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.

HLAA kicks off the 2018 Walk4Hearing

 

Bethesda, MD: The Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), Bethesda, Md., announced in a press release issued April 23 that the organization has launched its 2018 Walk4Hearing program. The Walk4Hearing raises awareness of hearing loss and provides strategies and information on topics such as hearing loss prevention, the importance of getting your hearing screened, treatment of hearing loss, and maintaining good hearing health.

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Captioners: Olympians captioning Olympians

Andrea Couch, RDR, CRR, CRC

Ask any captioner and they’ll tell you the most exciting thing about their jobs is the variety of assignments they get. From providing CART in a university classroom to captioning for live theater, each assignment is as varied as the preparation it calls for. The JCR Weekly recently reached out to NCRA member Andrea Couch, RDR, CRR, CRC, owner of Associated Reporting & Video in Boise, Idaho, about her work captioning the Olympic Games. Here’s what she shared.

JCR | How long have you worked as a captioner?
Couch | I worked as a captioner from 2006 until 2011.

JCR | Which Olympics have you captioned?
Couch | I captioned the 2008 summer Olympic Games and the 2010 winter Olympic Games. I was fortunate enough to have been assigned to caption both the summer and winter games, so I got to caption a wide variety of Olympic sports. In the 2008 Olympics, I remember I captioned women’s volleyball, archery, baseball, basketball, triathlon, weightlifting, rowing, diving, and swimming. In the 2010 winter Olympics, I captioned alpine skiing, biathlon, bobsled, luge, skeleton, ice hockey, speed skating, and curling.

JCR | How did you prepare for this assignment?
Couch | It was an enormous undertaking to prepare to caption the Olympic Games. The way scheduling worked when I captioned the Olympics, I would be assigned a two-hour block of time. All of the Olympic Games were aired on NBC and its affiliate networks, so I would go to their website to see what events would be broadcast during my two-hour block. The problem was, there would only be very generic descriptions with a list of maybe 10 different events that might possibly be aired during those two hours, but if something more exciting popped up, they would immediately jump to that.

So for a two-hour block, it may say that they were going to air part of a women’s volleyball game, cycling, men’s diving, some women’s weightlifting, and synchronized swimming, and you would be given general details about which countries’ athletes may be participating. So for that two-hour block, the prep was enormous to get all of your bases covered.

I remember when I was captioning the 2008 summer games, I made it through my first two-hour block, and they aired everything they said they were going to: a women’s volleyball game, some cycling, some synchronized swimming; everything that I had prepped for. I was feeling pretty good about myself! And then all of a sudden, with 20 minutes left in my two-hour block, they decided to switch to men’s rowing, an event they had given absolutely no indication that they would be airing. Of course, there were no Americans in the race (that would be far too easy). Every single race participant had a last name that I swear was 20 letters long with no vowels. So I found myself finger spelling every single name in that race for the last 20 minutes of my block. Ten years later, I still develop a facial tick when anyone mentions men’s rowing.

The other incredibly challenging part about captioning the Olympics is that the prep material is so vast. Not only do you have to prep for the specific events happening during the times you are assigned to caption, you also need to keep up on who has won medals that day and who will be competing later in the coming days because during transitions from sport to sport, they will always give a recap of what’s been happening and what’s coming up.

And then there are the human interest pieces that they jump to about an athlete who grew up in a tiny village deep in the heart of some country you’ve never even heard of, and they throw out names of relatives and close friends and geographic locations where the athlete has trained for their sport, all of which you have received absolutely no prep material for.

There is also an incredible amount of prep work to be done about the country hosting the Olympics, all of the prior countries where the Olympics have been held, and the countries where the Olympics are set to be held in the future. It’s also imperative that you make sure you have in your dictionary the names of past Olympians who have competed and won in each sport because you never know when their names might pop up. You also must prep for each commentator involved in the event you are captioning as they are often past Olympic athletes themselves and will talk about their experience in the Olympics: where they competed, who they competed against, etc.

JCR | What was the most exciting part of this assignment for you?
Couch | Well, to state the obvious, it’s the Olympics! It’s history in the making! It’s intense competition highlighting the sheer will and determination of these amazing athletes to stop at nothing to accomplish their goals. Throughout my career, I have always enjoyed competing in speed and realtime contests, and so I always felt I shared the same mentality as these competitors, albeit on a much smaller scale. That drive to work tirelessly to be the absolute best you can be at whatever it is that you do is an amazing thing to watch unfold before your eyes. There are no words to express what it feels like to play a role in the broadcasting of these events to the world.

JCR | How was this job different from other captioning assignments you have had? For example, what was the stress level if any?
Couch | Oh, my goodness, the stress level. There is just nothing quite as intense as knowing that the entire world is watching your work. Sure, that’s the case most any day you’re on the air as a captioner. But the Olympics, that is the greatest stage of them all. It was both one of the most stressful things I have ever done but also the most rewarding and exhilarating. There is absolutely nothing better than pushing yourself to the limits of your abilities and coming out victorious. Although, I must be honest with you, after that incident when they switched to men’s rowing and I had to finger spell every name for the last 20 minutes of that block, I distinctly remember thinking to myself, “Oh, my heavens. Please just put me back on the Weather Channel!”

Reporters who caption the Olympics truly are Olympians themselves. Every year I watch the Olympics with my captions turned on, and I stand in absolute awe at what my colleagues are capable of. It is truly astounding the skills and abilities that we have. The training that we do to be able to accomplish such feats is incredibly similar to that of each one of those competitors. We train our whole lives for this, constantly improving and never settling for “good enough.” We invest endless hours of hard work, tears, frustration, picking ourselves up and dusting ourselves off after a hard day to make ourselves the best at what we do so that when we reach the biggest stage of them all, we can perform at such incredibly high levels of proficiency. What an amazing skill we possess!

JCR | Is there anything else you would like to add?
Couch | I captioned for five years, and it was the best thing I ever could have done. It improved my writing immensely, it changed my perspective on how I write and why I write the way I do, and it gave me a hunger to never stop challenging myself. That experience has opened incredible doors for me throughout my career, and I will be forever grateful for the opportunity that was given to me.

Yes, captioning is very difficult. But the rewards you receive from making that leap are vast and immeasurable. Have you always wanted to be a captioner? Do it! Take the leap. Sign up for training. Work on your realtime. Challenge yourself to always be better. You just might find yourself captioning the Olympics someday. The hard work is absolutely worth the reward. No question about it.

UW’s campus exhibits a lack of understanding of Deaf culture

The University of Wisconsin’s student newspaper, The Badger Herald, posted an article on April 3 about the need for captioning as well as a better understanding by faculty and students about the importance of providing captioning for deaf students.

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