Houston captioner keeps audiences up to speed

The Houston Chronicle posted an article on Nov. 23 about the captioning career of NCRA member Marie Bryant, RMR, CRR, CRC.

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Pengad gift card winner says NCRA membership lets her connect

Nicole Bresnick

Nicole Bresnick, a captioner with the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program, is the winner of a $100 Pengad gift card for renewing her NCRA membership early.

Bresnick, a longtime member, was entered into the special drawing along with others who renewed their NCRA memberships in September and October.

“I became a member of NCRA as a student to get connected with my fellow students and the industry, and I have stayed a member, really, for the same reasons; but also, because it’s the right thing to do for my court reporting and captioning community,” said Bresnick, who resides in Madison, Wis.

“What I love most about being a CART captioner is that, working in an academic setting, I’m able to support the amazing students I work with to achieve great things in their education and then beyond. It’s also been great to learn how to be a better ally for deaf and hard-of-hearing people and to help pass that information on to other people in the hearing world,” she added.

Member benefits continue to include:

  • A listing* in both the print and online versions of the NCRA Sourcebook
  • A subscription to the JCR Magazine and the JCR Weekly
  • Multiple certification programs with online skills tests designed to make you more money
  • Access to discounted group insurance programs through Mercer for personal liability and errors and omissions
  • Member pricing to can’t-miss networking and educational events at the NCRA Convention & Expo (Aug. 15-18, 2019) and NCRA Business Summit (Feb. 1-3, 2019), formerly known as the Firm Owners Executive Conference
  • First-class online educational opportunities

Renewing is easy and available online at NCRA.org/renew or by calling 800-272-6272. Members can expect to receive their membership card via email within approximately two weeks of renewing if they have a valid email address and have not previously opted out of Constant Contact email messaging.

For more information, contact Brenda Gill, NCRA’s Membership Manager, at bgill@ncra.org.

* Registered, Participating, and Associate members are eligible for this benefit.


Veritext offers tips on data security ethics for court reporters

An article by Andy Fredericks, Director of Reporter Engagement for Veritext Legal Solutions, offers tips on protecting yourself and your computer from cyber criminals.

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Venice resident David Crane pioneered closed captioning

The November issue of Sarasota Magazine features an article that profiles David Crane, Venice, Fla., who is credited with pioneering closed captioning.

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Dreams never die

By Joshua Edwards

The JCR Weekly recently learned that NCRA member Joshua Edwards has a passion for singing and reached out to learn more about what motivates this CART captioner and court reporter from New York, N.Y.






Being a professional Broadway singer was the dream that brought me to New York 10 years ago. And the dream never dies. However, I knew that I did not want to follow the typical path that most aspiring singer-actors follow – a waiter or always working nightshift jobs. On a friend’s recommendation, I discovered court reporting school. That ended up being a wonderful path for me. I finished school in December 2010 and started taking depositions in New York City right away. Five years flew by. Then I applied for a job in federal court as an official reporter and spent one year there. A major reason I did not want to stay in court is that I felt like I would not have free time to pursue my artistic interests. Auditions for musicals and tours, for example, start at 9 in the morning. If you work a full-time day job, you will never have the opportunity to attend auditions. After leaving my court position, I became a CART captioner, which is now my full‑time job.

Both of my mother’s parents were music lovers. My grandfather was a minister of music in his church. I never got to hear him live, but we do have a few rare recordings of him singing church hymns. My grandmother used to love to hear me sing some of those hymns.

I only started taking lessons in college. My major was vocal performance. Part of the bachelor’s degree was to take diction classes for the four major sung languages: English, German, French, and Italian. We learned how to analyze words according to the International Phonetic Alphabet. When you study music, the foundation is usually classical. In singing you start with the five pure Italian vowels ah, eh, ee, oh, and uu. In Italian, the word for “but” is “ma.” It should be pronounced with a pure tall “ah” sound like the word “mom.” In English we have sloppier vowel constructions like “my.” That’s a combination of “ma” and “ee,” or a diphthong. But no court reporter would write the word “my” in two strokes PHA/AOE. Even more complicated are triphthongs like “our,” comprised of a-uu-er, which mercifully is written in one stroke. So to me, the study of singing in foreign languages is incredibly similar to the study of writing in steno.

Even though I learned to sing operatic arias from composers like Mozart and Puccini, my favorite music to sing is classic Broadway. The singer blends a strong trained voice with more contemporary music. I’ve performed in many plays and musicals — and even some operas. Two performances that stand out are being invited to sing “Nessun Dorma” in a packed courtroom when I was a federal reporter, and then entertaining our state convention attendees last month as the Phantom of the Opera singing “Music of the Night.” Watch the video.

Singing is incredibly rewarding. Singing, music, and any visual or other manner of art connect people on a higher plane in an otherwise chaotic world that is basically a cycle of life and death. Why do we as human beings enjoy things like good food, music, sports, entertainment, and other things which I won’t mention in this article? They make life worth living.

Joshua Edwards, RDR, CRR, is a CART captioner from New York, N.Y.

Realtime captions are pure magic in the classroom

By Amy Marie Yarbrough

With each new semester, there’s a cauldron of frights. What if the professor lectures like an auctioneer? What if there’s only one plug and it’s in the back? What if all the students around me are banging on their keyboards, making it impossible to concentrate? Messy realtime is no longer the apparition of my nightmares. Realizing their fears can be far more intense, working with deaf and hard-of-hearing students relieves my anxiety in a very organic way. Walking into a room full of hearing people can cause goosebumps! The mere presence of their onsite captioner is a cloak of security and comfort.

Realtiming in the classroom doesn’t have to be terrifying. If you utilize the hocus pocus of your software, your consumer will appreciate your captions for what they are: Pure magic.

My biggest ally in conquering realtime demons is the BriefIt pane in Case CATalyst. If you fingerspell a tricky word, for instance, it will immediately suggest a brief, avoiding the need to resort to pronouns if the lecture is dense. Right-click on devilish words/phrases and choose Suggest a Brief when one does not appear.

You may have also noticed in your Brief It pane the (1), (2), and (3) followed by words you wish you had correctly stroked. Those are Live Suggestions, and they are nothing short of supernatural. Familiarize yourself with your Realtime Commands dictionary, which is found in System Files. It’s full of goodies!

The best way to know you’re not writing like Frankenstein is to show your translate statistics. Are they ghastly? Perhaps they are not so terrifying after all. Are you misstroking words or phrases the same way every time? If there’s no conflict, define them. The evolution of your skills depends on your ability to write shorter and more efficiently.

Many of us begin steno school aspiring to caption and then realize how spooky it is for someone to see our realtime feed. We are far too hard on ourselves! Let’s say there are make 25 mistakes out of 5,000 words. Sounds like a lot; right? That is 99.5 percent accuracy. What do we do? We dwell on the 0.5 percent errors rather than celebrating the 99.5 percent success. Manage your expectations and always be striving. Knowing you gave your all can alleviate feelings of defeat.

Harness your fear, howl at the moon, jump on your broomstick, and disguise yourself as a fearless, enchanted writer who does not dread a cobweb of mistakes.

Amy Marie Yarbrough is a CART captioner and freelancer court reporter based in Atlantic Beach, Fla. She is a member of NCRA’s Technology Committee.


VITAC to offer offline captioning webinar

Sports Video Group posted on Oct. 23 that VITAC is offering an offline captioning webinar that will cover the role that captioners play in everyday life, how prerecorded captions are created, and things people should know when ordering captions.

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Removing unconscious barriers in the presence of hearing loss

Women in Technology International recently posted on its website the second in a series of three articles by NCRA member Randi Friedman, RPR, CRR, CRC, a captioner from Montclair, N.J., in which she talks about her captioning work.

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Read first in series.

Salem councilor wants closed captioning on all TVs operating in city’s public areas

The Statesman Journal, Salem, Ore., reported on Oct 23 that a city councilor wants to require all televisions operating in the city’s public areas to turn on closed captioning, a move aimed at accommodating the deaf and hard of hearing.

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How to file a captioning complaint with the Federal Communications Commission

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) encourages feedback from television viewers. According to the FCC, a complaint is a form of feedback, and the Commission wants feedback from viewers. Any television viewer who cares about captioning quality is encouraged to file a complaint whenever they see poor captioning, and you can easily file a complaint from the fcc.gov website.

Many television stations are now using machine captioning or simply the teleprompter as opposed to human captioning. Several companies provide machine captioning to the television stations. These companies and their products are IBM (Watson), ENCO (enCaption3 and 4),  Link (ACE Encoders), and EEG (Lexi).

To file a complaint, we suggest you focus on accuracy, which is one of the four tenets of captioning quality established by the FCC in 2014 (the others are synchronicity, completeness, and placement).

To be accurate, captions must reflect the dialogue and other sounds and music in the audio track to the fullest extent possible based on the type of programming. Accuracy also requires captions to identify the speakers. We find that automatic captioning violates this standard in many ways:

  • Punctuation: Machine captioning provides limited, or wrong, punctuation.
  • Speaker identification: Machine captioning does not identify speakers with >> or names, often including captions from multiple speakers in the same line.
  • Lyrics and sound effects: The FCC Caption Quality best practices clearly state that lyrics and sound effects must be included when measuring accuracy. Engines don’t.
  • Proper nouns:  Proper nouns are a problem with many engines, especially those engines not properly trained.

When you watch television programming, keep these criteria in mind and make notes of any errors in these areas that you see. When possible, try to take photos or record video on your phone to upload with your complaint. In the complaint form provided by the FCC, you will be asked to elucidate the errors and mistakes that you see. You may also attach a screen shot or video showing what you are making a complaint about.

When you open the complaint form provided by the FCC, you need to fill in the following fields:

  • Your email address
  • Subject of the complaint (e.g.: [Station] does not meet FCC quality standards)
  • Description of the complaint (detail the specific instances)
  • Accessibility issues (choose “Closed Captioning on TV” for TV programs)

Once you choose your accessibility issue, additional fields will appear. Those with an asterisk are mandatory.

  • *Preferred method of response: The FCC and the station have to respond to your complaints. This will allow you to choose what medium they use to do so. Your options are email, fax, letter, other, relay service, telephone, and TTY.
  • Name of company complaining about: Enter the name of the specific station.
  • City of company complaining about: Enter the city in which the station is located. For national feeds, you may need to look up the station online.
  • State of company complaining about
  • ZIP code of company complaining about
  • Phone number of company complaining about
  • *Date of your issue: you must enter an actual date, even if the problem is continuous.
  • *Time of your issue
  • *Your TV method (cable, satellite, fiber, internet, over the air)
  • *Name of subscription service (your cable company)
  • TV channel
  • Call sign
  • Network
  • Name of TV program
  • *City where program was viewed
  • *State where program was viewed
  • *Your first name
  • *Your last name
  • *Address 1
  • Address 2
  • *City
  • *State
  • *ZIP
  • *Phone
  • *Filing on behalf of someone? (yes/no)
  • Attachments: Include here any photos or video you may have taken of the captioning errors

After you complete and submit the complaint to the FCC, the FCC will evaluate the complaints and contact you if more details are provided. After this, they generally reach out to the programmer or TV station. At that point, the station may also contact you to compile their response to the FCC. This can take 30-60 days. When you receive these responses, please forward them to NCRA’s Government Relations Manager Matt Barusch at mbarusch@ncra.org, for record keeping.

NCRA believes that machine captioning is not ready for live television programming or any other live events. We know the companies behind this technology will keep working to improve their products. NCRA is committed to providing the best possible access for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.