A bird’s-eye view of disability leadership in Chicago

By LeAnn M. Hibler

Sometimes as a CART captioner, it is just an honor to write a job and have a bird’s-eye view of an event, so when my colleague asked me if I wanted to work an event promoting disability leadership, I jumped at the chance. It was a conversation between two long-time friends, Marca Bristo and Judith Heumann.

Judith Heumann acquired her disability due to polio when she was a young girl growing up in Brooklyn. As she matured into a young adult in the 1950s and 1960s, she faced both attitudinal and physical barriers in society. Through the years, she has engaged in activities to improve the lives of others nationally and internationally, including serving in the Clinton and Obama administrations and with the World Bank organization. Her most recent project, “The Heumann Perspective,” hopes to bring attention and spur discussion on disability rights through social media platforms.

I worked the assignment as an independent contractor for my colleague and fellow captioner Cathy Rajcan, RDR, CRR, CRC, owner of Efficiency Reporting. The Chicago-area CRCs have great professional, supportive relationships and work together to ensure that the people who need our services have a qualified captioner for their events.

Cathy provided me with an electronic copy of the program from which I was able to pull names of presenters and sponsors and add them to my job dictionary prior to the event.

I used Text on Top, which overlays the captions on the same screen as the PowerPoints. This was Cathy’s equipment, so I needed to meet with her prior to the event and get it from her. It is not unusual for us to share our equipment with one another, whether it’s an LCD projector and screen or the Text on Top device. Finding time to meet may seem like an inconvenience, but it actually forces us to take some time to get together face-to-face and visit, which is a rarity with our busy schedules. Cathy provided me with her settings for the Text on Top so I could mirror the way she had done it in the past.

The need for captioning has grown significantly as more people learn about the various ways it can be used to bring communication access to the world, whether it’s on-site or remote, stationary or mobile. The demand has certainly grown beyond the supply of providers we have. I would encourage all the realtime court reporters out there to consider using their unique skill on the captioning side of things to provide access to all, including people with hearing loss, people whose native language is not English, or even those of us who are not paying attention and need to look at the captions as a refresher!

Chicago has so many people who were and still are instrumental in the disability rights movement, including two amazing women who were involved with my event: Marca Bristo, President and CEO of Access Living, a Center for Independent Living; and Karen Tamley, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities. As an on-site CART captioner, I am often embedded in the disability community, and I love hearing stories about their involvement, whether it was at the University of California–Berkley or Washington, D.C. I’m impressed by folks who took their lives into their hands and blocked buses to bring attention to transportation disparities or even recently participated in sit-ins on Capitol Hill to shine a light on proposed Medicaid changes that would have had dire consequences for many disabled individuals. They’ve even been arrested for the cause!

The takeaways are that people with disabilities deserve to participate in the world the same as able-bodied people, yet they have to continue to fight for equal rights, such as the right to make decisions about where and how they live their lives. People are often afraid of the unknown when it comes to interacting with a person with a disability, but I encourage all of us to look not at the disability, but rather see them as people with intelligence and personality.

LeAnn M. Hibler, RMR, CRR, CRC, is a CART captioner in Joliet, Ill. She can be reached at lmhreporting@aol.com.

Veterans and family members share stories at Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Project event

Left to right: Marylyn Howe is interviewed by Carol Menton while Liz Speer and Sheri Smargon write.

The National Court Reporters Foundation (NCRF) hosted a fourth Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Project initiative on Oct. 13 at the Association of Late Deafened Adults (ALDA) annual conference held in Orlando, Fla. The interviews will be transcribed and submitted to the Library of Congress for its Veterans History Project (VHP).

Volunteer court reporters, captioners, and interviewers captured seven new interviews of U.S. war veterans, including the story of Maj. Gen. Charles W. Sweeney, the only American Air Force pilot to fly on both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic missions during World War II. Sweeney’s story was shared by his daughter, Marylyn Howe, of Savannah, Ga.

Howe shared how her father’s career as a pilot evolved in the U.S. Air Force, that he had earned a Silver Star for his service, and that he also wrote a book called War’s End about his experience on the last atomic mission. Now out of print, Howe said the book will be updated with photos and other materials and reprinted in 2018. She also noted that her late father was instrumental in founding the Massachusetts State Air Guard and was actively involved in helping to establish such volunteer groups throughout all states.

Left to right: Cheri Frady shows a picture of her husband while Laura Landerman writes. Marylyn Howe interviewed Frady, and Georgia Rodriguez also wrote.

“It is very meaningful that veterans with hearing loss are being recognized and able to share their stories,” said Howe, an audiologist who has worked with veterans suffering hearing loss. “Many people don’t realize the hearing problems related to service and what a significant impact it can have on lives.” Howe also serves as co-chair of ALDA’s Publicity Committee.

Howe provided a copy of her father’s book that will be included with the final transcript in the Library of Congress.

Howe’s husband, Brian, a retired U.S. Marine Corps captain and pilot who suffers hearing loss from long-term exposure to jet engines, shared his story about his service in Vietnam. He also volunteered to interview U.S. Army veteran Ron Walker, SP4, from Merry Hill, N.C. During his interview, Walker shared that he earned the Purple Heart Award and two Bronze Stars for his service in Vietnam.

Cheri Frady, St. Petersburg, Fla., the widow of Teairlton Frady, who served as a sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam War, shared letters he wrote home as well as a number of entries from his journals. These materials will be submitted to the Library of Congress with the final transcript. Frady also shared that her late husband was a Native American Onondaga and that he suffered health-related issues caused in part by his exposure to the powerful herbicide and defoliant Agent Orange used during the war.

Other veterans interviewed included:

  • Paul Morris, Clearwater, Fla., U.S. Army SP4, who served between the Korean and Vietnam wars
  • Harvey Rothman, Kissimmee, Fla., U.S. Army, SP4, who served in Vietnam
  • Gary Talley, Petersburg, Va., U.S. Navy, PN3, who served on the U.S.S. John F. Kennedy (CV-67)

Left to right: Brian Howe interviews while Michelle Pulido Stubben writes Ron Walker’s story, seated next to Irene Walker.

“It is an honor for me to do this. My son is a U.S. Marine, and I am proud of all of our servicemen,” said Nancy Rivera, RPR, a freelancer from Valrico, Fla., who volunteered to take down a veteran’s story at the event. “I was touched by the first time I did this. It hits home for me. I like to hear their stories and the emotion. It means a lot to them, and it means a lot to me.” Rivera noted that this was the first time she had participated in a live VHP event. The first time she volunteered for a VHP event was online.

“This was the first time I participated in one of these events, and I had no idea what to expect,” said Laura Landerman, RMR, CRR, a freelancer from Altamonte Springs, Fla. “Most reporters don’t provide realtime or captioning, and since I can do both, I volunteered. I would do it again. I liked that I could provide captions to aid the interviewer,” she added.

Nancy Rivera writes while Liz Speer interviews Harvey Rothman

Liz Speer, FAPR, RMR, CRR, CRC, a freelancer from Apopka, Fla., who volunteered to transcribe as well as interview, said participating in the event was especially meaningful to her because her own father had served in the U.S. military.

“The timing was just right. I lost my dad two months ago. He served in two wars, and he would have loved to have been interviewed. That’s the primary reason I volunteered. It’s also exciting to read those stories already down and know they are at the Library of Congress,” she added.

Other volunteer reporters and captioners included:

  • Michelle Pulido Stubben, Orlando, Fla.
  • Georgia Rodriguez, RPR, freelancer, Jacksonville, Fla.;
  • Sheri Smargon, RDR, CRR, CRC, broadcast captioner, Riverview, Fla.

Other volunteer interviewers included:

  • Carol Menton, case manager for Metro North/Northeast Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, in Boston, Mass., and an ALDA member
  • Larry Littleton, Oahu, Hawaii, a member of the ALDA Publicity Committee

NCRA and NCRF were also present on the ALDA expo floor, where NCRA members volunteered by providing captioning and CART demonstrations and answering questions from attendees about their services. Volunteers at the booth included:

  • Jamie Chancellor, CRC, broadcast captioner, Orlando, Fla.
  • Amie First, RDR, CRR, CRC, CPE, CART captioner, Orlando, Fla.
  • Maria Rodriguez, RPR, freelancer, Tampa, Fla.

Jamie Chancellor demonstrates captioning at the NCRA booth at the ALDA expo

Other NCRA members attending the ALDA conference included Pat Graves, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, a CART captioner and agency owner from Monument, Colo., who chairs ALDA’s CART committee; and committee members Tess Crowder, RPR, CRR, CRC, a CART captioner and agency owner from Tampa, Fla.; Anthony Trujillo, RMR, CRR, a freelance captioner from Kissimmee, Fla.; and Rita Meyer, RDR, CRR, CRC, a CART captioner from Orlando, Fla.

NCRF’s Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Project initiative specifically seeks to interview veterans with hearing loss with the help of CART captioning. Hearing loss is among the most common service-related injuries due to constant exposure to loud noises in training and in combat, and it tends to worsen over time. In addition to preserving these veterans’ stories for the VHP, the Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Project introduces CART captioning, which is a service that may benefit these veterans in their daily lives.

NCRF launched the Hard-of-Hearing Heroes Project at the Hearing Loss Association of America’s headquarters in Bethesda, Md., in February, where five veterans with varying degrees of hearing loss chronicled their service experiences. In June, seven veterans were interviewed during the 2017 Hearing Loss Association of America’s Convention in Salt Lake City, Utah.

NCRA members have been listening and taking down veterans’ stories since NCRF partnered with the Library of Congress in 2003 to have court reporters transcribe veterans’ stories from their collection of now more than 100,000. In 2007, members were asked to preserve the stories of veterans who hadn’t yet recorded their histories through personal interviews and VHP Days. To date, NCRF has submitted more than 4,100 transcripts to the Library of Congress.

NCRF’s Hard-of-Hearing Heroes initiative is supported by an Innovation Grant from the American Society of Association Executives Foundation. For more information, please visit NCRA.org/NCRF, or contact April Weiner, Foundation Manager, at aweiner@ncra.org.

Get comfy for professional development: Exciting upcoming NCRA webinars

Front view of a person sitting barefoot on a couch with their laptop on their knees, blocking their faceCourt reporters and captioners understand the value of continuing education and always improving one’s skills, but it can be challenging to attend in-person events. With NCRA webinars, you can learn more about your profession from the comfort of your own home or office (not to mention that you can attend them in your slippers – no one will know!).

NCRA has a wide variety of topics coming up in the next month. The JCR Weekly reached out to the presenters to help whet your appetite.

On Oct. 18 at 8 p.m. ET, Tori Pittman, FAPR, RDR, CRI, will present “Intersteno: Berlin and Beyond.” Pittman is a freelance reporter from North Carolina who has a passion for Intersteno. Intersteno is “a worldwide community uniting all those using a full range of speed writing methods to quickly produce high quality texts” (including steno lovers, keyboarding champions, and verbatim writers), and they host an international Congress every two years. In this 90-minute webinar, Pittman will talk about the networking and competition opportunities at Intersteno. She describes it as “international travel that is also a business expense” and explains that Intersteno attendees “learn about reporting in other countries while exploring fantastic locations.” The 2017 Intersteno Congress was held in Berlin, Germany (NCRA members performed very well in the competitions), and the next event is in 2019 in Sardinia, Italy.

On Nov. 6 at 7 p.m. ET, Lisa Jo Hubacher, RPR, CRI, will present “Thinking about Student Training.” Hubacher is an instructor at Madison Area Technical College (which is also her alma mater) in Madison, Wis. Madison Area Technical College received one of the final Training for Realtime Writers grants in 2014 due to its curriculum redesign. In this webinar, Hubacher will discuss this curriculum model, including the redesign’s impact on the program, what’s working, and what needs tweaking. This is a must-attend webinar for anyone involved in training reporting students!

On Nov. 9 at 6 p.m. ET, Santo J. Aurelio, FAPR, RDR, will present “Legal Terms, Part 1.” Aurelio has presented several language-related webinars recently, including “What Reporters Must Know about Punctuation” and “English Grammar Gremlins: Ways to Conquer Them” (now both available as e-seminars). Aurelio will present on more than a hundred and fifty terms, but he admits, “I really get a special kick out of four of them: alibi (in another place), durance vile (imprisonment), eleemosynary (charitable), and Esq.” He adds, “If I must pick one, then I guess it would be Esq., which is merely a title of courtesy, but attorneys think that it means ‘one who is an attorney.’” Aurelio will provide “economical but cogent explanations” for the words that he hopes each attendee will easily remember.

Finally, on Nov. 15 at 7 p.m. ET, Erminia Uviedo, RDR, CRR, CRC, will present “Promoting the Profession.” Uviedo is an official in San Antonio, Texas, and she serves as co-chairperson for the Texas Court Reporters Association Student Recruitment Task Force. Her efforts in recruiting and mentoring court reporting students have won her the NCSA challenge not just once, but twice in a row; in 2015, she organized participation in 13 career fairs in 15 days in San Antonio. “It is so easy and rewarding volunteering for a recruitment event,” says Uviedo. “You have the potential to reach hundreds, even if you only talk to 50.” Uviedo has also found the value in promoting the profession over social media, and she hints that “one cool thing I’ll talk about is having attendees take selfies of themselves in front of their court reporting machines and having them spread posts about court reporting.”

Members who attend the webinars will be able to ask questions directly to the presenter and get them answered right away. But if you are not able to attend the live webinar, they will be available as on-demand e-seminars after the fact. Keep an eye on NCRA’s e-seminar library for these and other topics to help grow as a professional.

Welcome to the digital edition of the JCR!

In addition to the print JCR, members have access to a digital version. There’s still nothing like holding a physical magazine in your hands, but the digital version is typically available a little earlier than the print arrives in mailboxes and has a few enhanced features:

  • search for specific terms
  • bookmark a page to easily reference later
  • write notes to yourself
  • share pages with colleagues

The digital edition is also hyperlinked, so clicking on any link will take you directly to the appropriate website.

Members can access the digital magazine at NCRA.org/JCRmag (you may be prompted to log in). Choose the issue you wish to read by clicking “View Digital Issue” by that month’s cover. You will need to log in again to access the magazine on the web-hosting site; this is the same login information as you use for NCRA.org. The first time you log in, you will have the opportunity to take a tutorial to become familiar with all of the digital magazine’s online features and how to navigate the digital version.

Highlights from the October issue:

The digital edition is compatible with most smartphones, tablets, and computers.

GMA is the first free TV network in the Philippines to offer closed captioning

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyAccording to an article posted Oct 10 by Showbiz News, GMA Network is the first to offer closed captioning on Philippine free TV in compliance with the Republic Act No. 10905.

Read more.

NCRF accepting nominations for Frank Sarli Memorial and Student Intern scholarships

The National Court Reporters Foundation (NCRF) is now accepting nominations for the Frank Sarli Memorial Scholarship and the Student Intern Scholarship. The deadline for both these scholarships is Dec. 1.

Frank Sarli Memorial Scholarship

NCRF’s Frank Sarli Memorial Scholarship of $2,000 has benefited court reporting students nearing graduation for 20 years. The award honors the late Frank Sarli, a court reporter who was committed to supporting students at the highest level of their education. Sarli, who was studying to become a professional pianist, turned to court reporting when he could no longer afford the tuition to music school. During his career, he opened Accurate Court Reporters in Orlando, Fla., Orange County’s first independent court reporting firm, and was a founding member of the Florida Shorthand Reporters Association. Sarli also served in numerous roles at the national level, including as a director for NCRA. He was the first Floridian to earn NCRA’s Distinguished Service Award.

“This scholarship helped me immensely because I was able to use some of the funds for my professional machine, which helped me enter the workforce without being in debt, the first leg of my RPR, and my airfare to attend the NCRA Convention in Chicago, which was incredibly inspiring and motivating for a new reporter/recent grad,” said Nicole Bulldis, RPR, an official court reporter in Pasco, Wash., and the 2016 recipient of the Sarli scholarship.

Court reporting students must be nominated by an instructor or advisor and meet a number of specific criteria to be eligible, including:

  • enrollment in an NCRA-approved court reporting program
  • passing at least one of the court reporting program’s Q&A tests at a minimum of 200 words per minute
  • having a GPA of at least 3.5 on a 4.0 scale,
  • demonstrating the need for financial assistance
  • possessing the qualities exemplified by a professional court reporter, including attitude, demeanor, dress, and motivation

Submit a nomination for the Frank Sarli Memorial Scholarship

Student Intern Scholarship

Each year, NCRF awards two $1,000 scholarships to students who have completed or are currently performing the required internship portion of their court reporting program. They must also meet other specific criteria, including:

  • current membership in NCRA
  • having a grade point average of at least 3.5 on a 4.0 scale
  • attending an NCRA-approved court reporting program

A generous annual donation from the Reis Family Foundation helps fund these scholarships.

“Receiving [this scholarship], was a financial boon for my transition from student intern to working reporter,” said Stephen Sudano, a freelance court reporter from Bohemia, N.Y., and one of the 2016 recipients of the Student Intern Scholarship. “A career as a freelance court reporter requires a substantial investment to get off the ground. This scholarship helped pay for my professional equipment, and I appreciate it to this day.”

Submit a nomination for the Student Intern Scholarship

NCRF’s scholarships and grant are supported by donations to the NCRF Angels Drive and other fundraisers. To learn more about these scholarships, and to find the nomination forms, please visit NCRA.org/NCRF/Scholarships.

Access to a master: The value of having a mentor

Man in a suit sitting at a steno machine next to a screenBy Joshua Edwards

Back in 2016 before giving my first speech at my local Toastmasters club, I emailed a draft of my speech to my assigned mentor, Jason. Jason is a seasoned member of our club and has given dozens of speeches over the years. He had developed a keen eye for how to craft an effective speech. Jason redlined through several paragraphs of my speech and typed a note about getting right to the point. I accepted his input and rewrote the speech. Had I not worked with a mentor and done it on my own, I would probably have droned on and on about things that are interesting to just one person — me — and barreled through the four- to six-minute time limit.

In the field of court reporting, I am a mentor to several students through both NCRA and the New York State Court Reporters Association. I try to give them the same beneficial insight in reporting as Jason gave me in Toastmasters: to avoid pitfalls, discover best practice habits, and stay disciplined and focused. I’ve heard anecdotes of students spending precious time in useless practice habits like sitting in front of a television and writing the news while the writer is turned off. (How do you know what you are writing?) A student may think that is effective practicing, but without the feedback of either paper notes or a realtime display, it is just a vain exercise.

All of us know how hard court reporting is. In fact, speedbuilding can be just as nerve-racking as public speaking. We can all empathize with the student who has been stuck at a particular speed for what feels like eons and the bitter disappointment of failing that speed test week after week. That student may be just one more failed test away from jumping ship and abandoning a significant investment of time and money. The difference between walking away in frustration and becoming a successful court reporter often hinges on wise input from a mentor.

Mentors guide students, and they offer encouragement and practical advice based on personal experience. When a student works with a mentor, that student has prime access to an individual who has mastered the craft of court reporting and worked in the field long enough to know a thing or two. A well-qualified mentor has operated in a wide variety of settings and has faced and survived both the tedious routine and the exciting challenges that can happen in the course of a court reporter’s day. Think of a young voice student who had the chance to work with the legendary opera singer Luciano Pavarotti. Pavarotti had a passion for singing and for encouraging young singers to refine their craft. He not only performed in major opera houses across the globe, but he coached many voice students as well.

Whether a reporting student needs help, an occasional pep talk, or a serious high-voltage motivational speech, the mentor is willing to commit the time and to be responsive to the student’s needs. It goes without saying that the student must be equally committed and willing to put in his or her due time and effort. Remember this is a volunteer effort. Time is valuable to us all, and being a mentor means being willing to give some of that precious time for free. Likewise, the student needs to respect the time and energy given by the mentor for his or her benefit.

I have a mentee* who occasionally sends me her transcribed assignments to look at the punctuation. While reviewing a jury charge, she had put in so many underscores denoting drops that I had to stop marking the grammar. Instead, I wrote a note in red ink: “It is critically important that you practice at a speed you can actually get down.” Her practice habits were not going to yield much success if she continued practicing at too-high speeds, dropping too many words, and trying to learn punctuation from incomplete passages.

*(Yes, mentee is a real dictionary word. Be sure to define it so you don’t get minty, men tea, men tee, or heaven forbid, meanty.)

Communication is key for a mentoring relationship to be successful, whether it happens by email, phone, text, video conference, or in person, if possible. Each week I send an email to a list of more than 90 students and working reporters. The email may cover anything related to the field. After coming back from NCRA’s Convention in Las Vegas, I wrote a lengthy piece summarizing my experiences there. Being a mentor means sharing your professional expertise to help a student reach his or her goals. Being a mentee means receiving valuable tutelage, for free, from a pro who has already been there. So go ahead and sign up. Your future may well depend on it!

Joshua Edwards, RDR, CRR, is a captioner in New York, N.Y. He can be reached at joshua@jbreporting.com.

NCRA member named Employee of the Year at Brooklyn Supreme Court

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyThe Brooklyn Daily Eagle (N.Y.) reported on Oct. 6 that NCRA member and senior court reporter Enika Bodnar, RPR, CRI, was named the Employee of the Year at the Brooklyn Supreme Court. Bodnar has been working in the court system since July 1996 and started at Brooklyn Supreme Court in March 2007.

Read more.

No one is recording what happens in family law court anymore

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyThe Voice of San Diego (Calif.) reported on Oct. 9 that the city’s Superior Court is no longer providing court reporters for family law proceedings, which means there is no verbatim, written record of what happens in court. Family law attorneys say the move will disproportionately affect low- and middle-income families who have complaints before the court.

Read more.

Similar stories:

San Diego Superior Court to stop providing court reporters for family law matters

San Diego Superior Court further decreases court reporter services

2018 NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference heads to Florida

Registration is now open for the 2018 NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference being held Jan. 28-30 at the Don CeSar Hotel in St. Pete Beach, Fla. Participants in the 2018 event can expect to connect, learn, and get energized as they attend insightful educational sessions and valuable networking events alongside other industry leaders.

Members are urged to register for the conference soon to take advantage of a discount rate being offered through Dec. 15. Rates for the conference registration will increase by $100 beginning Dec. 16. Special hotel rates for the event will also expire on Jan. 5, 2018.

Among the guest speakers on the bill this year is Steve Scott, SEO strategist, internet marketing educator, and owner of the Tampa SEO Training Academy. Scott will lead a session dedicated to business marketing on the web. He will touch on the secrets to search engine optimization (SEO) success, tactics and techniques for online marketing, and social media marketing, among other topics.

Since August 2006, Scott has worked with individuals and corporate clients to use internet marketing strategies like SEO, local search, social media, pay-per-click, and more. His clients have included IBM, American Express, Reader’s Digest, and Revlon.

Steve Scott will present on search engine optimization strategies

“During my career I’ve developed websites and search engine optimization programs for clients, both large and small. Helping business owners worldwide create a powerful online presence for their brands is my life’s work,” he said. “As an SEO industry veteran with a history in computer training dating back to 1990, I’ve trained and consulted with Fortune 1000 companies and have logged nearly 4,000+ hours in a hands-on training environment.”

According to Cregg Seymour, Chair of NCRA’s Education Content Committee for the NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference, attending the event will help firm owners generate new business.

“Through the premier networking at Firm Owners in 2017, we have created new relationships and strengthened existing ones. We continue to enjoy new or increased business that has benefited both our network partner firms and us,” added Seymour, who also serves as president of CRC Salomon, a court reporting firm in Baltimore, Md.

For more information and to register for the host hotel and conference, visit NCRA.org/FirmOwners.