CART-Wise: You are only as good as your dictionary

By Jennifer Porto
How many times have you been on a job and thought, “Why don’t I have that word in my dictionary?” For every easy job, there is that one job that humbles us when we quickly realize that we will never have enough words in our dictionary, nor will we ever write fast enough.
My story begins on the first day of a new semester. With my first glance — or whiff — of the professor, I knew this was not going to be a typical Bio 211 lecture class. The lanky professor kicked off his worn Birkenstocks as he unpacked his satchel of textbooks. Staring, I willed myself to look away.
Why does it smell like cinnamon and sweaty socks? I couldn’t take my eyes off of the brown cotton socks with snags where the buckles from his Birkenstocks rest. His frayed, multistained Levi’s made me wonder if he had worn these jeans while foraging for wild mushrooms. His hair mimicked a shorter version of Einstein’s.
The student whom I was writing for and I made our introductions. The professor asked if I had ever captioned a biology class. “Of course; no problem,” I told him.Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt, I thought. Math, biology, chemistry, and the like are my favorite classes to caption.
I had done everything in my power to prepare, just as I do for all of the classes I am assigned. I create what seems like never-ending lists of words before each class. I knew that most of the words would be multisyllabic, so it would not be enough to merely put the words in my dictionary just once. I would stroke out each phonetic syllable over and over, creating new prefixes and suffixes.
I was 100 percent confident in my dictionary — until the professor began the PowerPoint presentation on the subjects to be covered during the semester.
The first time he said, “synapomorphy,” my fingers froze. I thought, Syn-nappy-what? I sat up straighter. I was repeating the syllables in my head as I cleanly stroked SEUPB/AP/PHOR/TPAOE, scolding myself, “Why don’t I have a brief for ‘morphy’? What did he say?” Words and syllables that I’ve never heard were whizzing past my ears like bullets in a combat zone. “Symplesiomorphy,” SIPL/PHRAEUZ-what? “Autapomorphy,” AUTwhat-PHOR/TPAOE. I knew I had to drop, but he was speaking so quickly that there was not a clean place to pick it up again. This is about when my self-talk got the best of me. He’s talking so fast! “Clades.” I write KLAEUD/Z, Thankfully, I knew that word would come up. “Cladogram,” Okay, I can get this word to come up too. Concentrating, I stroke, KHRAEUD/O/TKPWRAPL. “Cladogram.” Ugh, that’ll have to be good enough. I’m no longer rhythmically writing; rather, I’m pounding because my fingers feel like they have weights attached to them. I’m suddenly aware of the horrible acoustics in the auditorium. Is that the acoustics or is he mumbling? He’s mumbling. My thoughts were frantic now. Why is he walking around in holey socks? Stop mumbling.
When the professor finally spoke the words, “Okay. See you next week,” I inhaled deeply. I must have been holding my breath for what felt like the entire two-hour class. My legs were aching from pushing my feet hard into the floor to help me channel my concentration. Saving the transcript and turning off my computer, I thought about the tiresome task of editing the notes for the student. I knew I would be Googling every other word. There was only one positive thing I could be certain of: I was going to have a stellar dictionary at the end of the semester.
Briefs, unfortunately, were mostly of no use in this case except for a few. Synapomorphy came up often, so I used SAEUP. Most of the terminology changed weekly as the class progressed through the textbook; unfortunately, the only constant was the stinky, shoeless professor and his holey socks.
I am not the first reporter to be blown away by the terminology on a job. When we arrive at our jobs, while we will never know if we have a chair to sit in or if the environment around us will be a distraction, one thing we can be in control of is how well our dictionary is prepped. How do you make your dictionary better? To me, editing my transcripts and working on my dictionary are a priority. The better your dictionary is, the better you write because the words will, hopefully, come up on the first attempt; ultimately, your concentration will be better, and the job becomes less stressful. Prepping may be tedious, but having an idea of the terminology allows me to think less because I’m not struggling to write every word. I write faster and easier.
There are many things I do to find new words to build my dictionary. One of my rules is to look up every word before putting it in my dictionary to make sure I have the correct spelling, capitalization, whether it needs a hyphen, and so on. What good is a word in your dictionary if it is not correct? When you read the morning paper, novels, recipes — these are all resources to finding new words that are not in your dictionary. There are also a variety of lexicons that can be useful to finding terminology on specific topics. For
example, I had a job once that was discussing the Harry Potter books as they relate to Greek mythology. Do you have Albus Dumbledore and Severus Snape in your dictionary? I didn’t.
For me, hearing the words as I realtime is the most efficient way. How many times have you phonetically entered a word by sight, and then realized the word is pronounced differently than the way you phonetically stroked it? It happens to me all the time when I’m inputting words from the lecture’s PowerPoint. I use websites such as Khan Academy, YouTube, and TED Talks for dictionary-building resources. You can search almost any topic and listen to lectures and speeches to help you practice writing the words.
While in school, we are so focused on building our speed that we don’t spend a lot of time building our dictionaries. I believe it is our duty to provide the best realtime possible for our students and/or clients. One of the greatest aspects of our job is that it is different every day. There are always a multitude of situations where we must be flexible and solve problems on the fly, but you are in control of your dictionary before you walk through that door. Ask yourself: Aside from editing, how much time do I spend researching words? Can I watch the news and know that every word said is in my dictionary, if just for one minute? Try it.
Jennifer Porto is a CART provider in the Southern California area. She can be reached at

OTHER VOICES: Advocate for deaf and hard-of-hearing

By Rachel Farbman
As an individual who grew up deaf and using American Sign Language, Andrew Phillips cares greatly about his rights to communication access. Be it closed captioning on television or sign language interpreters in schools, he has always felt strongly about advocating for deaf and hard-of-hearing rights.
Phillips, a native of the San Francisco Bay Area, first got involved with the disability rights movement while a student at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., where he studied government. The opportunities he was afforded while attending Gallaudet inspired him to pursue a law degree at the Hastings College of the Law, University of California, in San Francisco, Calif. About two and a half years ago, Phillips joined the National Association of the Deaf as their policy counsel. He has brought the NAD’s policy work before the Federal Communications Commission, Department of Justice, U.S. Copyright Office, Department of Transportation, Transportation Security Administration, and other federal agencies.
According to the NAD, there are approximately 48 million deaf and hard-of-hearing people in the United States. Thanks to the efforts of the NAD and disability community leaders, the number of laws in place to improve access for people who are deaf and hard of hearing, including the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010, Telecommunications Act of 1996, Television Decoder Circuitry Act of 1990, and Rehabilitation Act of 1973, have increased access to CART and captioning tremendously over the last decade.
“I see a lot of growth for the captioning of online-only programs. We are seeing more and more programs available online that have never been shown on TV with captions or even been captioned for theater showings or discs,” said Phillips. “The amount of video content online has exploded and hopefully these video programming providers will want to provide more access to their content.”
“The biggest change I have seen (since joining the NAD) is in access to online video programming,” said Phillips. “The CVAA passed in 2010, and I have been very involved with online video programming related rulemakings at the FCC, and at the same time, the NAD has been working with online video providers to get them to caption more of their content.”
On July 25, 2013, the White House celebrated the 23rd anniversary of the ADA. They honored Phillips along with seven other young leaders in the disability community as Champions of Change for their advocacy efforts and ground-breaking projects.
“I’m tremendously honored by this recognition and really appreciated the opportunity to share about the work that I am doing with the NAD,” Phillips said.
In his work, Phillips has crossed paths on numerous occasions with NCRA and said that he believes the NAD has a great relationship with the association, as both organizations share the same values for improving disability access through captions, as well as the need for captioning quality standards.
“Captioning quality is a big issue for deaf and hard-of-hearing people, whether it’s closed captions on television or with CART services,” Phillips said. “The NCRA’s work in expanding access to quality captioning is very important.”
An avid the fan of the San Francisco 49ers and the San Francisco Giants, Phillips enjoys watching sports on television and personally benefits from live captioning. He encourages NCRA to continue working closely with national deaf and hard-of-hearing organizations, such as the NAD, in pushing for captioning quality standards on television.
“The quality of captioning on television makes a big difference in how much of a program deaf and hard-of-hearing people can understand. Poor quality captioning results in misunderstandings and missed information,” Phillips explained. “We want to see skilled captionists, such as those with training and experience, being used to caption television programs, especially live programs. Quality captionists usually mean quality captions.”
Rachel Farbman is NCRA’s [title].

NCRA members provide CART for first fully deaf judge

A recent story that aired on the Anchorage television station, KTUU, featured an interview with the Hon. Charles Ray about his experience using CART to continue his work on the state’s Superior Court after losing his hearing. Ray relies on a group of NCRA members who are CART providers to rotate on a two-week basis to provide the services.

Read more and watch the report.

CNN closed captioning fight unravels in the 9th

Courthouse News Service, a news service for lawyers and the news media, has reported that a three-judge panel of the federal appeals court reversed a previous ruling from 2012 that denied a move by CNN to dismiss claims by advocates for the deaf in a suit calling for the station to provide captioning services on its website.

Read more.

Captioning during worship “has been miraculous”

By Barb Harmon

As worship begins, Susie Shelton puts on her headphones. She concentrates intensely while stroking keys on the stenograph machine in front of her. The presider welcomes the congregation, and her words appear on two 55-inch monitors on either side of the rostrum.

When Susie was 7, a stranger asked what she wanted to be when she grew up. Susie said she didn’t know; he suggested she become a court reporter. “OK,” she recalls saying, “I’ll do that.”

This encounter began a journey of developing gifts that now benefit one of the largest unchurched groups of people – the hearing impaired.
Susie, now retired, sensed a call to use her skills to provide realtime captioning in worship. She became aware that 98 percent of people with impaired hearing do not attend church.

“The comfort that the word of God brings is phenomenal. It’s the foundation of living, and if they don’t have that, people are cut off. I think because I’ve always gotten so much comfort from the word of God and being able to participate in services, that I can’t imagine being cut off from your church family.”

Susie visited Stone Church in Independence, Mo., and shared her vision with Pastor Terry Snapp. Terry, whose wife, Betty, has severe hearing loss, was drawn to Susie’s idea.

A World Church Field Ministries grant funded the equipment. Terry says the Mission Initiatives were a priority in the grant proposal. “The ministry addresses issues of equality and justice for one of the largest populations of people. We also stressed an outreach in terms of inviting people to Christ, aware they can have an experience here unlike anywhere else.”

The captioning ministry at Stone Church is one of only a few in the world. Bill Landrum, a counselor in the Stone Church pastorate, has hearing loss. “None of the aids has equipment for my loss. I miss some women’s voices, high tones, and sounds like the fire alarm. I use closed captioning on my TV at home, so the captioning at Stone Church has been a real blessing.”

Betty Snapp has attended Stone Church since she was 16 and has worn hearing aids since age 21. “It can be terribly discouraging. In my 30s, I remember not attending for a while. It didn’t last very long, but that was the reason I stayed away. What did I get out of it?

“Though I read lips well, if a person drops their head, I miss out. Hearing aids can only do so much. I get tidbits and pieces, but not the whole ministry. I come away feeling cheated. I can’t be the only one who feels this way. This has been a miraculous thing to lead Susan here.”

Terry says the ministry also benefits people learning English as a second language, children, and adults who are visual learners: “The ripple effect extends beyond those with hearing impairment. I have been so proud of our congregation, inspired by Susan, to be so open to doing something so important and so relevant to the needs of people. We really feel God brought Susan to us, and God’s Spirit has encouraged us to go somewhere we never dreamed of going.”

Barb Harmon is from Independence, Mo. This article was originally published in the November 2012 Herald and is republished here with permission.

Don’t let fear rob you

This morning, I was sitting in church waiting for the 8 a.m. service to begin when I noticed two women walk past me down the aisle and sit in front of the LCD monitor. I thought to myself, “I sure hope they don’t expect to see CART because I only provide that for the 9:30 a.m. service. I’m not ready; I’ve only warmed up by wrapping my hands around a hot cup of coffee.”

I practice writing the 8 a.m. sermon, stopping to brief a recurring word or phrase or to jot down an unfamiliar word that I will Google in between services. If there is an emotional testimony, I may just sit back and take it in before I start writing again.

I walked down to the two women, smiled, and introduced myself. I asked if they were expecting to use the text on the screen as an accommodation to hear the service. Terry and Debby, who I found out were mother and daughter, returned my smile and said yes. I found myself apologizing that I didn’t normally provide CART for the 8 a.m. service and explaining that it would be better for them to attend the next. But then I stopped. What on earth was I thinking? What is the purpose of my captioning ministry anyway? It’s to make the word of God accessible. Why would I deny anyone that? I love this ministry. When did fear start robbing me of what I love to do?

I thought back to the spring of 1987. I had recently moved back to Wisconsin after graduating from a court reporting school in California. A job offer was posted for a secretary/stenographer with realtime skills to work for the Honorable Judge Richard S. Brown in the Court of Appeals. I jumped at the opportunity. I had a good feeling I had passed the Wisconsin State CPR (Certified Professional Reporter) exam required to work in state courts and was awaiting results, but I was nervous, maybe even terrified; however, I wasn’t going to let fear stop me from an incredible job opportunity.

I had no previous experience. I had no computer system, no dictionary, as I was still typing from my paper notes using my manual steno machine. What I lacked in experience and skill, I made up for in sheer determination and willingness to learn. It never occurred to me that I couldn’t do it. I just needed the opportunity. I don’t remember much about the actual interview, but it must have gone well because later that same day, I received a phone call offering me the position.

I was elated! I wasted no time finding a computer system and spending every spare minute building my dictionary. Although I considered myself a clean writer, I needed to be realtime ready. You see, Judge Brown is deaf. I needed to be able to write realtime for oral arguments in the courtroom and judicial conference calls in chambers utilizing the speaker phone.

So why this morning, after years of experience, did I almost allow fear to hinder the purpose of my captioning ministry? Fear can impede our growth if we are obsessed with what others may think of us. If our focus is on ourselves and our glory, we don’t see the glory of God working through us as His messenger to reach out to others.

Fear can also cause us to refuse to embrace change because we would rather be comfortable. If we become complacent in our work, it will lead to dissatisfaction, feeling unfulfilled, and eventual burnout. Eugene O’Neill said, “A man’s work is in danger of deteriorating when he thinks he has found the one best formula for doing it. If he thinks that, he is likely to feel that all he needs is merely to go on repeating himself . . . so long as a person is searching for better ways of doing his work, he is fairly safe.”

There are online tools, classes, and webinars that are fantastic resources. In the comfort of my home, away from distractions, I set aside time to take a course and practice. The most difficult part is just making yourself sit down and begin, but you’ll be amazed at how quickly you become engaged and how fun it is, especially when you see the improvement in your skills.

There is also a tremendous benefit in attending onsite workshops and conventions. You will come away with an immense amount of information, education, and training in a short period of time. It is rejuvenating to interact with peers giving and receiving support and sharing what works. Having several vendors at one location is a time saver, assisting you in making informed decisions on your wants and needs.

Contact your church or any local church, and ask if you can set up your equipment to practice for yourself. Search out sermons on TV or on the Web. My church has sermon videos to watch and downloads available in video and audio format on its home page at www.elmbrook. org.

Edmund Burke once said: “The only thing necessary for the triumph [of evil] is for good men to do nothing.” Have you ever watched babies learning to walk? They take a step and down they go. They get up and take another step or two and down they go. Never do they look discouraged. Never do they give up. They just get up and take another step forward, and before you know it, they’re running.

You don’t think there were days in court when I cringed at my untranslates or word boundary issues? Absolutely. But I got up, dusted off my ego, and kept working hard, always moving forward.

Don’t let fear rob you of your aspirations. Don’t let your fear deny others the opportunity to “hear” the word of God. Take that first baby step toward making it happen.

After the sermon this morning, Terry, Debby, and I had a chance to talk. They thanked me and gave me a hug, saying they truly appreciated the CART and would be back next week. I look forward to seeing them; and if they happen to come for the 8 a.m. service, that will be just fine.

Blocking of facetime app hurts the deaf

In an article published on, author Brendan Gramer states that Apple will enable iPhone’s FaceTime app to work over mobile connections. However, Gramer found out and mentions that AT&T will block mobile FaceTime unless customers sign up for an expensive unlimited voice plan.


Theatre includes open captioning for performances

Geva Theatre in Rochester, N.Y., will partner with two groups to expand and improve services for patrons with hearing loss, according to an August 3, 2012, report on 13WHAM. Open captioning will be displayed on the side of the stage. The theater will provide open captioning for its six productions of the 2012-2013 Mainstage Season.

Source: local/story/geva/1TkTYXWul0qw6MwTzNUBPA.cspx

Deaf girl’s family sues girl scouts

On August 2, 2012, the  Chicago Tribune website reported that a federal lawsuit was filed on behalf of 12-year-old Megan Runnion, who is deaf. The lawsuit alleges that the Girl Scouts   abruptly disbanded Runnion’s troop in retaliation for her mother’s efforts to keep the organization paying for an interpreter.


Caption First announces call center serving deaf and hard-of-hearing consumers

Caption First announced a new service: Through the use of realtime text, millions of people with hearing loss will have the ability to com- fortably make and receive telephone calls on mobile devices. The services were anticipated to launch in September 2012, following approval by the Federal Communications Commission.

Patricia Graves, founder and president of Caption First, notes, “I am very excited about this service. It will allow individuals with hearing loss who speak for themselves the ability to seamessly use a mobile device.”

This new career opportunity as a Communication Assistant will ben- efit stenographic graduates as well as those realtime reporters who desire to have set hours and no transcript responsibilities. All CAs will be encouraged to become certified, leading them to the grow- ing opportunities in the fields of CART providing and captioning.

The first call center will be located in Glen Ellyn, Ill., with additional centers opening across the nation over time.

For more information, please contact Pat Graves at or by calling 719-481-9834.