With the Global Alliance of Speech to Text Quality Caption Task Force
Our guests today are:
Sebrina Crosby, CRC. Sebrina is a Realtime CART Captioner and owner of Access Captioning, LLC
Kimberly Shea, NCSP, CRC. Kimberley is a realtime broadcast/CART captioner and she is the President of Breaking Barriers Captioning Services, LLC.
Serbina and Kimberly volunteer with Global Alliance Speech to Text with the Quality Caption Task Force
Captions are our access to television. Without captions, we have to make up our own stories with what we see. We did a podcast with Liza Sylvestre early this year, an artist who uses her hearing loss in her art. Her project “Captioned” is a good example of what we do without captions. Captions are our language. Quality captions matter. Don’t make us guess, especially when the information is important.
Kimberly and Serbrina are especially busy lately with captioning so we are appreciative of the time they spent with us. In our current podcast, they talk to us about quality captions and their upcoming project which will improve captions…and they need our help.
Chelle: This is how bad my hearing is – I’ll be watching a movie and reading the captions as usual. My husband will come in and ask me why I’m watching a movie in a foreign language. I had no idea they were speaking a foreign language. To me, all dialog on the TV comes across garbled. I cannot watch TV without captions.
My husband likes to watch the news. I read the captions. When the news goes live on certain channels, there’s no captions which completely leaves me out. I get up and leave the room, it’s not inclusive. Sometimes, the captions are so far behind during certain live shows, I can’t get the full transcript before commercials come up and I lose the last little bit. This is when I use my wifi based assistive listening system from my good friends at Listen Tech. When the show is live, they generally face the camera so I can use lipreading too. The captions become backup.
Captions Sometimes Lag Far Behind
During our October Talk About It Tuesday monthly chat, someone else brought up television captions and the lag. This can be a technology issue, Julia explained. Sometimes it’s captioning going through different kinds of technology before it’s presented on the TV. It can be the cable box. There’s no real criteria for consistency between TV stations and our televisions. For no captions, someone at the TV station probably forgot to flip a switch.
We can make a difference.
Serbrina tells us during the podcast, we can make a difference in our own cities by staying on top of our local TV stations. There are pockets of stations in the USA who do a good job with captions, even though they aren’t in the top 25. (The top 25 have to have live captioners.) It’s because the Hard of Hearing and Deaf community members are actively contacting the stations about caption issues.
Last weekend, I had a friend approach me about a recent Utah governor’s address on TV not being captioned. She and her husband have started to use captions more often. She said they had an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter but there were no captions. Why, she wanted to know. The Deaf community have been more firm with their communication needs than we have. We can learn from them.
We need to follow up with the TV stations who are not providing captions. Each station has a caption assistance page (it’s the law to have captions). I keep my most watched local TV station’s “caption assistance” pages on my phone. We can call them, email them or fill out their contact page. I’ve let stations know what the problem is and I’ve also complimented another station on providing great captions. When it’s a glaring problem, I get on my local HLAA email list and tell others to tune in and write to the TV station too. I told her next time she sees something like that, let me know and I’ll spread the word. Sebrina is right, the more of us who do this, the better captioning we get.
Hearing Parnters Can Help
Julia: Quality captions help everyone. If you’re a hearing partner, odds are the captions are on all the time. I know at our house they are. My guess is that you are using the captions more than you realize. I do. When they are poor quality, whether the program is live or pre-recorded, it’s distracting and it drives me nuts!
But, as a hearing partner you just have to put up with it, right? Wrong.
I encourage everyone (HoHs, hearing partners, ANYONE who uses TV captioning) at home, in a bar or restaurant, at work…ANYONE who may want to use or needs to use captions at a future date, (come on now hearing loss can happen to anyone) to get involved. When local stations hear from their local viewers they take note.
During a local news broadcast you might even see an advertisement about a local store who is credited for sponsoring the closed captions. Drop by that local store and let them know captions matter and let them know if it’s quality captions that they are sponsoring.
Change happens when we speak up together.
Call to Action!
Kimberly Shea: “The first place we need to start is making a record. We will gather video data and samples from all over the country. The Task Force will evaluate each video against a metric system that is designed for captioning. This will address the quality, and the usability of captions for consumers. This has never been done before.”
Global Alliance will have a call to action soon and you will see Hearing Loss LIVE! sharing it.
The more of us with hearing loss helping, the better captioning will get.
Join Global Alliance Speech to Text. Together we make a difference.
Did you like this blog? Check out the podcast we did with Jen Schuck of Global Alliance earlier this past spring.
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Q: What’s missing in hospital accessibility and language services?
A: CART (Computer Aided Real-Time Transcription or Communication Access Real-Time Translation)/textual language interpretation for the Hard of Hearing!
Check your hospital’s nondiscrimination policy and/or accessibility/language services information—yes, do it right now so you know—and they likely read similar to mine.
“Essentia Health provides free aids and services to people with disabilities to communicate effectively with us, such as:
Qualified sign language interpreters.
Written information in other formats (large print, audio, accessible electronic formats, other formats).
Provides free language services to people whose primary language is not English, such as: Qualified interpreters.
Information written in other languages.”
NOTE: Clicking on the link above you will see that in addition to sign language for the Deaf, I can also get translation in the following world languages: Amharic, Arabic, Bantu, Chinese, Cushite, French, German, Hindi, Hmong, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Laotian, Nepali, Norwegian, Pennsylvania Dutch, Polish, Russian, Serbocroatian, Spanish, Swahili, Tagalog, Telugu, Urdu, and Vietnamese.
However, there is nothing listed for those of us (over 95% of people with hearing loss) who need Speech-to-Text English Interpretation. ✣ ✣ ✣ ✣
Here is another from the prestigious Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, where I have received care:
“Accessibility services at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota
Mayo Clinic is committed to making its buildings and services accessible to all.
Accessibility services can be found all across our campus — and they’re always free of charge. Just ask one of the friendly door attendants or patient care staff at any Mayo Clinic building. They’ll make sure you get what you need.”
Yet, as you scroll down the page this what is listed for Hearing-impaired serviceson the Mayo Clinic’s website:
“Sign language interpreters are available at no charge to patients. Simply tell the registration staff or appointment scheduler that you’ll need an interpreter.” ✣ ✣ ✣ ✣
THREE IMPORTANT POINTS TO REMEMBER
Over 95% of people with disabling hearing loss use spoken language to communicate. Providing them with sign language interpretation is useless. They need textual language services in their spoken language.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) recognizes CART, textual language interpretation, as a reasonable accommodation for communication access. It is the equivalent of ASL interpretation, in that it meets the needs of the HoH community in the same way sign language interpretation meets the needs of the Deaf community.
The world has many misconceptions about the HoH community, and many people with hearing loss are unaware of their right to accommodation and lack knowledge of what is available to them for communication access.
ON A PERSONAL LEVEL
I am a good self advocate and communicator. I am also knowledgeable about the accommodations available to me. Here is my take on the ones I’ve used in a hospital setting:
Lipreading & Clear Masks: Because my primary mode of communication is lipreading, I know that it doesn’t always work, so relying on clear masks and lipreading for medical appointments isn’t a great solution where important medical information is being relayed or you need to follow instructions. Also, not everyone with hearing loss can lipread.
Pen & Paper: Never underestimate the power of writing it down. It’s a great way to communicate for something simple, however, my recent mammography experience is why it is not a good option in many situations. I had told the tech I wouldn’t understand her at all with masks, she should gesture or do whatever was needed to give me direction, and when all else fails she would have to write it down. The tech continually spoke to me. “You’re going to have to write it down,” I responded each time. To which she would begrudgingly grab her pen and paper—clearly frustrated that I couldn’t hear her. It isn’t a wonder HoH people dread medical appointments and often skip them.
ASR (automatic speech recognition) apps for smartphones: Definitely a help, but often not accurate due to background noise, distance from speaker, unclear speech, or poor WiFi/cell service. Take my recent ER visit to Highland Hospital in Rochester, New York. I checked in using Otter after asking if the hospital had iPads with speech-to-Text communication. They did not. Once in the treatment area Otter would no longer work (WiFi was likely the issue as we went into the bowels of the hospital) and I brought up the Notes app on my iPhone. No punctuation, capitalization, or speaker designation, and lacking accuracy.
Interpretation Cart: Some hospitals have a cart on wheels with a tablet or iPad attached to the top to provide language services remotely. I was so excited to see that Highland hospital had one! That is, until the Physicians Assistant (PA) brought up the video with a sign language interpreter even after I told her I don’t communicate with sign language. Expectantly, I asked for CART instead, and was told there was no Speech-to-Text option, only sign language and world language translation. HUGE disappointment! I was forced to continue to limp along with the Notes app. I told the PA they really needed to add a CART option since over 95% of people with disabling hearing loss use spoken language and don’t use sign language to communicate. She said, “Your phone app is working just fine,” so I showed her the text of her speech, which had her saying the “F” word. She laughed and said that wasn’t what she said. I didn’t think it was funny.
Wanting to communicate for myself is NOT too much to ask. And, wanting the accommodation that is most effective is not an unreasonable request. If a hospital is willing to provide ASL Interpretation, they should also offer CART/textual language interpretation.
In early May, I had my annual physical and mammogram. It’s colonoscopy time again. Oh Joy! My doctor referred me for a telehealth appointment prior to colonoscopy to discuss some other GI issues I am having, and also put in a request for CART (my mammography experience is why I asked my doctor to request CART in her referral) for the procedure itself. In addition, I have a spot on my hand that my doctor wants biopsied, which means a Dermatology (Derm) appointment.
Turns out getting the Derm appointment and scheduling telehealth with Gastroenterology (Gastro) isn’t so easy, as their departments do their own scheduling. I can’t make appointments with them online like I can with my other doctors. It’s been a month and no one has called, as I was instructed they would, so I stopped in at my clinic closer to home to see if scheduling could give me some help. I was again told, “You have to call them, we can’t schedule those departments.” I’ve tried for weeks, only to reach a recording and being put on hold for over ten minutes and still not getting through. I can’t in good conscience expect an InnoCaption CA (call assistant) to waste their precious time on hold for an indefinite length of time.
I get the recording every time, no matter what time I call.
So last week I went to the hospital.
To try to find the point person for scheduling accommodations. My doctor requested CART with the colonoscopy referral. I received this email response from the Gastroenterology (Gastro) Department:“Hello! After speaking with my manager he would like you to bring a visitor with you that can help with communication between nursing staff and yourself. Otherwise if you use sign language we can always bring in an interpreter.”Um, just NO! And, how will I be able to lipread a masked “visitor” any better than masked nursing staff?
I need a timely appointment with Derm.
I need a telehealth appointment with Gastro before my colonoscopy.
I want to speak with a Patient Advocate, a Social Work person, or an Accessibility Officer who can help me get the hospital up to speed on providing CART.
The Derm appointment was a breeze, but it’s not until November. Sigh…
I had success in getting contact info for the accommodations person, but here is how that went: Me: Addressing the Guest Services Volunteer (GSV) at the information desk: Hi, I’m a lipreader and that’s impossible to do with masks, so I’m going to bring up a captioning app on my phone so I can read the text of what you say.” GSV: He begins talking and signing before my captioning app is enabled: “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah,”—that quote is for both speaking and signing, because I can’t hear what he’s saying and I don’t know sign language. Me: “I’m looking for someone in charge of scheduling accommodations, an accessibility officer, or a patient advocate.” GSV: He starts talking and seems perturbed because I’m not watching him talk. He keeps trying to take my attention away from my phone screen with the text of what he’s saying. Me:“I can’t look at you while you speak, I need to look at my phone screen to read the captions. No, I don’t need an interpreter, I don’t know sign language, I’m a lipreader.” GSV: He seems to know just who to call, and does. Once she picks up, he tells her what he assumes I want to talk to her about. He treats me like I’m helpless and have no idea about what I need. Me: I interrupt, because I’m reading the text of what he is telling her on my phone. “That’s not what I want, I’ve already made the CART request, but I’m having trouble getting the accommodation I requested.” GSV: He puts the phone on speaker and shoves it toward me to speak with the ASL Interpreter on staff who is the program manager of language services. Me: I tell her what I’m trying to do. She responds, “I’m still working on getting CART and what I was told was that it would take a long time to get CART but I’m trying my best to make this accommodation for you.” She continues explaining that getting CART is hard. I tell her it isn’t hard, or any harder than getting an ASL Interpreter, but that if you don’t do it routinely, you need to learn how. I suggest we exchange emails and she agrees that would be best and after we exchange information the call ends. NOTE: The language service manager and I have continued to correspond via email and I sent her the contact information for a CART provider I have used in the past at a political convention who provides medical CART at the Mayo Clinic, Minnesota. GSV: After the call ends, “So have you done anything with DHHSD (Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Division) at all? Me: “Yes, I have dealt with DHHSD various times, but the local director, who is culturally Deaf, does not have a good understanding of HoH needs, they are more focused on the Deaf community and sign language.” NOTE: I’ve since learned that the director I’ve dealt with in the past has retired and I’m in the process of connecting with her replacement. GSV:“DHHSD would be the best way to go.” Me:”Actually, the hospital should know how to provide any accommodation request without relying on patients to provide their own devices for text. It’s pretty ironic that I’ve shown up several times (pre-Covid) for appointments or tests at the hospital to find an ASL Interpreter waiting when I hadn’t even made an accommodation request. But, when I make a request for the accommodation that meets my communication needs—CART—it seems it’s “TOO HARD” to get it.”
I thanked the GSV for trying to help me and headed to the Gastro department through miles of skyway. To my surprise, I bump into the same GSV near the elevators that will take me to the Gastro Department. He says he’ll meet me there as he rushes a patient away in a wheelchair.
I approach the Gastro registration desk and begin talking to the woman behind the plexiglass. The GSV rushes in, barges in front of me, interrupts, and starts telling the woman what I need.
Me:“Excuse me, I can communicate for myself. I don’t need a communication go-between,” and take over for myself. I can tell the woman behind the plexiglass is silently cheering me on. She sends me to another woman at a desk and we discuss the telehealth appointment my PCP wants me to have with the Gastro doc before my colonoscopy. The GSV continues to interrupt every time the woman at the desk is busy on her computer, talking when I don’t even have my captioning app enabled and not being patient enough to wait for it to kick in. I tell him, “I really am deaf, I can’t hear anything you are saying behind your mask. It may seem like I can hear because I can talk, but I can’t hear.” GSV: He continues to try to talk to me while I’m trying to talk to the woman behind the plexiglass.
I’m sure others encounter well-meaning but insensitive people in their medical appointments. Here is what those people need to know about how to communicate with someone who is Hard of Hearing:
Listen closely to the person when they are telling you what you need to know about their hearing loss and communication needs. Over 95% of people with disabling hearing loss do not sign, so don’t start signing right off the bat.
Assumptions cause offense. Hearing loss is diverse and each person is different. One size does not fit all. If the person doesn’t give you direction on how to communicate with them, ask.
Be patient with people who communicate differently and need more processing time.
Treat the person with respect. Assuming a person with hearing loss is helpless and uninformed is offensive.
A person with hearing loss cannot focus between two conversations going on at once. Wait until they acknowledge you before you start speaking.
“Access to healthcare for deaf and/or hard-of-hearing people is often overlooked, but it is an enormous issue. The American Journal of Preventive Medicine reports that deaf and/or hard-of-hearing individuals go to the doctor less often and make more trips to the emergency room.
“CART services are also necessary to help organizations remain compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. While it is true that an ASL medical interpreter is often used in a healthcare setting, the majority of deaf and/or hard-of-hearing people rely on CART services.”
And yet on their homepage CART & Text Interpreting isn’t highlighted specifically with any recognizable graphic. You have to hover over the “What We Do” tab to find it in the dropdown menu. Many HoH people will not look past the homepage. That’s a big issue for me, CART deserves equal billing with ASL Interpreting on website homepages and anywhere ASL Interpreting appears.
It occurs to me that we need a symbol other than CC for CART. And, maybe Text Interpreting, Speech-to-Text Interpreting, or Textual Language Interpretation are better labels? Does anyone have other suggestions?
Something has to change. The HoH community needs to start a CART movement NOW! CART is the most effective and accurate communication access accommodation, and it is time that hospitals and companies like CyraCom (maker of the Interpretation CART used at Highland Hospital ER) add CART/Text Interpretation to their language service options.
Until CART has equal billing with Sign Language Interpretation everywhere, including hospital and medical facilities, the HoH are going to remain unaware of the communication access accommodations available to them. Expecting the HoH to provide their own devices for captioning apps is not going to cut it, as some may not have a smartphone, and even more will have no knowledge of captioning apps.
Last, I know that healthcare workers would also benefit from iPads or tablets with software for text communication, because I ask. Every time I go to the doctor or hospital, I have a routine that I go though with every medical employee I encounter: “Twenty percent of the population has hearing loss, I bet you get a lot of Hard of Hearing patients and communication is challenging?”
“Yes, we do!”, is always their response.
“Wouldn’t it be great if your hospital provided you with screens for text communication, which is what over 95% of people with hearing loss need for communication access?,” I add.
How can we get this done? It shouldn’t be this hard for the Hard of Hearing to have equal access to communication at the hospital. Their life may depend on it!
Hearing Loss LIVE! welcomes Jennifer Schuck, current Board of Directors Chair and Founding Member of Global Alliance, a nonprofit corporation whose purpose is to be the leading professional authority on speech-to-text captioning, representing all captioners, consumers, and industry.
GLOBAL ALLIANCE: It has been two years since the Global Alliance of Speech-to-Text Captioning was founded for the purpose of bringing together the captioning community to empower consumers who rely on captioning. There is no other organization that brings professionals, consumers, advocates, and the industry together to effect change. It is easy to think “I’ll wait to see what this group does before I join.” Often this means everyone is waiting and no one is joining and not a lot of work gets done. An organization is only as effective as its members. So with few members, the change is limited. There is much about the captioning industry that needs to be changed, but we need everyone’s voice to do it! Don’t wait for someone else to make the change you want to happen. Be part of the solution.
COVID-19 has changed our world in many ways, including bringing to light the magnitude of how inaccessible our world is to communities with disabilities. Quality captioning is equal access. Collectively we can educate every day to show how universal design principles make the world inclusive for communities that have been an afterthought or excluded entirely. Providing “captioning” cannot just be putting words on a screen so you can check an item on a to-do list. Those words must be accurate and actually provide accessibility.
The Global Alliance has created the NCSP, or the NER-Certified Speech-to-Text Provider, certification. With this certification, we’re setting the quality standard for realtime captioning. This certification is available for all captioning methods, including automatic speech recognition. A quality standard for all methods of captioning is critical. With the advancement of technology, each captioning method has a place for equal access, but all of those lanes need to meet a quality standard, which they currently do not. Without that, captions can cause confusion, misinformation, and frustration for the consumer.
“Be the change you wish to see in the world” – Mahatma Gandhi
Chelle: While I appreciate assistive listening devices (ALDs) and systems, there are many of us with severe and profound hearing loss who cannot completely benefit from ALDs alone. Like attending plays at Salt Lake Acting Company, I hear more with captions. With ALDs, I pick up sound but it’s not enough to compensate for my hearing loss. CART/captions fill in the gaps for me.
During the pandemic, CART was in high demand and finally got its due by being used a lot for online meetings and classes. It was hard to get CART on short notice. I was happy for the CART profession but it was darn hard to get true CART! Court reporters were used to fill in with “CART” but it was different from what we were used to. At first, court reporters used a different platform that could be difficult to get into, which often held up meetings. Captions were also broken down into seconds and hardly ever a full sentence. I found myself zoning out after half an hour. We offered advice as a community and in the end things improved. Training specifically for CART is needed. We like to read fluid notes with complete sentences and punctuation. I’m glad to see Global Alliance is offering certification for CART services.
Jen’s message above is important. We ALL need to participate to make changes. There’s power in numbers. The stage is set, it’s up to us.
Michele: As a Consumer Captioning Advocate for over eleven years, I have made a few discoveries:
You can never have too many places to network with others who are working toward quality captioning and its universal availability.
Surrounding yourself with people who know more than you, or who know the answers to the questions you will likely be asked while advocating, is invaluable.
Consumers, providers, technical and legal experts, and industry leaders are all in the movement for quality captioning together. The world doesn’t yet understand how much quality matters in captioning, or how important captioning is to the Hard of Hearing (HoH) community. CART, which uses live stenographers, is the gold standard of speech-to-text captioning, and it is what more than 95% of people with hearing loss need for full and equal communication access in their spoken language.
The ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) recognizes CART as a reasonable communication access accommodation for the Hard of Hearing. CART provides communication access in exactly the same way as ASL Interpretation does for the culturally Deaf.
I consider organizations like Global Alliance to be clearing houses for anyone with a stake in speech-to-text captioning. We learn a lot from one another, and when you have a mixed group collaborating to reach the same objective, each person arrives at a better understanding of the other’s role in the movement. And, a collective voice often makes a bigger impact.
Julia: As a CART provider I am excited to have an organization come into existence that is all about helping the US move forward with a better license option for captioning/CART. Though my test anxiety is to the extreme, I will be signing up and looking forward to this certification.
If you are a CART provider, captioner, voice writer, TypeWell writer, or ASR (Automatic Speech Recognition) app inventor go to Global Alliance and help us to come together and support consumers in whatever their needs are.
Consumers, please consider advocating for captioning. There are too many HoH people waiting for others to exact change. It will take all of us asking for what we need to make lasting change. Global Alliance has a wonderful Guidelines for Captioning Services document on their website to help get you started on asking for what you need. The document will help you better understand the various forms and methods of captioning.
Consider becoming a member of the Global Alliance of Speech-to-Text Captioning, and if you need more help, contact Hearing Loss LIVE! and we would be happy to assist you further.
View our companion podcast with Jen Schuck of Global Alliance.
Communication Access Real-time Translation (CART) is live captioning, an accommodation for the deaf and Hard of Hearing (HoH) who have difficulty hearing speech clearly. A stenographer (like a court reporter) sits in the meeting, either in person or remotely, and types everything that is said in real-time to be displayed on various types of screens for people with hearing loss to read. The majority of people with hearing loss are not part of Deaf culture, and do not know sign language. CART allows the HoH community full and equal access to communication at live speaking events in the same way that ASL interpretation does for the Deaf community.