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.

Utah captioner helps her parents see resolution pass

Phoebe Moorhead with her parents,
Heidi and Clark Gaudette

Phoebe Moorhead, RPR, CRR, recently had a unique captioning experience when her parents got to see the passage of a resolution about captioning thanks to her captions in the House of Representatives. She and her coworker, Cecilee Wilson, RDR, CRR, CRC, told the JCR Weekly more about it.

JCR | Where do you live and what is your position?

PM | I live in Ogden, Utah. I’m a freelance court reporter and captioner. I caption the live online stream of the Utah legislative general session for the House of Representatives every spring. This is our second year covering the legislature, and last year was the first year the session was captioned by an in-house captioner.

CW | I live in Kaysville, Utah. I own Captions West, Inc., a captioning company that was established in 1994. A year ago, Utah’s legislature began in-house captioning of their floor sessions for their 45-day legislative session, and Captions West received the contract. They liked our work and we came back this year.

JCR | What happened with the captioning resolution?

PM | [Utah] HR 3 was a House resolution brought by Rep. Dan Johnson encouraging the use of captions on televisions in public venues. It passed unanimously through the House. 

Phoebe Moorhead, left, and Cecilee Wilson

CW | Rep. Dan Johnson, who sponsored the resolution, is in the office next to mine and knew that Phoebe and I do the captioning of the sessions, and we have chatted at times about captioning. Some of his constituents suggested he run this resolution, and he came up with an excellent bill that addresses the need of having captioning on in public places where captioning could be seen. Hopefully, this will expand education about captioning and expand the call for captioning in public places and in public venues. The resolution passed the House of Representatives, and the citation was read on the floor of the House. As it was only a House resolution, it did not go on to the Senate.

JCR | What is your personal connection to this bill?

PM | My parents are both deaf, and my first language was ASL. I learned to read from the captions on television. My father is a strong advocate for accessibility and captioning for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community in Utah. I knew the passage of this bill would mean a lot to him. The bill was put on the “time certain calendar,” which meant that we knew ahead of time when it would be debated on the house floor. I let my parents know what time it was scheduled for, and they went online to watch it. My parents were able to read the captioning, and we all celebrated together when it passed.

My parents are proud to tell anyone who will listen: “My daughter is a captioner.” Equal access through availability of captions is a subject my parents and I are passionate about, with me as the provider and them as the consumers. As the bill was being presented and my fingers were flying, I couldn’t help but feel an enormous amount of gratitude for the ability to do my job and for the impact my job has on the lives of my parents.

Chabad Lubavitch captioning assignment

By Rivka Teich

On Sunday, Nov. 24, I stepped out of my comfort zone. I did my very first closed captioning event.

Let me give you some background. My name is Rivka Teich, and I am an Orthodox Jewish court reporter. As a matter of fact, I am the only Orthodox Federal reporter in the country. I’ve been a court reporter for the last 20+ years, with nearly all of those years in Federal court. I’m currently in Brooklyn, Eastern District of New York. I do realtime every day and hold NCRA’s Registered Merit Reporter and a realtime certificate. I’m comfortable and confident in my work every day.

The event I captioned was the Gala Banquet put on by Chabad Lubavitch headquarters. Chabad Lubavitch is one of the largest global Jewish organizations. They have emissaries (rabbis and their families) who are in all parts of the world, including more than 100 countries and in every state in the United States. These rabbis create a Jewish community and atmosphere, providing Jewish activities and classes, establishing schools, and providing kosher food. The list could go on and on.

And once a year all of these rabbis, more than 5,000, come back to their base (Crown Heights, Brooklyn) for a long weekend of classes, seminars, and encouragement from one another. And at the end of the weekend, on Sunday, they have a beautiful, uplifting Gala Banquet. At this banquet, all the rabbis join, many bringing their friends and people from their community along, raising the attendance to close to 6,000 people, making it the largest rabbinical conference in the world.

Rabbi Yehoshua Soudakoff with Rivka Teich

One of those 5,000 rabbis is Rabbi Yehoshua Soudakoff. And he is deaf. Soudakoff is originally from California and currently lives in Israel with his wife, Cheftziba, who is also deaf. Together they run the Chabad for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community in Rishon L’tzion. The name of their organization is Chushima, which is a reference to the Biblical figure, Chushim Ben Dan, who was deaf; additionally, the word Chushim in Hebrew means senses.

For Soudakoff to fully participate and enjoy the evening with his fellow rabbis, the CART was displayed on the screens around the exposition hall. The Ruderman Chabad Inclusion Initiative funded the closed captioning and helped guide these efforts for the past five years. In addition to the screens in the room for the 6,000 people to watch, it was also being broadcast live on the internet for those watching at home (100,000+ people) with closed captioning.

This was a big deal. And it was not simple to hire just any CART captioner, because about 40 percent of the words were not in English. They were a mix of Hebrew and Yiddish and a slew of phrases and words that are commonly spoken between Orthodox Jews. The reporter had to be someone familiar with that lexicon and ready for it. So that definitely narrows down the pool.

In the past another reporter, Rikki Woonteiler of Brooklyn, N.Y., who is a CART captioner, did the captioning. But she was out of the country, and so the organizers reached out to me.

I strongly believe that you need to keep challenging yourself and improving. Yes, it’s nice to float along and to be comfortable in your work, but not too comfortable. And that was how I was starting to feel day to day at work, too comfortable. Give me a narcotics trial, a securities fraud trial, a terrorist trial — and I got it! But this was a whole new territory for me with words and phrases that I hardly hear or write at work.

So, naturally, I accepted. Now came the hard work.

I was given most of the speeches ahead of time. And so I wrote them, and wrote them, and wrote them again. Over and over and over again. I also went back to previous banquets online and practiced past speeches. I put more than 700 words into my case-specific dictionary. I was definitely doing my homework and being as prepared as can be.

In addition to the physical practicing, I had to figure out my software and work with the IT people at the convention to change over from court reporting software to captioning software. That was a whole new world for me, too. That took time. And there was a lot of trial and error. Of course, I did not wait until game day, and it all went smooth when we hooked up at the event.

Yes, I had the speeches, but – spoiler alert – most people did not stay on script. As a matter of fact, there was an entire Q&A before the evening of an interviewer going around the room and asking participants where they are from and some questions.

There was a lot of quick thinking. Realizing I didn’t have a specific name in my dictionary, I had to finger spell it. And these are not “John Smith” names, but rather “Rabbi Shmuel Yitzchak Jenkelowitz from Krgyzstan.” That was fun!

Plus if a Hebrew word or phrase was said that I hadn’t prepared for, I would write the English of it instead. So it wasn’t just hearing words and writing them. There was a lot of analyzing going on all at the same time.

Right before we started, Soudakoff came over to me with his ASL interpreter to thank me. That was so special. That was a clear reminder of why the closed captioning was so important. As Soudakoff said on social media: “Accessibility is not just for those who need it. Accessibility brings together an entire community and includes all of its members. That’s why I’m thrilled that the captioning won’t just be in front of me at the Chabad Emissaries Gala Banquet I’m attending tonight. It will be on the screens around the room – sending a message of community-wide inclusion and unity.”

Was I nervous? Yes, yes, yes. It was all so new compared to what I’m used to and confident at. But in the end, that was the biggest accomplishment for me: I put myself out there and I did it. And I did it well. I have been thinking of moving into the closed captioning world but hadn’t done it ever; and now I jumped in with two feet, in the deep end. And I made it!

My take-away is: Go out of your comfort zone. Put yourself out there. Take a leap of faith. It will be uncomfortable, but you’ll gain the confidence that you did it.

Rivka Teich, RMR, is an official court reporter in Brooklyn, N.Y.

What has NCRA done for captioners?

By Carol Studenmund

I live in Portland, Ore., and I am one of the owners of LNS Court Reporting and LNS Captioning along with Robin Nodland. I manage LNS Captioning, and she manages LNS Court Reporting. I began captioning in 1992. I’ve had the joy of captioning two Super Bowls for fans and players in the stadiums, and I have had the heartbreak of captioning way too many mass shooting events. In between are many hours listening to the public testify at city council meetings and inconsequential but sweet stories about kittens and puppies. I love my job and would not trade it for anything.

Evolution of a captioner

I can trace the evolution of captioning in my own personal development.

In April 1992 I attended the first NCRA realtime writing conference, held in Seattle, Wash. The staff of the National Captioning Institute and VITAC took about 200 people through the paces of writing in real time without conflicts or undefined steno. At this conference, I found a path to follow to become a live captioner. From this foundation, I and many others started our immersion into the pool of qualified live captioners.

In July 1992, at the NCRA convention in Chicago, I sat for the brand-new Certified Realtime Reporter examination, and I did not pass. I returned to take the test at the next convention and passed. Passing that test was hard, and I put a lot of work into being ready for it the second time around. I gained a ton of confidence in my writing and my ability to stay cool under pressure.

In 1994, I was asked to participate in a training conference held by NCRA. Over the next few years, I traveled the country as part of a team of NCRA members who trained even more people to become great realtime writers, and many of them joined the world of live captioning. The people I taught with inspired me to keep working on my writing, and still I consider them mentors who could help answer my questions about so many topics relating to captioning. I have benefited greatly from the training, the certification, and the networking I have found through NCRA.

Captioners were a part of NCRA from the beginning

A meme going around the social media world of live captioning asks: “What has NCRA ever done for captioning?” Trust me, a great amount of energy and hard work on behalf of NCRA leadership and members built the foundation for the field of professional, certified live captioners.

Marty Block, RPR (Ret.), then of the National Captioning Institute, provided the first live captioning on live television in the world for the 1982 Academy Awards ceremony. No faxes or emails were sent with prep material. Someone from NCI flew to Los Angeles to pick up — literally — the Oscars’ script for Marty. Marty went on to become president of NCRA and one of the founders of VITAC. Other past presidents of NCRA who are or were captioners include Joe Karlovits, RDR (Ret.); Judy Brentano, RPR (Ret.); Kathy DiLorenzo, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC; and Karen Yates, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC.

Karlovits became the first person to caption for a deaf lawyer when that lawyer argued a case before the United States Supreme Court in 1982. His work received a great deal of publicity across the country. Many firsts in captioning were celebrated by the community of people with hearing disabilities as more and more TV programs and other live events became accessible.

Advocating for captioning

In the early 2000s, NCRA helped obtain funding for Mississippi State University to develop a workforce development program for captioning. Jan Bounds oversaw an excellent bachelor’s degree in a court reporting program at Ole Miss. The Mississippi Congressional delegation went to bat for a $500,000 grant to create this program to train court reporters to become live captioners. NCRA threw its weight behind this effort, led by Dave Wenhold, then our lobbyist, now our Executive Director. Ole Miss hired EduCaption, Inc., out of Atlanta, to create and implement the program. Past president Judy Brentano and current NCRA board member Heidi Thomas, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, created the program and toured the country to train captioners. When I come across someone trained in this program, their résumé goes to the top of the pile. EduCaption has moved around over the years and is now known as Learn to Caption, which is run by NCRA member Anissa Nierenberger, RPR, CRR, CRC, CRI. NCRA has lobbied Congress for retraining funds year after year, funds which helped many realtime writing programs become established across the country.

NCRA develops a certification program for captioners

In 2003, the Certified CART Provider and Certified Broadcast Captioner program began by providing CRR holders with a written knowledge test that demonstrated the test candidate’s knowledge of working in the broadcast world and/or the CART captioning world. Many captioners quickly took both exams and obtained both certifications. By 2015 the CRR became a true judicial reporter exam by becoming a testimony-only skills test. The Certified Realtime Captioner program was launched in 2015, when the two written knowledge tests were combined into one exam, and the skills portion of the certification became a test at 180 words per minute with a 96 percent accuracy rate required to pass.

NCRA has worked throughout the years to raise awareness of our certification programs, including the CRC. As a result of that work, I have replied to several Requests for Proposals that specifically required captioners to be holders of our CRC as part of the contract.

NCRA building best practices for captioning

In 2012, the Canadian Radio Television Commission (CRTC) created a caption accuracy program that just about all live captioners — in Canada and the United States — felt was draconian and onerous. Just to state the obvious, live captioners do not control what is being said on TV. We cannot tell the weather guy to slow down. We caption what we are given. We all strive for 100 percent accuracy for 100 percent of the words. However, people talk over each other. Politicians yell at each other. It’s part of the job. The CRTC’s plan involved CRTC staff obtaining the actual audio file of a TV program and the captions that were created by the live captioner assigned to that program. The staff person then would evaluate the captioner’s accuracy rate compared against the actual words said. When I’m racing to keep up, I will drop “okay” or someone repeating themselves, those types of things. Those would all be counted as errors against my accuracy rate.

That same year, I was the chairperson of the Captioning Community of Interest. My fellow committee members and I agreed we did not want anything like the Canadian plan to come to the United States. We decided to take the bull by the horns and control our futures. We created a document that outlined the roles of everyone involved in bringing live captioning to TV. When I am working as a captioner, what are my duties and responsibilities? When I am operating in my role as a firm owner, what must I make sure happens to get my captioners’ captions to the program on time and as accurately as possible? What roles do my local network affiliates and local cable providers play in getting our captions delivered to the viewers without any technical errors? We even included a part in this process for the caption consumer to provide feedback to the FCC about their experiences watching captioned programming.

Once Adam Finkel, our then-government relations staff person at NCRA, had vetted our Best Practices with the national organizations for people with hearing disabilities, we were ready to take our best practices to the next level: the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Finkel made an appointment with the FCC to share our Best Practices. Their response? “We love this.” We did not ask the FCC to grade papers. Our best practices scenario let everyone know what part of the process they were responsible for. In 2015, the FCC’s Rules for Broadcast Captioning Quality were approved and made into law.

Is there anything else I should know?

NCRA’s current president, Max Curry, RPR, CRI, wants to bring as many captioners into NCRA as he can find. The more members we have, the more work NCRA can do on behalf of us all. I urge you, if you are a captioner and haven’t earned the CRC, put that on your to-do list and work hard to pass that test. If you have already earned the CRC, continue your education. There is always more to learn about this great, big world of ours, and you never know what will come up when you caption. If you work with other captioners, encourage them to become members of NCRA and to earn these certifications. Together, we can do wonderful things.

Carol Studenmund, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, is a captioner based in Portland, Ore., and chair of the NCRA Captioning Regulatory Policy Committee. She can be reached at cstudenmund@LNSCaptioning.com.

Reps. Kind and Davis introduce bill to reauthorize the Training for Realtime Writers Act

Rep. Ron Kind of Wisconsin and Rep. Rodney Davis of Illinois introduced bipartisan legislation on Dec. 6 that will reauthorize a grant program to encourage careers in realtime writing and court reporting. In 2007, Rep. Kind introduced the Training for Realtime Writers Act, which was passed and signed into law as part of the Higher Education Act of 2008.

The grant program allows colleges and universities to apply for funding specifically to help encourage more students to pursue a career in realtime writing, closed captioning, or court reporting. Around 48 million Americans are deaf or hard-of-hearing, and many of them rely on captioning services for news and information.

“From maintaining the integrity of our democracy to ensuring every citizen stays up to date on today’s 24-hour news cycle, realtime writers are vital to folks everywhere,” said Kind. “Over the past decade, this program has encouraged a new generation of realtime writers to enter this vital field. I am proud to work across the aisle with Rep. Davis to reauthorize this program so we can continue to increase awareness and interest in this profession.”

“The Training for Realtime Writers grant is an important grant program that ensures we have the necessary resources to train court reporters and captioners for the estimated 48 million Americans who are deaf or impacted by hearing loss,” said Davis. “These funds have been incredibly successful in training the current generation of captioners and court reporters by modernizing curriculums, developing new captioning-specific programs, and increasing attendance at institutes of learning through student recruitment, scholarships, advertisements, equipment upgrades, and distance learning programs. I’m proud to be introducing this legislation to reauthorize this program with my colleague, Rep. Kind, and look forward to working to ensure it is included as the House tackles Higher Education Reauthorization this Congress.”

Read the bill text here.

Captioning the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

By Debbie Dibble


Sesame Street characters showed up for the Tabernacle Choir Show
Photo © The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

After a career full of unusual cases, including surfers in New Zealand, terrorists in the Philippines, and Saudi princes in Grand Cayman, I was sure I had done it all. But captioning the Mormon Tabernacle Choir — or The Tabernacle Choir on Temple Square as it is now called — is a uniquely gratifying and challenging experience, particularly when special guests, like the cast of “Sesame Street” or Frozen, pop in for a performance. Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Count von Count, Ernie, Bert, and Elmo were unbelievably challenging, but Rosita and Zoe just about did me in! Their quick-fire, Spanish-accented repartee can be a captioner’s nightmare — but make for great stories if you survive!

Since 1929 – nearly the lifetime of radio – the Tabernacle Choir has been a phenomenon of broadcasting. Its “Music & the Spoken Word” is the longest continuous broadcast on the air. This show is broadcast – and captioned – every Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m. Mountain Time. It is a half-hour show that is mostly music. As the captioner, I have the arrangements – with words – provided ahead of time for prescripting. It’s not a complicated broadcast to caption, but each show is different and has its own distinct challenges. The Christmas Concert each year, with invited celebrities and special themes, is always quite the spectacle. There are also periodic holiday specials as well as programs to honor dignitaries, veterans, historic events, and whenever else there is cause to celebrate with music. I find that each broadcast comes with new obstacles that require creative solutions, and I grow as a professional while I work with my team of engineers and producers to find ways to provide the best product for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community.

How did I end up with this dream gig? The simple answer is: Credentials! About 10 years ago, when the Utah state courts converted their entire system from official stenographers to electronic recording, it was obvious I needed to take steps to increase my skills and, therefore, my value in the freelance market, and to become proficient as a certified captioner. I educated myself and passed both of the NCRA captioning certifications offered at the time: the Certified CART Provider (CCP) and the Certified Broadcast Captioner (CBC). Within a month of receiving those two designations, I was informed of this opportunity and that they were only looking for those with my new credentials to fill the position.

Moving from depositions into captioning hymns and sermons required a substantial learning curve. Sure, I had captioned the news, but this was an entirely new environment. They used different software that toggled between live and prescripted work. I needed to learn about pop-on, paint-on, three-line roll-up, how to use musical notes, and so many new elements, like how to clear the screen in a hurry. I look back on how daunting it seemed to me when I started—during my first show I told them I quit three times—and now, seven years later, I can flip and fly between cells and programs seamlessly and without breaking a sweat!

The Tabernacle Choir with the Sesame Street characters. Photo ©The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

I work with a huge team of engineers, producers, and directors, and supervise a team of captioners that provide captioning in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and French. They have all helped in my journey of education and progress, and together we have created new solutions to provide a better experience for those that we serve. Sometimes we aid an even broader group than just the deaf and hard-of-hearing in the audience. During one broadcast, there was a speaker who was struggling with debilitating health issues. He was in a wheelchair and could hardly speak above a whisper. His voice was gravelly and very difficult to understand. I later learned that one of the dignitaries in attendance was struggling to hear and asked his grandson if he could understand what was said. The grandson began to repeat the words verbatim. Later, when the youngster was asked how he had possibly heard all that, his reply was, “I had the closed captions on!” This individual was a high-profile leader in the organization, and his experience spread like wildfire. It was great exposure for our unmatched skills!

This has been an incredibly fulfilling experience for me both personally and professionally. My skills improve with every broadcast, each new project, and every new challenge. I have learned so much from colleagues both in the court reporting and captioning industry as well as the engineers and producers on my team. They have taught me how my duties interact with their jobs, and we all have become more keenly aware of what a critical part the immediate access to captions play. One engineer, after hearing the story of the grandson reading my captions, decided that captioning should be offered to all attendees in the main hall. He worked with a caption delivery system to develop a new platform that would support simultaneous connections to 25,000 mobile devices, where the prior system had only been capable of supporting a few hundred.

While providing captions is itself a rewarding experience, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that this choice assignment has afforded me a front-row seat to performances by incredible talents such as James Taylor, David Archuletta, Donny Osmond, Gladys Knight, Kristen Chenoweth, Tom Brokaw, Walter Cronkite, and so many more. This profession, our profession, opens doors to learning and lifetime experiences unlike any other. It is truly the greatest profession on earth! Never stop learning and never stop working to improve your skills. You never know when the next great opportunity will present itself.

Debbie Dibble, RDR, CRR, CRC, is a freelancer and captioner based in Salt Lake City, Utah, as well as NCRA’s Vice President. In addition to the NCRA certifications listed above, she has earned NCRA’s Realtime System Administrator certification and the state certified shorthand reporter credentials for Utah, California, Nevada, and Texas. She can be reached at ddib06@gmail.com.

Captioner ready for supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

Cynthia Hinds, CRC, and her daughter Katie

Cynthia Hinds, CRC, a captioner from Mabank, Texas, recently posted the following on Facebook about an experience she had during a captioning job:

One of my favorite clients to work for was doing a college visit day for 1,300 families. With so many people, she had to keep talking while all those people filed into different places. So, she decided to have a little fun with the captioner. You know how hard it is to think of my answer and keep up with what she is saying? Nice light-hearted start to the weekend 📷

I also want to thank our realtime captionist.
How many of you have seen realtime captioning before?
Okay.
So, I didn’t realize before I started working here at [name of school] that the captionist is not sitting behind a screen.
They actually can be anywhere in the country.
So, captionist, welcome.
And where are you from?
>> Captioner: From Dallas, Texas.
The captionists are always from a warm climate.
Slightly warmer than what we have today.
What’s the forecast in Dallas?
>> Captioner: Around 60 and sunny.
I am jealous.
But I am headed down to Dallas later this month, so hopefully that warm weather continues.
Another fun thing about the captioning is that they have to type any word that I say.
So if I say, Supercalifragilistic-Expialidocious they have to type that on the screen.
>> Captioner: Very funny.
Wow, I’m impressed.
Thank you for being such a good sport.

The JCR Weekly reached out to Hinds to get more information about what was happening that day.

JCR | What is your captioning background?

 CH | I’ve been captioning since 1996. I was hired by the National Captioning Institute (NCI) while I was waiting on my Texas exam results. I packed up at 24 and headed to the Washington, D.C., suburbs, where they trained me thoroughly and put me on the air. I worked for them for 10 years, VITAC for five, and then began my independent career. I captioned broadcast in the beginning of my career until I left VITAC. Then when I went independent, I found so much work in the CART side of things, so I do mostly that and moonlight with a little broadcast captioning on the side. Truthfully, it feels like the lines between these two sides of captioning are more and more blurred, so I end up doing it all. In the past few weeks, I’ve done a tech-con, a college admissions pitch, a support group for students, a nursing class, a broadcast of a video game tournament, a few college district board meetings, several government meetings of different agencies and levels, a training webinar, several hours of Fox News, basketball game arena announcements, and a hockey game broadcast — all from my home. I also went recently to caption the Dallas Hearing Foundation’s Fundraising Gala event pro bono. My friend runs the charity, so I’ve done that for the last 11 years. That little job includes my fast-talking friend (she should know better; we met in court reporting school for Pete’s sake!) and, the golden jewel of the night – a live auction. Finger gymnastics! So, yeah, I caption it all.

 JCR | How do you feel when you are captioning and the speaker addresses you directly?

 CH | When they do start to play with us, the tangle of trying to think of the answer to the question and trying to remember what they said to write it becomes the new game. I have a few thoughts that can really turn the pressure up. One, try not to make it awkward by making them wait too long for a response; two, now all eyes are on your words, so don’t screw it up! Three, this is a chance for captions to be spotlighted, meaning, not just the words, but the incredible service it is for so many people.

I love it when people “play” with us. I really do. But the pressure increases and then that magic thing we do where the words stream through our ears, almost seemingly to bypass our brains and emerge from our fingers gets interrupted. When I had to think of an answer, it now had to go through the obstacle course that is my brain. I’m a 48-year-old single mom! Entering the brain forbidden forest could mean the words wouldn’t make it out to my fingers. 

When she started talking about the captioner, my ears perked up. Here’s what I know: If they want to show off captioning, which I actually like since so many folks think artificial intelligence is putting those lovely words on the screen, they almost always play with words, and of course they’re never normal, everyday words. And one word they love to say is supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. The job had been fairly easy. I hate to say auto pilot, because, well, they’re never that easy. But cruising along and it was wrapping up. I was in my robe, and I forgot my fuzzy socks. It was Saturday morning and as soon as I finished that job, I had to get ready for the gala job, including really dressing and getting all my equipment there. So when I got out of bed that morning, I just threw on the robe. My toes were cold. In Dallas, we had a cold blast, but I could see the sun through my window, so I could tell it was nice and bright. I usually throw my curtains open, but, for whatever reason, I didn’t that morning. So when she asked what the weather was, I had to rely on some distant fuzzy memory of it being a nice weekend, even though clearly, it was cool. My toes were cold! I ended up guessing pretty accurately … 60 and sunny.

Most of my captioner friends have a brief for supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. I don’t. I don’t know why, my brain just likes the clear path from hear the word to send the word to the fingers. It works for me. So I write it out in squeezed parts – SUP/CAL/FRAG/EXP/YAL/DOSHES. In captioning to an encoder, you have 32 character spaces across a line of text. That’s it. So at NCI, Darlene Parker, FAPR, director, steno, captioning & realtime relations, and Karen Finkelstein, realtime manager, had me put it in hyphenated in two parts so it could go partly on one line and partly on the next and still be readable since the word is 34 characters. So that old outline was in there and I was feeding an encoder, so I knew it had to have a break in the middle. Good ole NCI training saves the day again.

I would never ever interject unless I was being directly addressed. There’s so much thought in those moments. So many consumers want you to sort of be the fly on the wall, a simple conduit of communication. They want others to see them and interact with them, not the captioner. It’s not my role to speak for them or do anything else but convert the spoken word (and sometimes ambient sounds) to the written form so they can receive what they need to get through their day. So, it is odd when we are called on to “speak” for ourselves. But I knew what she was doing; she was playing with me and trying to be entertaining while she waited for hundreds of people to scatter and go in different directions. And I am a jokester. Sincerely, I love to banter. So I saw my chance in the right place and went for it. I could hear the laughter in the crowd.

Albuquerque City Council approves closed captioning ordinance

Albuquerque, N.M.,  businesses will now face a fine if they don’t turn on the closed captioning on any TV that is open to public viewing, according to an article posted Nov. 18 by KRQE Media.

Read more.

Albuquerque city councilors to introduce closed captioning ordinance

Channel KRQE, Albuquerque, N.M., reported on Nov. 6 that a new proposed city ordinance, which calls for closed captioning to appear on any TV that is open to the public viewing, will be introduced at the next city council meeting on Nov. 18.

Read more.

Captioners shared history with NCRA highlights past, present, and future

NCRA members Carol Studenmund, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, Portland, Ore.; Karen Yates, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC, Minden, Nev.; and Kelly Linkowski, RPR, CRR, CRC, CPE, Rittman, Ohio, presented a session at the NCRA Convention & Expo that highlighted the history of captioning and shared a vision of the future. The JCR Weekly asked the trio to share their thoughts.

JCR | Can you tell us a little about your background and how you are connected to captioning?

Linkowski | We tell people all the time how diverse a career in court reporting can be. It’s my favorite part of being a realtime stenographic reporter. My career has evolved to fit my family’s lifestyle and mine, unlike many professions where you have to fit your life around your career. I loved freelancing and never knowing what the next day may bring when I was in my 20s; I enjoyed the challenges and opportunity to sub in courtroom settings; but my ultimate favorite has been captioning as an independent contractor. When my kids were young, they would tell people I watched television for a living! Little did they know, working my own hours — as weird as they were — helped our family dynamic work in the way my husband and I had envisioned.

Yates | In the mid-1990s, after 25 years in judicial reporting, I was looking for a change, a new challenge. I attended the NCRA Annual Convention & Expo and heard a keynote speech by Henry Kisor, author of the book What’s That Pig Outdoors? He spoke about his experiences as a man who is deaf and the importance of captioning and CART in his life. He urged our members to retrain to become captioners. I took up that challenge and have never looked back. I haven’t done broadcast captioning, but I have worked providing CART captioning in every possible setting, including onsite for individual students in their classes; for large convention and meeting audiences; in my hometown and in many other states; as well as across the globe in other countries. Now I work almost exclusively from my home office providing remote captioning.

Studenmund | I am one of the owners of LNS Captioning in Portland, Ore. We started LNS Captioning in 1993. I first worked as a captioner in 1992. I have served on NCRA committees involving captioning since 1994 and taught workshops about realtime writing and captioning back in the 1990s, and I am still involved in captioner education to this day. I was one of the instructors for the Certified Realtime Captioner (CRC) Workshop held in Denver in August 2019.

JCR | What do you tell captioners who ask you, “What has NCRA done for captioners?”

Studenmund | In 2012, the NCRA Captioning Community of Interest (CoI) took the bull by the horns and developed the Best Practices for Captioning, the effort that led to the Federal Communications Commission establishing – in 2015 – rules for captioning quality. The NCRA Captioning CoI was tired of hearing everyone in the broadcast realm blame any problems with captions on the captioners. We knew our captions went through many hands between our steno machines and computers and the end user’s TV. We started the conversation to identify all of the roles involved in the creation and delivery of live captions.

Linkowski | Certification. Certifications are an immediate letter of reference. They guarantee I have the minimum requirements. You can’t fake it – you are a realtime writer. Sometimes you are writing upwards of 300 wpm, and companies are hiring you to be the accessibility link to their customers. Certifications get you in the door; CEUs and daily developing of your skills and knowledge base will propel you to the top.

Yates | You cannot talk about the history of captioning without acknowledging the central role NCRA has played. As some of our members pioneered the field, NCRA highlighted their outstanding work every step of the way. Through our JCR articles and conference seminars, NCRA educated and trained legions of new captioners. We created certifications that allow our members to demonstrate their mastery of this skill and differentiate themselves from competitors. Our lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill put a spotlight on captioning and gained millions of dollars to enable our schools to train captioners. NCRA’s public relations department helped place articles about captioners in local and national media outlets, especially after national disasters. The Association works with other organizations, particularly those representing people with hearing loss, on all captioning issues. NCRA continues to be the leading champion for captioners, both within our own ranks and to all external audiences.

JCR | What do you see as the future of captioners? 

Yates | I see a continuing expansion in the demand for our skill. It won’t be strictly as captioners, but in a more fluid and flexible field of instant, clean, (nearly) verbatim text for every imaginable situation. The word’s out, and the simultaneous display of the written word as the speakers talk is now a service that people just expect to be available. While other technologies might be available at lower cost, a skilled steno captioner will continue to be the standard against which all others measure themselves. 

Linkowski | Opportunities are more abundant than ever before. Captioning is no longer for just the deaf and hard of hearing but is a key communication component to universal design.

Studenmund | In the near future, live stenographic captioners will adjust to new competitors in our marketplace. Over time, we will see automated speech recognition improve. Our consumers will continue to make their voices heard about the level of quality they need in live captions. And live captioners will see the marketplace recognize the need for human captioners who are professionals who are accountable to ethics codes and quality of captions.

Look for an article on the history of captioning coming in the November/December issue of the JCR.