Category Archives: captions

Accessibility and Creating Accessibility

Today I have two events.  The first one, The Broadway play Once, is accessible fully accessible thanks to captions by Turner Reporting and Captioning Services. Knowing there will be captions makes it stress free event.   I also watched the movie on DVD the other night so I have the story line down which I hope helps me relax a little more at the play.



A great addition is Kingbury Hall provides an FM assistive listening system with a neckloop.  Through that I hear more musical pitches and catch some dialog.  This makes the whole experience all the better.

Later tonight Ken and I will attend his ski patrol banquet.  This event has no accessibility other than what I fix up myself which requires thinking ahead.  I’m charging my FM system right now and we need to show up a little early with masking tape and explain the circumstances though I’ve attended the annual event enough I’m sure they remember by now.  We then tape the transmitter to the microphone.  It’s not as good as having captions but usually I hear as well as, if not better, than the hearing people there because of the bad acoustics.

FM system


For this event I will swap out my Siemens for my old red Phonaks which have the FM receivers built in.   I had the receivers built in because my hearing before the Phonaks had FM sleeves to slip over my hearing aids and one of them had a weak connection.  It took years to figure that out.  Since it was my first FM system I thought that’s the way FM systems were, they faded in and out. The audiologist I got my hearing aids and FM system through didn’t know much about the FM system and suggested I read the instruction book. (I can’t remember if I ever took the time to do t hat.)  By some weird chance one afternoon I pushed the sleeve up into the hearing aid  and found out it stayed consistent.   That was a big ‘duh’ moment.

Phonaks with FM receivers built in.

Phonaks with FM receivers built in.

When I got my Phonaks I insisted on having an FM system built.  The hearing aid dispenser asked me a couple of times if I was sure because it would make them ‘bigger.’  If I didn’t care about having bright red hearing aids why would I care if they were a little bigger?

Accessibility can come ready made and I can also create it at the typical events.  I’ve learned a lot over the years.

Captioned Plays and Friends Connected

The hearing loss world is a small world…a small, warm and friendly world. Being involved with my local HLAA chapter and the SayWhatClub has put me in touch some of the neatest people all over. Sometimes I forget about those connections and then something comes along to remind me we are all connected.

Last November I went with four other local hard of hearing women to to see the season’s first captioned play, The Grinch. The captions allowed me to ‘hear’ everything which means I laughed when everyone else laughed feeling included. I loved the Grinch’s dark sense of humor, this wasn’t just for kids. His outfit was awesome and his gloves kept me visually entertained alone, I would love having a pair of those long, hairy green gloves. I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did and I couldn’t have without the captions.

How The Grinch Stole Christmas

After the play we got together with our captionist, Vicki Turner, for dinner. The whole group talked about hearing loss issues and every day life. At some point I asked Vicki for her card because the SayWhatClub might be able to use another caption name for their conventions. I carried away that high feeling I get from being around my tribe that night.

Kingsbury Hall with Mamma Mia!

Kingsbury Hall with Mamma Mia!

Yesterday was my second captioned play of the season, Mamma Mia! with Vicki at the helm with captions to guide us through another play. Once again I found myself laughing in time with everyone else in the theater. I expected ABBA music yes but I didn’t expect the story line since I hadn’t seen or read anything about it, a woman who saw three guys in one month and wound up pregnant? In the play Donna’s daughter is getting married and she knows nothing of her father. So the daughter gets ahold of her mother’s diary to find three names and invites them all to the wedding without her mother’s knowledge. I followed the story thanks to the accessibility of captions once again.

Vicki Turner

Vicki Turner

Not only did we have captions but a friend advocated for assistive listening devices for us and we each received a powerful neckloop from Listen Tech to try out. This time I could hear the music better and more of the words especially the male voices which added to the joy of the play. Although I could understand more than usual, I depended on the captions to carry me through the jokes and song lyrics. It creates a warm, welcome feeling when the theater wants us to hear and understand the play like anyone else.

During a slow song with little action I found myself watching Vicki instead of watching the play or captions. She sat straight up, leaning toward her laptop with fingers on her laptop. She appeared to be timing the captions to the play the whole time. Her stenography machine sat off to the side unused. That’s why I could laugh in time with everyone else. Usually with captions there’s a short delay but not this way. The song ended and I went back to the play, who is going to be the father? I won’t ruin it for you.

We all went to dinner afterward, which is as good as going to the show, and I had more time to talk to Vicki this time. The plays are scripted into her computer and most of the time she is timing the captions to the play. I asked her if they ever went off script and yes they do sometimes, like she had to add an announcement with her stenography machine about the university art grants before Mamma Mia! started. The Grinch goes off into his own dialogue while wishing every one a merry Christmas and she knows this so she’s prepared when it happens. If she hasn’t seen the show, she will watch it one or two times before captioning it.

She travels all over captioning plays and her next one will be in Sacramento. She will be back in Salt Lake for us to caption “Once” and I will see her again in San Antonio in May. That’s where the small, hard of hearing world comes into play. She went on vacation to New Zealand and asked a Facebook only friend, where to stay and what to see and the FB friend, with a big heart, invited her to stay with her. This FB friend is a part of the SayWhatClub and she talked about the upcoming convention. Vicki remembered me, contacted my boss, who put her in touch with me via email. Vicki wanted to offer her services to have a captioned play, Newsies a Disney musical, at the Majestic theater while we are there. And it happened! We’re going to have a captioned play while in San Antonio.

Sometimes I get bummed out about hearing loss issues, then something like this happens and it warms my heart all over again. Thank you Vicki for getting into captioning and for all the things you do for the hard of hearing community. It’s truly appreciated.

She may be able to help you caption a Broadway play in your area. If you want to learn more about her, go to

Captioning Options

Last week I had the opportunity to experience TypeWell, “A system for capturing spoken content and generating an immediate meaning-for-meaning transcript.” Kate Ervin, executive director of Typewell was in Salt Lake and offered to give us a demonstration before leaving town. Reading about it online, I came up with the above description and wondered how it differed from CART.

She came in for my speech reading class putting a lap top and a Kindle Fire in the middle of the table, each facing different sides. She sat to the side with her laptop in front of her, ready. The previous week I told my students she would be there but all three of them had no idea what to expect. (Yes only 3, summer is hard on classes due to vacations plus it’s twice a week in mornings which makes it hard for working people to attend.) A long time HLAA chapter member came in too and once we started talking, the words appeared on the screens in front of us.

TypeWell demo

One of my students is recently deafened due to acoustic neuroma and she was thrilled to see speech transcribed in front of her and her husband was happy to know these kinds of options exist. My other student is a college student who has gone through most of her education without any CART or captioning at all. She was told it was a hassle to sign up with the disability resource center and that a note-taker would work just fine. All this time she struggled through classes when this was available? She could see where it would have made her college time much, much easier. The other HLAA member and I are familiar with live captioning but we love options.


How is TypeWell different from CART? She uses her laptop with advanced abbreviation software instead of a stenography machine. Kate said they summarize by leaving out false starts and filler words but they also try to capture everything like other people’s remarks and sounds such as car alarms that may be going off outside to show why everyone is looking out the window. It easier for the transcribers if only person at a time talks. CART might better suit someone who wants to hear/see everything such as person with a new CI who is learning to hear again.

How is it like CART? Captioning in all it’s sources is wonderful. Just like CART, it appears on the screen in front of you and it follows the conversation and I didn’t see any missing words (except when I stumbled over my words/sentences). There is a slight delay as with CART but not enough to make a big difference. It can be done on-site or remotely (off-site). Notes can be saved and used to study or review later.

Kate Ervin of TypeWell

Kate Ervin of TypeWell

How do people become a transcriber under TypeWell? TypeWell doesn’t provide services but instead train people to do it.  Kate said each person has to be able to type 60 words a minute with no errors and they need strong English skills. They have to pass a specific test or they do not get the software to work with. (She also mentioned their software has a math mode for in the classroom.) Training cost is about $500 and about $100-200 dollars a year for the software. There are ongoing training opportunities and workshops to attend.   

They will train anyone who can work with a university or an agency first (either as an employee or contracted) to gain experience and later transcribers can become independent contractors.  The typical charge for services is $15-$30 an hour, with the high end being $40-$60 and hour.

If you are hearing and this sounds good to you, think about applying because the hard of hearing population is growing and I think captioning will be more in demand. People with hearing loss are becoming less passive and want to be included. This job can be used in conjunction with another job, see the TypeWell blog for Jarren in Washington who provides services to both the Deaf and hard of hearing as an ASL interpreter and a TypeWell provider.

TypeWell is another option for real-time access to communication for those who are hard of hearing. Visit their website for more information and locate a local provider with this link:

For a Good Laugh…

Watch this. It has a lot of fun with YouTubes awful captioning. Watch the captions first, they will be repeated in their next take and so on. I had to watch it twice to get it all but I laughed my butt off.

Hearing Aids Are Only The Beginning

Hearing aids improve the lives of those with hearing loss but it’s only the beginning. Hearing aids aren’t called hearing miracles for a reason. There’s a variety of other coping strategies which go hand in hand with hearing loss.

A good audiologist is imperative to successful hearing aids. Most people with hearing loss won’t get hearing aids for an average of seven years, that’s seven years of muted life. Sudden volume makes the world sound harsh and can come across as brutal to the senses. This is why so many hearing aids wind up in a drawer somewhere never to see light again. Not all audiologists prepare people for this. The better audiologist will turn down sounds until the person with hearing loss gets used to noise again and then inch up as needed. Building up to sound again requires effort and determination but is well worth the effort, like all good things in life.

With today’s new hearing aid technology, there are hundreds of adjustments that can be made. Beware of the programmer who sets according to the audiogram only, tweaking is necessary and there should be an open invitation to come back as necessary. It’s the hearing aid wearers responsibility to keep track of offending noises and good noises, this helps the audiologist program the aids more personally.

Don’t be afraid to keep shopping for audiologists. It took me four tries to find one I liked here in town. His programming ability is over the top. Since he adjusted my hearing aids, other comment on how much better I hear and I myself am amazed what I’m hearing now. Programming is everything to successful hearing aids. I’m glad I didn’t settle for mediocre.

Support groups also can make a huge difference to those with hearing loss. Meeting others with hearing loss is like finding a personal tribe. People share their stories, their coping strategies and their knowledge of technology. There’s online support groups such as the SayWhatClub (SWC) and there’s face to face, organized meetings through local chapters by The Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) and the Association of Late-Deafened Adults (ALDA). Each of these groups have a yearly convention. It is hard of hearing culture for four glorious days. There’s education and instant friendship. Here, with these groups, a person can become comfortable with their hearing loss.

Some states provide classes for the hard of hearing. Utah has a class called Living With Hearing Loss based off Sam Trychin‘s program. They also offer classes in sign language, speech reading and often hold seminars geared to the hard of hearing. Many people attend meeting other hard of hearing people for the first time. Knowledge is power.

Self advocacy goes hand in hand with support groups. The hard of hearing have a voice and we need to use it. “Please face me when you talk, I hear better when I see you.” It requires showing up early to events to explain the FM system and how it works. It’s telling people how you hear so they better understand.

Some guidelines to advocating:

  • Speak up! The hard of hearing are a quiet lot and we feel bad for stating our needs.
  • Don’t wait, do it now.
  • Prepare in advance, make a plan if needed.
  • Be prepared to educate.
  • Be nice when educating others, a positive attitude will get you further.
  • Seek support when needed.

It takes courage do this. Believe in yourself and tell people what you need. You have just as much right to the world as the person next to you. And if you don’t know what is needed, educate yourself. If you don’t know how can anyone else know? There are lots of good books out there on hearing loss and also support groups will help a lot with this too.

Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs), also called Hearing Assistive Technology are bonus toys for hearing aids. They help with one on one conversations, in cars and in small groups. These include; telephones with volume control and captions, devices to help with the television, personal amplification systems which work with or without hearing aids, FM systems and loop technology. There’s CaptiViews in theaters now and caption glasses, free to use. All these devices help keep the hard of hearing independent.

Some devices are expensive and others not so much but isn’t staying active in the world worth the price? Keeping up with the table conversation with family? Attending that class or group? Going out to eat with friends? There is no shame in using these devices, just as there is no shame in wearing glasses, using a wheelchair or having braces on our teeth. It’s what is. ALDs enable us to continue to socialize and participate in life.

The technology in today’s hearing aids is amazing but I need a combination or all the above to make it work for me. If I didn’t have all those tools available to me, I wouldn’t cope as well as I do in society. Hearing aids alone wouldn’t have kept me asocial as I am. I’m empowered by all the above, not afraid to go out by myself to restaurants, attend workshops and events. I’m equipped to deal with most of I run into therefore keeping myself independent.

For more reading:

Self Advocacy:

ALDs or HAT:

Coping Strategies:

My favorite book on hearing loss

Missing Words by Kay Thomsett & Eve Nickerson

CART or Communication Access Real-Time Translation

In the late 1990’s, I heard about CART, sometimes called real-time captioning, through people on my SWC list. I understood the concept but I didn’t fully get it. I knew it was an accommodation but I lived in small towns and no one else had heard of it so it wasn’t option. Still, I knew the CART was out there somewhere.

After I moved to Salt Lake City in 2009, I looked up Self Help For the Hard of Hearing (SHHH) and in the process found out they changed their name to the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). The local chapter held it’s meetings at the Sanderson Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. The local HLAA chapter website showed CART was used at their meetings. Hooray! I’d finally get to experience it.

When I walked into my first meeting, I saw a screen pulled down, a projector hooked up to a laptop, and the laptop hooked up to a funny little machine on a stand.  A lady sat near the wall, her hands resting on the steno machine ready to go. Test words were up on the screen and I couldn’t wait to see it in action.

The meeting started and words appeared on the screen following the conversation. Immediately, I fell in love with CART. Even though I wore FM system, I still missed words and sometimes important key words. CART filled in the gaps and I never had to wonder what I missed. It was one of those personal, historic moments in my life.  It was a magical experience for a hard of hearing person who has always struggled to hear in group situations. Real-time captioning felt like a godsend.

Since then, I haven’t missed many meetings. I’m going to take advantage of CART all I can because for so many years I went without. All the workshops at the Sanderson Center have CART as needed (ASL interpreters too) so I go to many of them as well. It’s an all inclusive environment for those of us who have hearing loss or deafness. Every time I walk into the Center, the load I carry on my shoulders lightens considerably. I know I will hear. I won’t be lost in lectures and presentations. It’s the one place, I don’t have to worry about asking for repeats, because it’s right up there on screen for me.

As I got comfortable at meetings and got to know people, I also got to know our CART provider. Julia is one awesome lady and we all appreciate what she does for us so much. One night, I stopped for a closer look at her stenography machine and realized it wasn’t a keyboard I was familiar with at all. I don’t know how she does it and my admiration for her and what she does went up a few more notches. That’s a crazy machine she works on but she puts it together nicely.

There’s a few typos now and then. Most typos I read right through but some make me smile. When she sees me smiling, she looks down at her lap top screen to see what came out and either smiles, rolls her eyes or both.  Some of them are just like what I’d hear if I didn’t know any better. One day during an Alzheimer’s workshop, she typed “farm suit call” and if I said it fast enough, I knew exactly what she meant, “pharmaceutical.” Thanks to the rest of her captioning, I knew the context of what we were talking about so I wasn’t lost. (That typo still makes me smile.) I think she’s one of the most wonderful people on earth and I’m thankful for her, and people like her, who provide services for us.

Many people haven’t experienced CART, maybe because they live in small towns like I did or maybe they never knew it existed. We had a Walk4Hearing meeting the other night so  I snapped a few pictures for people to get a general idea.

Our CART provider who has a concentration look much like we do when we are listening to others.  :-)

How she does it, I’ll never know.

Letter and background colors can be changed.

Our guest speaker was Ronnie Adler, national administrator for the Walk4Hearing.  She flew in from Philly and to help us with our Walk.  You can see her talking and the screen behind her, showing CART.

So now you’re seen it.  Maybe you can experience it in person all well.  If you come to the Salt Lake City SWC convention, you’ll get to experience it  in our workshops.  Not only that, but we have John Waldo speaking at our banquet about captioning.

For more information check out these websites…

Communication Access Information Center:

For a listing of CART providers, the Collaborative for Communication Access via Captioning website has a state by state listing of CART providers. Be sure to read the rest of CCAC’s website for good information on access as well.

South Pacific

Utah-CAN worked hard to get a play captioned for us and I wanted to support their efforts. I dreaded using the phone to buy tickets so I drove downtown to buy them from the theater. The play was South Pacific, nothing for me to get excited about but I wanted to support my community efforts. When the lady handed me the tickets for the matinee presentation, I finally got excited. Wow! I’m going to see a captioned play! It’s totally different entertainment for me and I hoped more would be captioned in the future.

The SayWhatClub convention is going to be held here in Salt Lake, August 15 – 18. Utah-CAN asked to make sure the box office knew we would be interested in more captioned performances. Hmmm.

“I have a group of hard of hearing people coming to town for a convention this summer. What are the chances of getting Wicked captioned at that time?”

She excused herself to ask her manager and came back to me with ASL interpreted dates. She/they really thought this would work for us. Disappointment settled in. They don’t get it yet.

“That won’t work for us,” I told her. “We grew up hearing and speaking with many of us losing our hearing later in life. Most of us don’t know sign language and never will. We need captions because we still sort of belong to the hearing world.”

She excused herself again and came back more apologetic this time. She handed me a card for Broadway Across America and told me to get in touch with them.

I walked away thinking I would contact the company. I also know Utah-CAN will probably be working for more captioned plays too. What really bugged me was how we are lumped into the Deaf, not that I have a problem with the Deaf, but our communication needs are so different. We hear of Deaf Culture… maybe it was time to come out, OUT LOUD, with hard of hearing culture. I’m not sure how to go about doing that but I will be thinking on it.


So I go to the play knowing nothing about South Pacific. As we wait for the doors to open, I walk by the souvenir booth and I see a shirt that says, “I’m going to wash that man right out of my hair” and I start laughing. I know that part of the play! There’s this other goofy favorite movie of mine called Welcome to Woop Woop and they spoof that scene so I do know something of South Pacific.

The doors open and we take our seats. I spot the captioning to the left of the stage in red lettering. Relief fills me and more excitement bubbles up. I see a number of people from our hard of hearing community and I’m giddy. Then the seats start filling in and I realize the captions aren’t high enough. Two young girls with big hair are sitting in front of us, tall girls. I look over to the side and watch as one of the people from the Sanderson Center advocate with the theater staff for two little old ladies who couldn’t see the captions through all the heads. They brought the women seat cushions to boost them and they settled in. Maybe I could have used one too.

I look at the girl of me and think, if she stays scrunched down in her seat, I’m ok. She doesn’t. I ask my boyfriend to change seats with me but I still don’t have a clear view of the captions. I sit up straight and the girl in front of me sits up straight. I lean to the side and it’s not long until she leans to the side. Finally I lean over my knees and rest my head on my arm to watch the captions and play. Would you believe the girl in front of me did the same thing? It was crazy enough I laughed a little. I leaned back when she leaned forward and still watched the play and captions. Back and forth we went for almost 3 hours.

In spite of the minor frustration, I enjoyed the play. I have now seen South Pacific. The captions were right on and my delay in laughing was just a second or so behind everyone else. Even with the difficulties in seeing the captions, I enjoyed the play and I’m glad I went. I would go again but I would make the suggestion that the captions be higher up in the air. Or maybe I should insist on sitting closer. The play was totally different entertainment for me and hopefully the visible captions spread a little hearing loss awareness.

One the way out, I saw our CART person (not working that day) and she asked me how it went. I told her it was great except they weren’t high enough. She nodded. I bet it’s better next time because I wasn’t the only one wishing I was taller.