Closed captioning bill passes first readings at student government meeting

Closed captioning may soon be required for University of Florida’s student government’s videos after a bill was unanimously passed during first readings at Tuesday’s student government meeting, according to an article posted June 14 by The Alligator, a student-owned newspaper that serves the University of Florida.

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Steno on the go!

What’s the strangest place you’ve had to tap-tap-tap away on your little machine, knowing that people are relying on your speech-to-text output? A bus perhaps? No? Well, Michelle Coffey, RPR, CRI, CPE, has done just that, and she shared her story with the British Institute of Verbatim Reporters. Coffey owns Premier Captioning & Realtime Ltd in Wicklow, Ireland, and is a seasoned reporter. To know what it was like to caption on a moving bus, read her story below. Sounds like a whole heap of fun!


By Michelle Coffey

We all know that every day in the working life of a captioner is different and can be a challenge, and then there are days like Tuesday, November 26! It began like any other day, with a booking for a regular client at a conference they were holding to discuss accessible tourism in Ireland.

But then I was told we wouldn’t be needed till after lunch as the morning was being spent on an ‘accessible bus tour’ to some of the accessible sights of Dublin. Hold on a minute, though. If I’m there for access for the deaf/hoh tourists and I’m not needed, then how accessible is this tour going to be for them? So I asked how they’d feel if we tried to make the tour bus accessible. Without hesitation, we got a resounding yes! If you can do it, the organizers said, let’s go!

On the morning of the job, I arrived at their office with laptops, screens, projectors, extension cables, etc. I could see the perplexed expressions as they tried to work out how best to break it to me that I wouldn’t be able to plug in my extension lead on the bus or indeed my projector! But once I reassured them that I did really have some clue about what we were about to embark on and that the screens were for our final destination, everyone relaxed.

And I have to say, it was by far the most fun job I’ve done.

Three double-decker Dublin Buses pulled up outside the office, where everyone was given a name tag and allocated a bus. The idea was that as the buses traveled between destinations, the facilitator would lead discussion and debate onboard; and then in the afternoon all three busloads would feed back their information to the group at large. As our bus was now equipped with live speech to text, the occupants of the other buses could see what we were discussing or joking about! The tour very quickly descended into a school tour mentality (we were even given some snacks) with lots of good-natured joking, and one of our blind facilitators even scolded me for shielding my screen from him which meant neither he (nor Cookie his guide dog) could copy my answers to the quiz.

It soon became apparent that our driver was quite new to the concept of braking in a timely fashion and had probably never passed a pothole he didn’t enter! This being the case, I was finding it increasingly difficult to stay upright myself, much less my machine; with that in mind, the guys and gals on our bus decided to take bets on when the next bump in the road, traffic light, or such thing would cause me and/or my machine to slip! It really lightened the mood, everyone had a laugh, and it brought home to people in a very real and tangible way that accessibility for everyone is not just a soapbox topic. In fact, it became something that everyone on our bus played an active part in (even if some of them were “accidentally” bumping into me to get an untranslated word — and a laugh).

But it showed that access matters, and that it should matter to us all!

What I didn’t know before that morning was that not only were we doing a tour on the bus, but we also had two stops; one at a brand-new and very accessible hotel and one at a greyhound race track. Initially, it was suggested that I would stay on the bus and not transcribe the tours, but where’s the fun in that? And more importantly, where’s the accessibility in that? So, I picked up my steno machine, laid it against my shoulder like a carrying hod, and off I trooped to join the fun once more.

Once we got off the bus, the bets turned to how many different positions they could get me to write in; standing (we weren’t in the lobby of the hotel long enough to procure a chair); sitting (in the bar I managed to find a stool); balancing on a bed (with a busload of people crammed into even the most luxurious of hotel rooms, it tends to get a little cramped; never before had I cause to utter the sentence “Any chance a few of you guys could move over a little, I’m nearly falling off the bed!”); squatting (trackside at a greyhound racing park); machine stand on a bar table (at the betting counters in the racing park), and finally, my machine held by another tour member in the lift — it was a truly interactive tour.

And to finish the day off, we went back to the Guinness Storehouse for our panel discussion and debate about accessible tourism in Ireland (and free pints of Guinness, of course). All in all, a brilliant day. An important topic discussed, debated, delivered, and demonstrated in our different locations — the best job ever.

 

PROMOTING THE PROFESSION: Passion for captioning and court reporting showcased at high school career day

Cindi Lynch

Earlier this spring, Cindi Lynch, training program manager for Stenograph, based in Elmhurst Ill., and Sharon Vartanian, RPR, a district sales manager for the company, spent a few hours promoting the captioning and court reporting professions at a career day held at Prospect High School in Saratoga. Calif. Lynch, who is well-known for her enthusiasm for the court reporting profession, has a sister-in-law who teaches English at the high school. She passed along Lynch’s information to one of the school’s career specialists. Lynch was asked if she would give a presentation to a group of their students, and she readily accepted. Vartanian, who represents Stenograph in the area, and Lynch also enlisted the help of NCRA member Maggie Ortiz, manager of the court reporting program at West Valley College in Saratoga, Calif., and Tobi Giluso, a high-speed student from the program.

Sharon Vartanian

 

JCR | What did you do to prepare?

SV | Cindi put the word out on social media and spoke with people working with the A to Z program and with Project Steno to get their input on similar presentations they had done in the past. Cindi took that information and then put together a brief presentation based on the information she had gathered.

CL | Sharon thought it would be a great idea if we asked the court reporting program at the local college to also participate in the presentation, and she took on the task of gathering representatives from West Valley College to join us.

 

JCR | What was the event like?

SV | Cindi’s presentation focused on what a court reporter is, where and how reporters, captioners and CART providers work, and the basic principles of machine shorthand.

Tobi captioned the presentation. She did an excellent job, and the high school students were able to see firsthand the skills of a reporter/captioner. (Tobi has passed all her qualifiers and will be taking the state exam this July.)

Maggie Ortiz, court reporting program manager, talked about West Valley College’s specific program and gave current information about earning potential in the local area. In 2017, West Valley also started offering a free court reporting course through Silicon Valley Adult Education. Maggie explained how the high school students could immediately take advantage of this free course before graduating high school to learn the theory of steno writing. The course is designed to give students a head start in the West Valley court reporting program.

There was a small, but very interested, group of juniors and seniors in attendance, as well as parents, teachers, and teacher aides. We were pleased that we had a wide range of panelists to answer questions during the Q&A session. Maggie addressed school questions, Tobi answered student and CART questions, and Sharon was able to address working as a freelance court reporter.

 

JCR | How did it go? Did people seem interested?

CL | We were really pleased with the presentation and how warmly it was received. Both the students and the adults were very interested. We were asked a lot of thoughtful, smart questions and it was clear to us that they had paid close attention to the information they’d been given.

We brought a few Luminex writers with us. At the end of the presentation, the students eagerly waited in line to have their first experience of writing on a steno machine.

 

JCR | You are both such professionals, you’re probably prepared for anything. But did anything surprise you? Can you tell us about that?

CL and SV | No surprises. We put a lot of effort into being well prepared. We were delighted we had male and female attendees.

One person we had consulted while preparing for the presentation advised us to bring food, especially candy for the kids. We rewarded the attendees for asking questions by giving them candy bars. While we know rewarding for candy works, we were amazed at how well it works.

 

JCR | What advice would you give others about telling people about careers in court reporting and captioning?

CL and SV | Show your passion for the profession; it’s infectious. The attendees appreciated the fact that all of us who spoke at the event had been around the profession most of our lives and were excited to talk about it. When you love what you do, it definitely comes through. Convey how much support they can expect from the court reporting community. Communicate how much we need them and want them to join us in this fabulous career.

 

JCR | Is there anything else you would like to share?

CL and SV | We were well-received by the teachers and career specialist at Prospect High, and they expressed an interest in having us come back in the future to talk to additional students. They also asked for more information from Maggie so that they could partner with West Valley College. This made us very happy. We couldn’t have asked for a better outcome from our presentation!

 

Cindi Lynch can be reached at CLynch@Stenograph.com. Sharon Vartanian can be reached at SVartanian@Stenograph.com.

CAPTIONING: Seven tips for surviving tornado season

Carol Studenmund, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC

By Carol Studenmund

It’s Tornado Season 2018. Many live captioners live and work in Tornado Alley. People who live in this part of the country know where to go and what to do when the bad weather starts. We should all plan ahead and be ready to work during unstable conditions. You may not get a tornado, but you may experience severe hail or thunderstorms that could interfere with your ability to work. Here are seven things you can do to be ready for whatever Mother Nature throws your way this time of year.

  1. The most important thing you can do is to plan ahead. Don’t wait for the sirens to go off before you figure out you need to run. And if you need to run for safety, run!
  2. Track your weather. Don’t be caught off guard by a storm that’s been headed your way for a few hours or even a few days.
  3. If your employer or the company for whom you’re captioning has a coordinator on duty, let that person know you may become indisposed due to weather as soon as you know. Give them the benefit of a heads up.
  4. If you’re working for your own clients, have an alternate captioner you can call on short notice. Let that person know you might need some help as soon as you see those radar screens lighting up on your weather channel.
  5. It takes really bad weather to knock out telephone land lines. Keep an analog phone handy for your land line, one that does not need electricity to work. Often, land lines will continue to work even if the electricity goes down or your cell phones aren’t working.
  6. Have an uninterrupted power supply on all your equipment – all of it, including digital phones and your router. Test all your equipment in advance, once a year, say, in February. Make sure you’re ready for unstable weather.
  7. Get a hotspot or mifi and keep it charged so you can stay connected to the internet in case your power goes out. Between your hotspot and your battery backup, you may be able to keep working just long enough to get someone to take your show for you.

Stay safe this year! If you plan ahead, you will be well prepared when the storms hit.

 

Carol Studenmund, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, is Owner/President of LNS Captioning in Portland, Ore. She is Co-Chair of NCRA’s Certified Realtime Captioner (CRC) Certification Committee and is a member of the NCRA Nominating Committee. She can be reached at cstudenmund@LNSCaptioning.com.

Theatre must provide captioning for all live performances says federal judge

A Missouri federal judge has ordered a theatre to provide, upon request, captioning services for the deaf for all theatrical performances, according to a blog posted May 1 by Seyfarth ADA Title III News & Insights.

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Off the beaten path: Shout-out to captioners

The Journal & Topics, Chicago, Ill., posted an article on May 2 about the important work captioners do and explains the difference between closed and open captioning.

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Strand installs closed captioning, visual-impairment assist technology

The Courier-Gazette reported on April 30 that The Strand Theatre, Rockland, Maine, has installed closed captioning and visual-impairment assist technology in its auditorium to allow patrons who are deaf or hard of hearing, or are blind or have low vision, an opportunity to experience a wide array of film events presented at the downtown theater.

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PROFILE: James Pence-Aviles, RMR, CRR

James Pence-Aviles, RMR, CRR

James Pence-Aviles, RMR, CRR

Official court reporter
Currently resides in: Imperial Beach, Calif.
Member since: 2005
Graduated from: Court Reporting Institute
Theory: Phoenix Theory

JCR | Why did you decide to earn an NCRA certification?
PENCE-AVILES | I decided to test for the RPR because it was being offered a month before the California CSR exam. I thought it would be good practice for the CSR. I actually thought the RPR was even harder than the CSR! Looking back, it was probably the best career decision I ever made, because I’m now an official in federal court, which requires that you at least have your RPR.

JCR | You competed a few years ago in the Speed Contest. Did that factor in your decision to earn additional certifications?
PENCE-AVILES | It didn’t because I never thought I would be good enough to compete in the Speed Contest. I listened to a few Speed Contest tapes when I was a brand-new reporter, and they blew me away. I never thought I would be able to write at 280 wpm. It wasn’t until I began working in federal court that I seriously began thinking about giving it a shot. People in federal court tend to speak really fast, so it was good practice for the Speed Contest. In 2014, the NCRA convention was being held in San Francisco, not far from where I was working at the time, and my coworker and mentor Jo Ann Bryce, RMR, CRR, encouraged me to give the contest a shot. So I did, and it turned out to be one of the most memorable experiences of my career. It turned out to be a very pleasant and fun experience. It helped that I knew people who were taking it, too. Compared to the CSR, RMR, or CRR, it was a piece of cake! Placing fourth in the 220 Literary and seventh overall was just icing on the cake.

JCR | Have you gotten a job specifically as a result of your certification?
PENCE-AVILES | Yes. In 2014, I applied for a position in the United States District Court in San Francisco, and the CRR was mandatory for that position. In 2015, I transferred to the Federal Court in San Diego, which also requires those certifications.

JCR | Why do you think professional certification is important?
PENCE-AVILES | It’s important because you never know where your career may take you. In 2012, I was laid off from the San Diego Superior Court due to statewide budget cuts, and from there, I did independent contract work in Florida and then ended up in Federal Court in San Francisco, then transferred back home to San Diego a year later. That wouldn’t have been possible without my national certifications. It also helps you stand out from other reporters, and it can lead to better and more lucrative work, especially if you have the realtime certification.

JCR | What would you say to encourage others considering professional certification?
PENCE-AVILES | Get as many certifications as possible. If your state has a CSR, get that CSR and never let it lapse. Also, get as many NCRA certifications as you can, no matter what career path you take, whether it’s an official, freelancer, captioner, teacher, etc. Most importantly, never give up. If it takes you a few tries to get your certs, keep at it. The end result is absolutely worth it.

JCR | What do you consider your greatest professional accomplishment?
PENCE-AVILES | Besides the Speed Contest, I would consider my current assignment in federal court to be my greatest professional accomplishment. I’m currently assigned to the chief judge, who suffers from a rare neurological disorder that affects his speech. I’ve worked for him since 2015, and I’m one of two reporters in our district who is able to understand him. Since 2017, a fellow court reporter and I have been providing realtime of the judge’s statements for the court staff, the attorneys, and the public pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act, so everyone can follow along and understand the proceedings. It helps the judge, the attorneys, and the public. It’s a difficult and challenging assignment, but it’s also a very important job and one that I’m proud to do.

PROFILE: Teri C. Gibson, RPR, CRR, CRC, CRI

Teri C. Gibson, RPR, CRR, CRC, CRI

Teri C. Gibson, RPR, CRR, CRC, CRI

Freelance court reporter and CART captioner
Currently resides in: Boston, Mass.
Member since: 1986
Graduated from: Chicago College of Commerce
Theory: Stenographic Theory and Computer Compatible Stenography Theory

JCR | Why did you decide to earn an NCRA certification?
GIBSON | When I was a student in college in Chicago, Ill., to work in Illinois, you had to become certified. So I took the NCRA test back in 1981.

JCR | Why did you decide to freelance?
GIBSON | In the beginning of my career, I wanted to become an official court reporter.
That doesn’t happen right away. You have to get experience.  After six months as a freelance court reporter, I was married and moved to Massachusetts. I worked as a freelance court reporter for many years. I was a hearings stenographer with the Department of Industrial Accidents. I found that job didn’t give me the challenge that I enjoyed as a freelance reporter, so I went back to working as a freelance reporter. Through time, I developed my realtime skills. I worked as a federal official for almost 10 years. I went back to freelance, but this time I went into CART captioning because I loved writing realtime and there was a great need for CART captioners.

JCR | Why was it important for you to earn so many different certifications?
GIBSON | Certifications verify your skill level. As a CART captioner, I wanted that certification because it gives prospective clients the assurance that I am certified and can provide the service.

JCR | Have you gotten a job specifically as a result of your certification?
GIBSON | As a freelancer in Illinois, it was required to become certified. Without it, I would not have been able to work at all. In Massachusetts, I don’t believe it’s required, but having my certification when I did move to Boston, I had no trouble getting work.

JCR | Why do you think professional certification is important?
GIBSON | This allows whoever hires you to know that you have the knowledge and skills to perform the work as a court reporter or as a CART captioner.

JCR | What would you say to others considering professional certification?
GIBSON | Certification is only a baseline for the professional starting their career. Through time as you work as a court reporter or CART captioner, you will improve your knowledge and skill level. I would like to encourage all court reporters to get the CSR or RPR and all CART captioners get the CRR. This allows you to have the basic skills needed to start working as a court reporter or CART captioner.

When writing on the steno machine, there are times we are confronted with really hard-working environments that can cause us to doubt that we have what it takes. When you have difficult working environments and situations, you can handle the stress better and continue to write on the steno machine.

I would also encourage new working court reporters to transcribe their own work and use a proofreader in the beginning so that they can continue to build their stenographic skills and knowledge base. Also, if you are able, take classes or seminars and learn about things that interest you or set a goal for something you may want to do in the future and get ready. Have something that you are passionate about or that you can enjoy outside of court reporting. I say this because court reporting exposes us to the experiences of people who have experienced trauma, broken the law, and very stressful situations; it’s important to have positive and joyful experiences to counterbalance.

JCR | What has been your best work experience so far in your career?
GIBSON | I love working as a court reporter and CART captioner. When working as a CART captioner, the consumers are more appreciative of your skills.

JCR | Is there something else you would like to share?
GIBSON | I am a woman with many talents besides being a stenographer. I am a teacher at heart. I was a Sunday School teacher for more than 25 years. Now I am developing my skills for teaching as a Christian Life Coach, and I am an authorized trainer of the Total Eclipse Software. Through the years, I worked as a fitness instructor. I taught aerobics, step, and spinning. I love to swim, knit, read, listen to audiobooks, and writing. I have four books to complete to publish.

PROFILE: Lindsay Stoker, RPR, CRC

Lindsay Stoker, RPR, CRR

Lindsay Stoker, RPR, CRR

Captioner
Currently resides in: Los Angeles, Calif.
Member since: 2010
Graduated from: Self-taught after school closed when in 200s
Theory: Phoenix Theory

JCR | Why did you decide to earn an certification?
STOKER | The RPR demonstrates that you have the speed and key industry knowledge necessary for the job. The CRC exhibits your accuracy. Together, they show you are committed to the profession and prove you are capable of performing under intense pressure for a specified duration.

JCR | Have you gotten a job specifically as a result of your certification?
STOKER | I have made many new business connections because I had my certifications. Despite the fact that they are not required for captioning, I have found the RPR and CRC certifications to be useful. Those credentials are very important when working with industry outsiders or with new contacts in the profession. It provides instant credibility — a straightforward way to get through the first screening when making an unestablished connection. A demo often follows. Many firms and contacts also require certification as a minimum qualification.

JCR | What would you say to encourage others considering earning professional certification?
STOKER | Embrace failure. These tests are designed to be tough. It took me several attempts before passing, but the reward was so much greater. Don’t be discouraged when you fail an exam. Learn as many lessons as you can from each attempt. Reach out to others and capitalize from their experiences. Change your game plan and try again. If you fail, rinse and repeat. I have achieved the greatest growth in my life from failure.

JCR | What surprised you about your career?
STOKER | When I originally started court reporting school, I was working for the U.S. Attorney’s Office and was certain that I would go into depositions and perhaps an officialship. I had a degree in Criminal Justice Administration. The path ahead seemed clear. What I found instead was that my true passion is in captioning and working with the D/deaf and hard-of-hearing communities. I’m so grateful to have chosen a profession whose skills can be used in so many different settings. To me, realtime is an art and goes beyond just getting all the words. It’s anticipating where that comma should be placed for best readability; speaker identification; proper capitalization and hyphenation; making sure that specialized terms translate correctly; and correct grammar. I’m continuously competing against myself to produce a better and easier-to-read product.

JCR | What do you consider your greatest professional accomplishment?
STOKER | My greatest accomplishment stems from my drive to take on work that makes me think: “I can’t do this.” Eventually the fear subsides, and I grow from each challenge. I remember my first remote CART job in 2009. Fight-or-flight kicked in, and my hands were shaking. I had been doing on-site CART for two years prior to that. I got through the job and transitioned to learning about multiple streaming and audio platforms. Soon I was doing multiple remote classes a day, then business and government meetings, TV and broadcast captioning, and branching into the type of all-day, multi-day highly technical conference work I do today. Each well-executed job becomes my new greatest accomplishment. I value and seek out opportunities to challenge myself and grow my skill set.