The following blog post, from outerchat.com, describes just a few of the struggles of deafness.
There have been a few times when I held back on telling someone that I am deaf out of fear of prejudice. Generally, people accept it pretty well, but upon reflection, I realized that it's not the person I'm worried about having a negative view of me -- it's the situation I'm in. For example, I have never brought up my deafness in a job interview because I'm concerned that my potential employer will disqualify me on the spot for it. I am aware that there are laws that prohibit any sort of discrimination against people. This holds true for overt discrimination, but -- to quote a term from a sociology course I took in college -- what about "institutionalized discrimination?" This is the idea of indirect discrimination against persons by institutions, such as schools or businesses. I do believe that this is prevalent in certain situations, so I tend to withhold telling people about my deafness in those situations, like job interviews or school applications.
In addition, I generally do not bring up my deafness on first dates, at social events, with new co-workers, etc. In the workplace in particular, I am concerned about their avoiding me or passing judgment on me, which would certainly affect my work situation. As for dates and social events, though it's not as bad if someone thinks poorly of me for being deaf sice I can always meet new people.
Although, I do tell people about my hearing loss after I get acclimated to work or social situations, I still have some reservations. One strategy I use when disclosing my hearing loss is pointing out my strengths that have come as a result of my hearing loss. This works out well after I tell co-workers or people I have known for a while because they tend to be more accepting.
VITAC captioning is always dedicated to serving -- and hiring -- those with disabilities, including hard-of-hearing individuals.
As part of our continued investment in infrastructure and technology, VITAC is upgrading the Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) in our Canonsburg, PA headquarters. The UPS powers all core critical electrical equipment in the company and allows VITAC to function normally for up to 30 minutes in a total power loss, during which time the diesel generator kicks in. It also guards our headquarters from electrical surges.
The new 50,000-watt UPS is "the most state of the art system on the market," according to Tim Taylor, VP Engineering and Facility Operations, who has 30 years experience in the captioning industry.
The cutover from the old to new UPS will occur on Monday, April 15th, 12-1 pm. During this time, all mission-critical equipment will remain functional and customers will be able to reach us by phone and email. Most importantly, there will be no service interruptions during this time period. Our Systems and Engineering teams have created detailed plans to ensure a seamless transition.
What does this mean to the customer? It means that VITAC is a cutting-edge caption company, dedicated to investing in the quality of our service and technology.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us:
VITAC's Sales & Client Services Team
Less than two weeks ago, new laws went into effect mandating captioning for full-length, IP-delivered programming. While the legislation is a big step in the right direction, it is still the product of a democratic government and has been through the bureaucratic wringer of negotiations and compromises. As a result, much IP-delivered content is exempt from the new rules, specifically, programs that never air on TV and clips of programs that are any less than the full broadcast-television duration.
Jamie Berke, an advocate for all captioning who is deaf herself, has made it her campaign to make the web accessible. She founded Caption Action 2, a consumer advocacy group that petitions corporations -- rather than the government -- to make their web material accessible. Their latest struggle involved Yahoo! Screen, a web-content platform similar to Hulu.
While Caption Action 2 has a wealth of battles it could fight, the group chose Yahoo! Screen because the platform does not support captions, as opposed to sites like Hulu and Netflix, which do. "Look at YouTube. it has had support for closed captioning for some time," said Berke. Though sites like Comedy Central's or Fox's do not caption short clips, they at least have the capability to show captioned material, whereas Yahoo! Screen's sleek interface lacks the "CC" button altogether, making it inaccessible to 50 million deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals.
Adding to the affront is the fact that Yahoo! Screen is no longer an obscure platform for web media. The internet giant recently won Streamy Awards -- the Oscars of web content -- for original shows "Burning Love," "Cybergeddon," and "Electric City." Since these shows never aired on broadcast TV, even the FCC mandates did not require captioning.
Before forming the group, Jamie has petitioned Yahoo! on her own behalf, emailing, blogging about, and even tweeting tech-savvy corporation directly. "I regularly tweet the CEO, Marissa Mayer, whenever the petition gains another 500 signatures," Jamie said. She had once said she will shut down Caption Action 2 once the new CVAA regulations passed, but even those regulations became so watered down that did not feel she could end this crusade.
On March 31st, the same day that the captioning mandates took effect, a caption feature quietly appeared on the Yahoo! Screen interface. The captions -- by Jamie's report -- seem to be the product of voice recognition equipment, rather than human captioning, not unlike the automatic captioning feature on YouTube. The quality leaves something to be desired, but in the captioning advocacy game, it is a victory nonetheless. "You have to start somewhere," said Jamie.
It is no surprise that VITAC and its services are growing exponentially. As the largest captioning company in the world, there are few captioning services VITAC has not perormed at least once in its 27-year history. At restaurants, in the gym, or on your home computer screen, it would be difficult to not encounter a VITAC caption somewhere in your daily routine.
Enter the Media Encoding Suite, VITAC's central command for file transcoding. Nearly every prerecorded file that VITAC receives enters and leaves through our encoding suite, whether the client is in need of offline captions, subtitles, or translation into 45+ languages. The most basic function of the Media Encoding Suite is to transfer a client's video file into a file that is compatible with our proprietary captioning software. After a captioner transcribes the file, times the captions, and places them on the screen to avoid graphics, the file is reviewed and then returns to the Media Encoding Suite, where the encoding specialists format it into something that can air on TV or the web.
The celebrities of the facility are Chuck and Randy, whose fingerprints end up on nearly every deliverable, be it HDCAM, MXF, or video cassette. The transcoding wizards handle thousands of hours of footage each month, in addition to providing a wide range of miscellaneous tech-support services that VITAC requires on a daily basis.
Please enjoy a tour of VITAC's new Media Encoding Suite:
On March 1st, the six recipients of 2012 VITAC Employee Excellence Awards -- Nathan Appel, Franco Bonacchi, Terri Holman, Mary Quinn, Matt Schuman, and Tracy Ukura -- along with President Pat Prozzi and Human Resources Director Mark Panichella, flew to Phoenix, Arizona, for a cool four-day, three-night vacation at the Arizona Biltmore Resort. The agenda for the weekend included hot-air-balloon rides, croquet, and a visit to the Grand Canyon, not to mention the hospitality of the Biltmore, where every U.S. President since Herbert Hoover has made a stop.
The trip was not without controversy -- how would VITAC's 24-hour operation handle four days without its six most excellent employees? Among their many contributions, they had innovated video-conversion processes, organized realtime caption files for more streamlined accessibility, and upheld "we-can" attitudes through even the toughest times. Their above-and-beyond efforts had fueled VITAC's success in 2012, and the absence of all of them at once was unprecedented. As it turned out, the rest of VITAC's 313 employees were more than qualified to hold down the fort for four days while the rockstars of VITAC enjoyed their reward.
After a short flight, the VEE Award winners relaxed poolside at the Arizona Biltmore with a get-to-know-you reception (more than half of VITAC employees work remotely), followed by dinner at Wright's, a four-and-a-half star restaurant at the Biltmore Resort whose menu includes beef tartare and pan-seared foie gras. After breaking for the night, the award winners and their invitees enjoyed some of the Biltmore's many amenities, including six lighted tennis courts and three pools -- one with a 92-foot waterslide, and another with a dive-in cinema, where visitors can enjoy their favorite flick while floating in an innertube.
Saturday, the group split in two, with half embarking on a day-long tour of Arizona's natural wonders. After hiking the 1.3-mile trail along the Grand Canyon's southern rim, the group drove through an historic Navajo reservation and visited the Painted Desert. Along the way, they also got to see the sandstone formations of Sedona, taking some amazing photos and catching some much-needed sun. The other group toured the skies in a hot air balloon and enjoyed some stunning bird's-eye views. When they landed in the Sonoran Desert, the hospitality staff greeted them with a gourmet brunch!
On Sunday, the employees gathered for a team meeting before enjoying a gourmet brunch at Wright's with finger pastries and petite deserts. Luckily, they were not too exhausted from their weekend of ballooning, hiking, and dining to don their custom VEE Award polos afterward for a few games of croquet. What began as a friendly match turned competitive, due to the focus and determination that characterizes all of VITAC's best! After changing out of their polos, the group dined at Frank & Albert's ("Frank" referring to Frank Lloyd Wright, who served as a consultant during the Biltmore's construction), where they enjoyed another round of fantastic cuisine. After dinner, Pat presented each of the winners with a customized trophy!
For all who attended, it was a weekend to remember, and the 2012 VEE Award winners earned every minute of it!
It is a festive time of year at VITAC. Read Captions Across America day occurred on March 1st, and a second holiday (this time a week-long holiday) began just two weeks before -- February 17-23 marked National Court Reporting and Captioning Week across America, which celebrates the profession of court stenography.
Graduates court stenography school are already the cream of the crop -- some schools report up to a 90% dropout rate -- but VITAC captioners are truly the cream of the cream of the crop. Why is it so hard? Court stenographers/realtime captioners must not only be accurate, but fast, too, typing over 200 words per minute on their specialized, 22-key steno machines (pictured). The speed is demanding, and many stenography students complain of "hitting a wall," or reaching a point when their typing speed no longer improves.
Out of steno school, those who have met VITAC's speed standard of a 200-225 words-per-minute typing speed at graduation proceed to Amy Bowlen's rigorous boot camp. Amy Bowlen, VITAC boot camp director and realtime captioner extraordinaire, writes that "Even the most experienced court reporters may take years to develop their writing, dictionaries, and knowledge to the point that they are qualified to caption. And these are highly skilled writers."
The National Court Reporting Association observed the holiday by issuing the following resolution:
Whereas for millennia, individuals have wanted the spoken word translated into text to record
history and to accomplish this task have relied on scribes;
Whereas the profession of scribe was born with the rise of civilization;
Whereas in Ancient Egypt, scribes were considered to be the literate elite, recording laws and
other important documents and, since that time, have served as impartial witnesses to history;
Whereas scribes were present with our Nation's founding fathers as the Declaration of
Independence and Bill of Rights were drafted;
Whereas President Lincoln entrusted scribes to record the Emancipation Proclamation;
Whereas, since the advent of shorthand machines, these scribes have been known as court
reporters and have played a permanent and invaluable role in courtrooms across our country;
Whereas court reporters are present in Congress, preserving Members' words and actions;
Whereas court reporters and captioners are responsible for the closed captioning seen scrolling
across television screens, at sporting stadiums and in other community and educational settings,
bringing information to millions of deaf and hard-of-hearing Americans every day;
Whereas court reporters and captioners translate the spoken word into text and preserve our
Whereas, whether called the scribes of yesterday or the court reporters and captioners of today,
the individuals who preserve our nation's history are truly the guardians of the record:
Now, therefore, be it resplved that the Senate designates February 17-23, 2013 as "National Court Reporting and Captioning Week."
Wisocnsin Congressman Ron Kind recognized the motion, and so it was proclaimed national Court Reporting and Captioning Week!
"Same-language subtitling doubles the number of functional readers among primary school children." -Bill Clinton via Nielsen Company
Read Captions Across America (RCAA) day, observed on March 1st 2013, is a celebration of an important yet seldom-acknowledged resource available to anyone with a TV -- the use of closed captions to promote literacy in deaf and hearing individuals alike. It is sponsored by the National Association of the Deaf and works in conjunction with the National Education Association's Read Across America day, also observed on March 1st, the day before Dr. Seuss' 109th birthday. We sat down with Bill Stark of the Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP), a self-described evangelist for the benefits of watching captioned TV, to talk about the day and its meaning.
Bill's stance on how to celebrate the day is simple -- "Dress up, have fun, be wacky," says Bill, "Turn those captions on." RCAA day encourages students to dress up in tall read-and-white hats and whiskers on Friday, in the style of the famed Cat in the Hat, read together, and watch videos of Dr. Seuss books -- or anything -- with the captions. The event also has an interactive element, and students are encouraged to write birthday cards to Dr. Seuss that include the name of the captioned media title they watched, which they will then send to the DCMP or simply hang around their school.
Indeed, the message RCAA day promotes is a good one. While many emerging readers may see reading as a chore, almost all of them watch TV, sometimes for hours on end. What better way, then, to get kids to read but to incorporate it into something they want to do? Exposure to captioned dialogue has been proven to improve reading, spelling and verbal skills in young readers, as it delivers information both visually and audibly. Nor are captions reserved for TV viewers -- many internet videos have captions available, and as of March 31, even more will be required to offer captions, in accordance with new FCC mandates.
Beside teaching literacy in a new way, RCAA day also serves to unify deaf and hearing students through jointly participating in caption-watching, which is too often regarded as a "deaf activity." In the Stark household, watching TV with the captions on is so engrained in the family protocol that Bill could not imagine watching TV any other way. So why doesn't everybody do it? "There is a stigma involved, similar to the stigma of wearing a hearing aid," Bill said, adding that to many, watching TV with captions is an admission of one's inability to hear.
Yet many deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals frown upon terms such as "inability" and "disability." Deaf and hard-of-hearing students often spend the entire school day in classrooms, learning and engaging with hearing students, rather than learning in a special-education classroom for part or all of it. When the teacher shows video materials for the class, he or she is faced with the task of not only finding captioned videos (older videos, especially, may not be captioned) and simply remembering to turn those captions on. In a class of 20-30 students, the teacher could easily forget the one or two students who need captions more than the others, and to publicly request captions may be embarrassing for those students. Rather than ostracizing one or several deaf student by turning on the captions "for them," Bill (who himself is a professional educator) suggests that teacher should always turn on the captions.
Bill has made it his personal mission to promote this simple concept, encouraging fellow teachers to incorporate captions into their lessons, promoting the event through the RCAA website, and even convincing his car dealer, a non-native English speaker, to turn on the captions on his TV to learn the language. He points out that many star athletes in America call a different country home, and often enough, when reporters ask how they are learning English, they often have the same answer: "By watching TV." Bill is so confident in the benefits of viewing TV programs with the captions on, that he believes captions be burned into the picture for every show, not just optional by pressing the CC button on the remote. "I told you I was an evangelist," he said.
Lest Mr. Stark be disappointed when Read Captions Across America day has passed, the entire month of March brings a new theme and a new mission for Bill. March is Listening Awareness month, brought to you in part by the lovable spokesperson, fennec fox, and with it, yet another way to watch TV -- with audio description!
Closed Captioning Services (CCS) is now a VITAC-affiliated company. Effective August 1, principals Rick Leet and Deborah Schuster will join the VITAC team, along with key customer service personnel, offline captioners and realtime captioning contractors. VITAC has been in business for 26 years - CCS for 23. The combination of these two respected, veteran organizations further cements VITAC's position as the number one captioning company in the country. Customers of both companies will continue to receive the best customer service, value and on-time delivery.
In conjunction with the 51st annual conference of the American Council of the Blind, (ACB) the organization is thrilled to present Achievement Awards to leaders in audio description.
Audio description (also known as video description) is a form of audio-visual translation and conveys important visual components to blind and seeing-impaired individuals. The accessibility feature is a form of art. Narrators and audio description writers use descriptive words and carefully timed the narration to create high-quality descriptions. Movies, television shows, presentations, displays, and many other venues use this valuable feature.
Using and developing prime audio descriptions are imparative to making materials accessible to deaf and hard-of-hearing inviduals. "This year's awards are particularly appropriate coming just as the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act mandate for audio description on broadcast television takes effect," said Mitch Pomerantz, president of the American Council of the Blind. "The organizations honored with these awards are among the leaders in description. They help make so many aspects of our culture accessible to people who are blind or have low vision; they deserve this special recognition."
And without further adieu, the winners of the Audio Description Achievement Awards:
Media: Described and Captioned Media Program, Spartanburg, SC
Performing Arts: Kentucky Center for Performing Arts, Louisville, KY
Museums: National Park Service, Washington, DC
International: Track One Communications, New Dehli, India
Dr. Margaret R. Pfanstiehl Memorial Achievement Award - Research and Development: Dr. Philip Piety, Silver Spring, MD
Barry Levine Memorial Award for Career Achievement in Audio Description: Alan Woods, Columbus, OH