It was a great day for the hard of hearing as the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) announced a new wave of education funding for students of stenography. NCRA Executive Director and CEO Marcia Ferranto stated that they would “continue to focus on the next generation of captioners and court reporters by illustrating that these professions are viable and lucrative career opportunities.” She then announced the three firms who have agreed to sponsor the next generation of stenographers. They include:
- MacCormac College, Chicago, Ill., Industry Support Partner
- Magna Legal Services, Philadelphia, Pa., Industry Supporter Partner
- S. Legal Support, Washington, D.C., Industry Advocate Partner
The NCRA is especially excited that MacCormac College has agreed to join the programme. It is a “leading school for court reporting education”, according to Dr. Alexis Stephens, Chancellor of MacCormac College. Alexis also stated that she wanted to “bring awareness to the field and to revolutionize court reporting education globally…”
The news of funding was also a statement of intent from the NCRA to preserve the art of stenography itself, in the face of technological competition.
“NCRA recognizes that there are various methods available to capture the spoken word, but our emphasis is on ensuring that both the general public and the legal industry understand that stenography is by far the most effective and desired method.” Ferranto says.
Court reporters are stenographers who transcribe records in the court in real time using a shorthand which they then transfer to longhand after court is adjourned for the day. They also work outside of the courtroom transcribing meetings, speeches and other events.
The nature of their work has mutated in recent years as advances in technology have augmented their work. Their main job now is to supervise speech to text services and correct and mistakes made by the technology. Some machines even transcribe into longhand the shorthand the stenographer is making, which makes the entire process much faster.
What are captions?
Captions are words shown on a device that describes the audio of a program or video. They allow the deaf and hard of hearing to understand the conversation and visuals at the same time. They even provide a description of sound effects important to following along with the action on screen.
Real time captioning is created as the event is happening simultaneously. A captioner uses a machine which has a phonetic keyboard to transcribe the sounds into English subtitles in almost real-time. You will see real-time captioning in events like live events and in the courtroom when the stenographer is aiding the deaf or hard of hearing.
Why this is important for the hearing aid community
Although advancements in technology have prompted some to wonder whether stenography was still a viable career path, the needs of the deaf and hearing have created new demand for people with these skills. Increases in the numbers of people with hearing problems means an increase in the demand for live-captioning both inside and outside of the courtroom.
This helps the hard of hearing immensely. Ease of communication is so important during trials and it is very important that those who find it difficult to hear are given all the help they need to make the often-stressful experience of being in court flow more smoothly. Even for those whose hearing loss isn’t so severe, live captions make it easier to understand the conversation, which reduces the cognitive load on them and allows them to communicate more easily with the person speaking to them in court.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 states that business and public broadcasts must not exclude those with disabilities due to a lack of help. That’s where captioning becomes such an important link. As this law was passed, The Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 made some very specific demands for closed captioning of local programs around the country with start dates of 2002, 2004 and 2006. The demand for captioning spiked dramatically as companies scrambled to comply with the change in legislation. Education and entertainment are now widely captioned as it is produced.
New legislation coupled with the increase in round-the-clock live TV news events means that the demand for stenographers seems to be stable for the foreseeable future. And that, coupled with the news of more funding, is great news for stenographers nationwide.
It’s also great news for those who need live captioning in and out of the courtroom, as they are now much more likely to receive those services from a well-trained professional.
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