Website accessibility in the hot seat

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyThe captioning firm VITAC posted an article on Sept. 26 that addresses recent issues surrounding website accessibility and how it is enforced through the ADA.

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New online service helps legal professionals reserve qualified court reporters in seconds

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyIn a press release issued Sept. 19, DirectDep, based in New York, announced a new online service that helps legal professionals reserve qualified court reporters in seconds. The online service works similar to reservation and appointment services such as OpenTable and Zocdoc.

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NCRA attends CTC, keeps profession relevant

Set in a moderately busy vendor hall, two women in professional garb speak with a few men who are visiting the booth. One of the women is seated at a steno machine. On the table are flyers and propped up iPads.

NCRA President Christine J. Willette (seated) and NCRA Secretary-Treasurer Debra A. Dibble speak with attendees at the 2017 Court Technology Conference.

NCRA was proud to host a booth in the expo hall at the Court Technology Conference (CTC) held Sept. 12-14, in Salt Lake City, Utah. The National Center for State Courts holds the biennial conference, which is the world’s premier event showcasing the developments in court technology. The event draws more than 1,500 court professionals from around the nation.

Volunteers at the NCRA booth at this year’s CTC event included NCRA President Christine J. Willette, RDR, CRR, CRC; Secretary-Treasurer Debra A. Dibble, RDR, CRR, CRC; Director of Professional Development Programs Cynthia Bruce Andrews; and Government Relations Manager Matthew Barusch. Other volunteers included:

  • Rockie Dustin, RPR, a freelancer in Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Phoebe Moorhead, RPR, CRR, a freelancer in North Ogden, Utah
  • Laura Robinson, RPR, an official in Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Laurie Shingle, RPR, CMRS, a freelancer in Pleasant View, Utah
  • Pattie Walker, RPR, an official in Holladay, Utah

The NCRA representatives used the opportunity to demonstrate to attendees the professional advantage of using stenographic court reporters as well as display the latest technology in realtime reporting. They also had the opportunity to speak to judges, IT professionals, and other court professionals.

“We experienced great interactions with court IT attendees. The lack of certified stenographic reporters to cover courts was a common theme expressed by many visitors to our booth. They’re really feeling the shortage,” said Willette. “They all love realtime. Many of them who use realtime said they can’t live without it. One judge called her reporter right on the spot to make sure they knew about realtime to the cloud,” she added.

The CTC serves as the venue for unveiling the latest developments in court technology to the court-professionals community, giving NCRA a prime opportunity to promote the gold standard of court reporting.

“The potentially monumental contacts that can be made at CTC are innumerable and invaluable in view of the broad expanse of crucial decision-makers who attend,” said Dibble. “We met with judges, attorneys, IT personnel, court reporters, and vendors of litigation services and technologies to court systems — everyone is looking for ways to be more effective in their roles to more efficiently execute the judicial process,” she added.

Willette and Dibble both agree that having the opportunity to demonstrate the capabilities of stenographic court reporters to those charged with implementing court-technology services helps to open doors and inspire ideas to incorporate stenographic skills into the products they offer. Attending the CTC also helps to keep NCRA members relevant as technologies evolve.

“It is imperative that NCRA be a part of that solution-finding process and be visible to every facet of this field. We spent our time listening and learning about the interests and needs of attendees, then sharing with them how we can provide solutions to their needs and how our services create efficiencies to their processes,” Dibble said.

The next Court Technology Conference will be in September 2019 in New Orleans, La. For more information, visit ctc2017.org.

Tips to make your mobile videoconference great

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyA blog posted on Aug. 31 by JD Supra offers a number of tips to help ensure mobile videoconferencing goes smoothly. Among the tips: Have a strong cellular or WiFi signals, be sure the cell phone battery is fully charged, and use an earpiece or headset to help get the best audio possible.

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Highlights and takeaways from the sessions at the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo

Attendees at the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo had the opportunity to attend an array of sessions and educational workshops designed to help them increase their professional experience and hone their skills. The summaries below highlight a few of these sessions.

Fast, faster, fastest

View from the back of a meeting room with rows of people facing a panel and a projector

Kelly Shainline, Jason Meadors, and Keith Lemons present “Fast, faster, fastest” to a full house

One of the first sessions to kick off the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo, “Fast, faster, fastest” with Kelly Shainline, RPR, CRR; Jason Meadors, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC; and Keith Lemons, FAPR, RPR, CRR, was packed with standing room only. The nuts-and-bolts realtime session went through step by step how to set up for good realtime. “My first page, I just consider it a sacrificial goat,” Meadors said to laughter, but the presenters emphasized the importance of good preparation as the key to strong realtime. For example, for legal work, the presenters said to get the appearance page ahead of time and use that to do some research. “Let’s say there’s a doctor,” said Lemons. “Look up online what kind of medicine they do — such as obstetrics and gynecology — and use that to build specific words in a dictionary.”

“I won’t be mean,” Meadors said, “but I will be firm to get what I need,” especially for CART or captioning work.

The presenters all said that they do prep the night before — although the length of time varied a bit based on how important the trial was, how many people would be seeing the realtime, and if there would be a rough draft, for example – but also emphasized the importance of arriving early to the job. Shainline said that while she often prepares brief forms the night before, after she sets up at the job, she does some practice with those briefs to help get them into muscle memory.

Gadgets and gizmos

Merilee Johnson, RDR, CRR, CRC, and Micheal Johnson, RDR, CRR, lead a session filled with dozens of specific gadgets, gizmos, and app recommendations to make life easier both on and off the job. For example, for the office, Merilee and Micheal shared:

  • a few types of charging stations, including the Satechi USB Charging Station, which charges up to six devices at a time, and the EZO power desktop, which Merilee says she’s brought on jobs as a value add to help attorneys plug in their devices;
  • second monitors, including the Duet Display app, which turns an iPad into a second screen (currently only for Apple products), and the Mimo, which is a small second monitor – both Micheal and Merilee said they’ve found it helpful to use a small second monitor to free up real estate on their laptop and move over, for example, BriefIt on a second screen; and
  • cable management gadgets, including the Baltic Sleeve, which is a Velcro sleeve that wraps around a bunch of cables, and the Safcord, which is also a Velcro solution that performs the same function as gaffer’s tape, except it’s reusable.

How to compete with some of the best

In a session that was part of the Student Learning Zone at the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo, Chase Frazier, RMR, CRR, CRC; Tami Frazier, RMR, CRR; and Ron Cook, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, gave concrete tips to students on improving their writing while getting through school. The three presenters came from a variety of perspectives: a captioner, an official, and a freelancer.

Chase had strong realtime skills coming out of school, but he didn’t have his state CSR. Because of this, he went into captioning. Tami started as an official out of school because a job opened up at the right time. She said that while court work can be a little faster than depo work — and trials are more controlled — new professionals shouldn’t avoid going right into court after school. And Ron cited the freedom and money potential as perks to freelancing, but he admitted that one downside is the lack of benefits. (He is also a partner in a firm.)

Tami taught both of her sons (Chase and brother Clay Frazier) to write steno, and she did so paperless. She also emphasized perfection. When Chase was at 200 wpm, she saw that while he had the speed, he was writing sloppy and with no punctuation. She had him go back to 160 and work back up while also working on writing perfectly. Chase attributed this experience to his strength in realtime.

A woman speaks into a microphone. She is sitting amongst rows of people at a conference session.

An attendee shares her thoughts during a session at the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo

“A lot of people don’t emphasize the mental part of practicing,” said Ron. “If you don’t think you’re going to get it, you won’t get it.” He provided a couple metaphors for practicing, including “slow things down” — meaning to slow things down mentally, stay relaxed, and go with the flow.

Tami recommended practicing about 10 percent faster than her goal speed (which was a technique that she used to get through school). “You always want to be pushing yourself,” she said. Pick tough dictation, she suggested — “and I’m a real believer in lit — it makes you write; there’s nothing easy about lit,” she said. She also suggested practicing a five-minute take at least ten or fifteen words per minute faster than the goal speed. But since she also emphasized aiming for perfection, repeating a take until writing it perfectly will clean up a reporter’s writing and also gives the reporter an opportunity to work in briefs and phrases. “The better writer you are, the easier the job,” she said.

Business of being a court reporter

Charisse Kitt, RMR, CRI; Jessica Waack, RDR, CRR; Mike Hensley, RPR; and Katherine Schilling, RPR, presented a mock deposition as part of the Student Learning Zone at the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo. With Schilling playing the part of newbie reporter, the mock deposition went through a variety of typical situations that a new reporter may not have encountered before or covered in school. At each “freeze frame,” the panelists discussed how they would handle each situation. A few of the situations were:

Introducing yourself at the beginning of the deposition: Kitt said she makes a point of greeting all of the lawyers in the room with a firm handshake. Waack expanded on this by saying that she makes sure her ears are over her shoulders over her hips, so she’s standing with confidence and not hunched over.

Swearing in the witness: Waack suggested having a physical piece of paper with the oath to refer to. She also said to make sure to include “swear or affirm” in the wording, since some witnesses don’t want to swear, and to avoid the phrase “so help you God.” Hensley pointed out that reporters should always check with their state association or firm first to see if there’s a preset oath that the reporter should be using.

Using briefs for names, words, and phrases: For briefs, Hensley pointed out that they don’t have to make sense on paper as long as they make sense to you to write. Kitt said she likes to get to a job at least 30 minutes early so she can use the time to jot down some briefs. And Waack suggested using LinkedIn to find the proper spellings of witnesses, etc., although she added that this will likely lead to some odd friend requests. She also said that after she’s developed a brief for an acronym, if the speaker suddenly uses the full term, she simply writes the brief twice.

The witness is talking too fast: Kitt said, “Don’t ever depend on your audio,” stressing that it’s the reporter’s responsibility as the record-keeper to keep in control and stop any fast talkers to tell them to slow down. Waack says she likes to reset the speaker to the point where she lost the record by saying, “You were talking about [subject].” And Hensley favors using a visual hand signal – physically lifting his hands up off the machine to show the room that something is up with the reporter.

Hensley also emphasized throughout the session the importance of knowing your software.

Beyond English

Stanley Sakai, CRC, led a session that focused on captioning in other languages, especially Spanish. The discussion was guided partially by Sakai’s prepared presentation and partly by the audience’s questions.

Sakai has a working knowledge of eight different languages with varying levels of fluency, including Dutch, German, Japanese, Korean, and Spanish. Prompted by a question from the audience, he explained that one of the methods he uses to keep up with such a wide variety of languages is to have different devices set to different languages (for example, his tablet set in one language and his mobile phone in another). He also takes the opportunity to look up words he encounters on the fly and to read articles, etc., in a language other than English so he learns content and vocabulary at the same time.

The session description specifically highlighted Spanish, and the growing need for Spanish captioning came up in the discussion, both domestically and abroad. Sakai talked a little bit about the differences between baseline speeds in English and Spanish and how Spanish is at a slightly slower speed. He also discussed his methods for doing CART work in German and how steno systems work in Korean and in Japanese. Sakai had to adjust his steno theory in order to provide CART, which was for a German language class, and he even had to be prepared to jump between German and English. Similarly, in the discussion, he pointed out that the Korean and Japanese languages toggle between different writing systems based on the specific words, and reporters and captioners in those countries need to have keyboards that are set up to quickly switch between the writing systems at the speed of spoken language.

Read all the news from the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo.

TechLinks: The 21st century reporter, part 2

TechLinks_logoOn behalf of the NCRA Technology Committee, Robin Nodland, FAPR, RDR, CRR, recently shared a series of links with information to help the 21st-century reporter or captioner. This second installment covers cloud backup, password management, and efficient internet searches.

In a July 21 article on How-To Geek, Cameron Summerson talks about how to use Google’s Backup and Sync tool to automatically backup information — including documents, photos, and videos — onto Google Drive. Summerson talks a bit about what this tool is and how it works, and then goes step by step through the process of setting it up. The Backup and Sync tool works on both PCs and Macs, and it allows the user to sync either an entire computer drive or only specific folders.

In a July 21 article for PC Mag, Michael Ansaldo presents the best password managers of 2017. Ansaldo talks about what a password manager does, why it’s important, and how PC Mag chose the best overall and the runner up. The article includes links to reviews for all of the password managers that PC Mag considered.

In a July 18 reprint on SlawTips (the original ran on the Law Society of Saskatchewan Library’s Legal Sourcery Blog), Alan Kilpatrick offers some tips on using Google Search for efficiently. Kilpatrick focuses on using specific search terms and then using the different search operators and filters — including combining them — to “craft powerful queries and locate good results.” The article ends with a few reminders about evaluating search results for authenticity, etc.

Read “TechLinks: The 21st century reporter, part 1.”

TechLinks: The 21st century reporter, part 1

TechLinks_logoOn behalf of the NCRA Technology Committee, Robin Nodland, FAPR, RDR, CRR, recently shared a series of links with information to help the 21st-century reporter or captioner. This first installment covers ethics and cybersecurity, a tech gadget, and a data-storage solution.

In the July 2017 GPSolo eReport for the American Bar Association (ABA), lawyers Al Harrison and Joseph Jacobson talk about what ransomware is, how it can affect your computer, and how to deal with it ethically. “Often portrayed as attacking an operating system such as Windows or Mac OS, ransomware is, unfortunately, more sophisticated and more destructive than you may perceive from a cursory review of reported invasive malware events,” Harrison and Jacobson say. This is the first in a series on cloud computing and ethics. GPSolo is the solo, small firm, and general practice division of the ABA.

In a July 20 post for PCMag, William Harrel reviews the Xerox Duplex Travel Scanner. “There are some other much more sophisticated portable document scanners out there, such as the $300 Epson WorkForce ES-300W Portable Wireless Duplex Document Scanner, but if all you need is to scan relatively short documents to your laptop on the road, the Duplex Travel Scanner is a terrific alternative to the RoadWarrior X3—especially if those documents are two-sided,” says Harrel.

A July 17 post on How-To Geek by Jason Fitzpatrick discusses how to set up a Synology Network Attached Storage (NAS) device. “A NAS, simply put, is a computer optimized for data storage, often with additional functionality layered on top,” explains Fitzpatrick. In the post, Fitzpatrick goes through the physical setup – including hard-drive selection, how to add the drives, and where to put a NAS – how to configure the NAS, and how to use the DiskStation Manager (with screenshots!).

Read “TechLinks: The 21st century reporter, part 2.”

TechLinks: All about Apple

TechLinks_logoApple products continue to be in the news, and the NCRA Technology Committee shared a number of links on the latest information on upcoming releases as well as tips for getting the most out of your current system.

A public beta release of Apple’s iOS 11 release came out last week, and early adopters are testing it out. Teresa Russ, CRI, shared an article from Apple that gives you the rundown of what to expect. The article covers a few of the features, such as a new Advanced Apple Maps and the “Do Not Disturb” mode for driving, as well as a complete list of computer compatibility. A final version is expected to roll out this fall.

On a more practical note, Russ also shared a how-to for scanning documents using the Notes App in iOS 11.

If you’re a Mac user, like Lisa Knight, FAPR, RDR, CRR, you have many choices for apps. An article by MacWorld.com listed 25 free apps, with suggestions like Audacity, an app that boosts efficiency using hotkeys and keywords, and Wunderlist, an app that allows you to share your to-do list across almost any system.

If you just need to keep up with the nomenclature for iPhones, iDropNews offered an overview of how Apple has been naming their smartphones and gave some clues for what to expect down the line.

Blog warns court reporters about Windows 10 updates

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyJD Supra posted a blog on June 29 warning court reporters that new Windows updates could wreak havoc on their computer settings. The blog offers several tips for dealing with updates.

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TechLinks: Understanding internet safety

TechLinks_logoThe JCR Weekly recently asked the NCRA Technology Committee: “What are your thoughts, concerns, or sources you turn to when you are looking at your settings – whether your browser, apps or programs you download, or dealing with the upload of transcripts?” Here’s what they had to say:

 

My general privacy settings are set in my virus ware, but I am very careful about downloading any attachment with an .exe extension on it. I make sure I’m confident with the source, whether a new program or the person who has sent it, before I click “OK.”

I have, in the past, gone to Google to check out the source of the program if it’s an app or new software I’m downloading. I read quite a bit about Dashlane, for example, before I decided to use that as my password keeper, including talking to my IT guy, my nephew Dan, and I’m so very glad I did.

Nancy Bistany, RPR
Chicago, Ill.

 

I am very careful as to what I download. If I don’t know the site or the user, I just delete and don’t click on anything that would say, “download” or have an extension on it.

I stick with using Google Chrome because it is more secure. Here at work, though, we are not allowed to open certain things. We’ll get a “caution” before we proceed or it will block us from opening untrusted sites or downloads. I think it goes back to again having a trusted virus ware to help with that as well. Here at work, they send us emails to test us to see how many people will fall for opening these downloads that would cause a virus. So we are constantly being educated from our IT people on what to look for. If we open something here at work, we will be shut down immediately or contacted immediately to let us know our computers are at risk.

On my personal computer, same thing, I just wouldn’t open it. I would email the person back if I know who it is and let them know to resend it in a different format.

But once again, if I don’t know the person sending something or the site, I’d just rather avoid. When in doubt, you click on Google and search. Nowadays there’s so much information on the internet, there’s no reason you can’t Google things and find an answer. It may not always be the right answer — that’s why you look at several searches before deciding which is the right answer.

Jamie R. Lopez, RPR
Roswell, N.M.

 

I use Ghostery for browsing the internet. Sometimes I have to “Pause Blocking” on a particular page I may be viewing because it won’t load pictures, but at least I get to choose. I also use Adguard.

Lisa Knight, FAPR, RDR, CRR
Littleton, Colo.

 

Regarding uploading of transcripts to the Web:

1)         There are programs that incorporate username/password, or just password, that is passed on from the uploader to the uploadee. It does make the receiver feel more secure if you convey a password in a separate email.

2)         There are programs where the uploaded document will expire. This needs to be conveyed to the receiver that they need to download the transcript before the period ends and the link becomes invalid.

3)         For even more security, you could use a program such as 7-Zip that encrypts the actual file, which then requires a password, but I would think this would be overkill for just a regular deposition transcript.

Dana Hayden, RMR, CRR
Fayetteville, Ark.

 

Our IT company, who is a Google house, handles our privacy as well as any updates and/or settings. It’s worth it to us to have our IT experts assess our requirements, and then build privacy and security around those requirements as a court reporting firm. We’ve also asked all of our contractors (reporters and videographers) to use Gmail/Google so we all use the same tunnel through the internet. That way we can share knowing, via email or Drive, we are protected. Or as protected as we can be since occasionally people click on links or download items that infect their systems but, knock on wood, none of those threats have made its way back to us, but it slows those infected down for days and/or weeks.

Jon Moretti, CLVS
Kalamazoo, Mich.