nearby that I could turn on and use as backup if the other two that I always have on and ready fail. So backups for backups!

3. Two forms of reliable internet (one main and one backup). You get the point you want to have two separate systems of everything ready in case of emergency? This goes for internet, too! I have a wired-in plan for my whole home that includes my office. Plus, I have a wireless MiFi through a different provider as backup.

4. Battery backups/generator. Sometimes electricity goes out. You may not be able to go for days and days on battery backup or generator power, but you should at least be able to go for half a day or a day, enough time for – usually – power to come back on, to make arrangement to go somewhere else to work, or to refer out your work to another writer if necessary. You shouldn’t immediately be unable to work if your electricity goes out.

5. An awesome headset. I tried going frugal on these; it’s not worth it. Go big. I got a set of Bose over Christmas. Personally, I like a wired variety (because I don’t want to worry about pairing/unpairing Bluetooth every time I switch devices) that are an over-the-ear variety with a lot of padding. Noise-canceling ability (that you can turn on and off to your preference) recommended.

6. Comfy chair. Admission: I’m frugal. I look for bargains. I wasn’t keen on going out and spending hundreds of dollars on an office chair, especially when I’d sat in my fair share of such expensive chairs and found them none too comfortable for actually working long hours writing in. Like Goldilocks, they were too big, too small, too soft, too hard. I didn’t want to make a big money commitment and then find it wasn’t “just right.” But your chair is really important; so if you find one you know is comfortable and supportive even after long hours, buy it! But if you’re like me and can’t say for sure which chair is “just right,” then you can use a regular low-end office chair with wheels and add a thick gel seat cushion like (here’s one I like). This has worked well for me for almost a year.

Mary Kay Belcolore, RPR, CRR, CRC, Bolingbrook, Ill. | I mostly do CART captioning now; so, in addition to everything you use for on-site work, the most important thing is reliable, fast internet. This means being wired with ethernet cables – no WiFi. In addition to the laptop that I caption on through my Eclipse software, I have at least two, but prefer three, other laptops. I watch my Eclipse file to catch errors before they go out; then on another laptop I pull up the site where my captions are going to make sure they’re received; and on the other laptops I pull up any prep I receive from the client — PowerPoints, meeting agenda, etc. — and I often have another one to pull up things like Skype, Zoom, Adobe Connect, Elluminate, Webex, etc., whatever web platforms clients give us to use for audio and/or to imbed captions. This means I have a heavy-duty Netgear modem with four ethernet slots and two phone line slots, which brings us to the next important piece of equipment: a good phone and phone line, and I have a two-line corded speaker phone with an amplifier-with-headset connected which helps boost the sound. Also, I have my noise-canceling Plantronic headset to plug into my computers when I get audio from there instead of a regular phone line. I also have a second steno machine set up on one of the extra laptops, for backup. Oh, and most important too: a comfortable ergonomically correct chair with no arms! So nice to be able to get the right chair, not like what you have to suffer through sometimes on in-person jobs.

Do you have house rules?

DR | I wanted an On Air/Off Air light like they might have in TV studios. But I never got that.

My family knows to not enter the room if my headphones are on. They also know that I might be able to blurt out something to them, but that I can’t actually hear them when working. So asking questions will just have to wait. If it’s important, text me.

TC | I keep a white board in my office. If someone needs to communicate, they write it down and wait for an answer, no matter how long it takes!

BN | My husband knows that if my headphones are on, he can’t talk to me. Also, we have a one-year-old, so I make sure my office door is always shut, so he can’t run in and knock over any equipment.

AHM | I strongly recommend having your our own office space separate from your living area with its own door. There are four humans living in my house (myself, a spouse, and two teen children), plus three cats, and, until recently, a large dog (sadly Ace passed in January). Saying, “Don’t talk,” is not an option. That’s not fair to the other living beings! Plus inevitably someone will knock on your door, storms will roll by and be very loud, construction will be happening outside, etc. Do yourself a favor and find a space that can itself block out the noise as much as possible, regardless of what’s happening outside those office walls. I know not everyone has an extra room. I don’t have an extra room! I am literally working out of a converted walk-in closet. But you know what? It’s cozy, and I actually like it. It’s my space. When I’m in there, I’m in work mode. When I’m not, I’m not! Mentally, it’s also nice to have a separate space. I don’t have to worry about others – except my cats when they sneak in – disrupting my space. I do ask my family to not play loud music or yell, etc., while I’m working, and they respect that. If I’m in my office but do not mind being disturbed, I leave the door open. Otherwise, if the door is closed, they know not to bother me. Going back to the necessary equipment, a good quality pair of noise-cancelling headphones can do wonders, and that’s why they’re a must-have!

MKB | So these days I live by myself, so no trouble there except for when the yard service decides to mow the lawn right outside my window. LOL!

I will say though that transitioning to remote work requires discipline. I have house rules for myself: Get up at the same time every day even if you don’t have an assignment until 10 a.m. If you have time to prep, do it now. Try not to be distracted by the fact that you can clean the house or do laundry. And exercise, exercise, exercise. When you’re working on site, you usually get a fair amount of walking in, even muscle work lifting equipment. Working at home, it’s a lot of sitting, so you have got to keep moving. It’s good for the body and the mind and spirit. And always keep a protein bar, water, and cough drops nearby.

Has anything changed since COVID-19?

DR | For me, business has really slowed down during lockdown. I take a lot of on-site jobs which are nonexistent at the moment. And the remote jobs are being shared between a bigger pool of captioners.

TC | Traveling has always been part of my work. I was in the middle of a men’s basketball conference championship when COVID-19 hit. I scrambled to get home and have not left. All of that work is gone, for now. I have been able to acquire enough remote work to help fill in those gaps. I am blessed.

BN | Initially, there was a decrease in work while schools and businesses figured out how to transition online. However, at this point, it’s mostly business as usual except everyone else is working from home too. One surprising upside to classes being held entirely online is I can easily hear all of the students! I can’t remember the last time I wrote “(Away from Microphone).”

AHM | At first I lost work. Some university classes I was covering converted to asynchronous (so no live class) online so they no longer needed CART services. Some events and conferences I was scheduled to caption canceled. But then I picked up different work that I never would have if not for COVID-19 measures. For instance, one university I had not been working for previously moved from in-person classes to live, online classes and needed more assistance with remote CART captioning; so I picked up some work there. As businesses moved their workforce to work-from-home more meetings were being held virtually, and they needed CART captioning. All in all, at this point I’d say it’s evened out.

MKB | At first, there were many cancellations and business was down for a while, but since then it has picked up, as many companies have transitioned their employees to working from home and are having remote meetings where they used to meet in person. And they need captioners!

Is there anything you are anticipating for two to five months from now?

DR | I do anticipate that the work really will begin to pick up significantly. I sense that companies are coming through the initial phase of getting employees set up and secure to work from home, and there will be a greater need for remote captioning.

TC | I am anticipating much of the same [as we have experienced the past few weeks]. I think we all have different levels of comfort, given the virus onset. Now we have to figure out what that means for each of us. Fall is the earliest I see things potentially moving forward with regard to travel and/or groups attempting to gather, but I am not sure how I feel about that yet. I am going to let the science lead me with regard to those decisions.

BN | I think many people are becoming comfortable working remotely and videoconferencing and will choose to have more virtual meetings in the future.

AHM | Summer, in my experience, has always been a slower time for CART as there is not as much classroom work due to school schedules, and many businesspeople have fewer events due to vacations and holidays. So I expect the next two months to be slower, but not because of COVID-19, but just because that is the normal cycle of things.

Within five months I expect things to ramp up significantly as stay-at-home orders are lifted, fall semesters (whether in-person or virtually) begin, and businesses get “back to normal,” whatever that might look like, including planning for in-person or virtual events. I’m anticipating I will be as busy as I want to be! The need for CART captioning has not diminished. If anything, there is even more awareness and value placed on quality CART at this time.

MKB | I’m not sure what to expect. Usually there’s a bit of a summer slowdown and then a pickup in the fall when schools start again. Everything is upside down; so I don’t know. I do think, though, that clients who have completely disappeared for a while will be starting to return, and on top of the new business with new clients, it will make things crazy busy around September. And I think some clients will continue with remote meetings even after everything opens up again since they’re discovering they can keep the business going with everyone working from home when they didn’t really think they could.

What are your biggest concerns right now?

DR | I’m not terribly concerned, but I am eager for a return to some normalcy.

TC |With regard to work, summer is always more of a quiet time.  Schools of all levels are recessed, and, for me, sporting events and conferences will not be happening; so I know this will be more subdued than usual.  I feel very blessed to be working, period.  I count my blessings every day.

AHM | As has been the case since the 1990s when I originally went to court reporting school, there is a looming threat of technology-based competition. Back in the 1990s, it was the threat of the tape recorder! As students, we wondered if we’d have jobs in the future. Twenty years later and the job market for court reporters, as far as I can tell, is as strong as ever. The threat did not live up to the hype.

Now in the accessibility field of CART, there is the threat of automated speech-to-text technologies. There’s been a lot of improvement in this field, and I know a lot of money and effort is being funneled into this endeavor. There’s also a lot of hype, but to this point, once again, it’s not lived up to the hype. A quality CART provider is still better than any automated system by far, and no automated system can provide true accessibility in almost every circumstance, in my experience and opinion. Will this always be true? I’m not sure. If not, how long will this be the case? Again, I don’t know. Will it even matter “which is better” or truly provides accessibility, or will businesses/organizations/schools just use cheaper automated options without ramifications via legislation or losing lawsuits? Again, I don’t know, but I believe it may be this piece that is most important of all.

I am 43 years old right now. I hope to have CART captioning as my career for another 20 years. I can’t imagine myself doing something else! And I do believe I will be able to finish my career out in this field. But the conversations have started in the back of my mind, if I had to do something else, what would it be? Maybe I should start planning for those things, not because I think it will for sure happen, but because it’s good to have backups. Just like with our equipment needs, emergencies happen, unexpected things happen, and we need to be prepared, nimble, and flexible.

MKB | If you mean business wise, just hoping to stay busy! My two biggest concerns with working remotely is internet stability and good audio. I have no control over my internet provider, and the occasional outage creates havoc. And I never feel as though the audio quality working remotely is as good as being in person. It just isn’t. Now even more so, because everyone is calling in remotely and the background noises — the kids screaming and the dogs barking and pots clanging because people are calling from their kitchen, and so on — makes our job more difficult.

Personally, like everyone, I guess hoping family and friends stay well, physically and mentally. And for me, since I live alone and work alone, I really miss being able to get out in my free time and be with people! I love music, so that helps. And so do all the Zoom happy hours with friends and family!

Do you have any advice for captioners right now?

DR | Keep your sense of humor and stay in touch with colleagues from time to time. We aren’t together, but we are all in this together. Our clients and consumers still need us, maybe even more than ever!

TC | This is a difficult time, full stop. We are all trying to find our way in our lives, in our relationships, in our careers. Being versatile and flexible in our work is vital. Now is the time to hone your craft and build more skills. If there is a software program you need to get up to speed on, a piece of equipment you have been meaning to procure, a more efficient way to write something that you have been wanting to focus on, this is that time.

BN | Continually improve your skill. ASR has improved; so we need to improve as well. Clients have high expectations, and it’s our job to meet those expectations. Build your dictionaries, work toward additional certifications, and familiarize yourself with advanced software capabilities. Also, learn how to integrate your captions into online platforms such as Zoom, Adobe Connect, Blackboard Collaborate, and YouTube.

AHM | Do everything you can to be the best you can be at what you do. Network as much as you can, which, especially remotely, can be hard. Especially as one who is naturally introverted as I am, it can be doubly especially hard! But if one door closes, networking is the best place to find a new one open. Lastly, live in gratefulness. You have an awesome job, doing awesome and important work! I feel so blessed to get the opportunity to be my own boss, working from home, making a decent enough wage to support my family, and I hope you have the same experience. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but I know right here and now it’s a wonderful life.

MKB | I remember feeling overwhelmed when I started working remotely. It seems the technology of it all can be daunting. It still is, actually. But then I was born BC, before computers. (I’ll be 65 next month.) For younger captioners, that part of it might be a piece of cake. But you’re already a captioner; so you’ve conquered the hard part! Working remotely gives you a great opportunity to be of service, just using a different methodology. You have a great skill, you are needed, and it is just as rewarding as working in person, even more so now in this COVID-19 world. I used to tell myself that the only person stopping me was me. So jump right in. The water’s fine! If I can do it; so can you!

Reporting a PGA Golf Tournament

Deborah Kriegshauser with Hale Irwin.

NCRA member Deborah Kriegshauser, FAPR, RMR, CRR, CRC, CLVS, shares a memory of one of her most unusual jobs.

JCR | When and where was the job?

DK | I was asked to caption media interviews of the Senior PGA Golf Tournament players at the Boone Valley (Members Only) Golf Course in Augusta, Mo., in 2000.

JCR | What made the job unique?

DK | It was literally the middle of nowhere. They couldn’t find any freelancer who would accept the job as they were not wanting to pay in cash but, instead, provide four tournament passes to the four-day event, which included celebrity golf tournaments with the PGA players before the big tournament began. In doing so, I personally got to meet Arnold Palmer, along with Tom Watson, Tom Kite, Chi-Chi Rodríguez, and many big-name players. As they came off the golf course each day, they would be interviewed individually, and I would report the interview and provided instantaneous transcripts to the media folks for their use in their articles and TV programs. 

JCR | Did anything else make the job memorable?

Kriegshauser with golfer Larry Nelson

DK | I would be there until dark, but the family and friends who used my tournament passes ended up winning all these attendance ticket prizes that the sponsors were giving away. They were sometimes the only ones left in the area, waiting on me to get done. They walked away with Adirondack chairs, coolers, you name it. It was a pretty awesome experience.

I have a pole flag that all the PGA players signed. It is very special to me. I’ve been told it’s worth a lot of money, especially with all the players who have passed away, including Arnold Palmer.

Deborah Kriegshauser, FAPR, RMR, CRR, CRC, CLVS, is an official reporter in Dallas, Texas.