Congress Allocates $5.75 Million to Train Captioners

Congress Allocates $5.75 Million to Train Captioners

Editor: Congress has just allocated nearly $6 million to assist schools in the training of captioners. Being located on the West Coast, I was very disappointed to discover that nearly all the schools are in the east. However, the same day I read this press release, we got an email from a local college asking us to recommend them for next year’s funding, which they said could total $75 million. So things are looking up in the captioning world. Here’s the press release.

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Recognizing the pressing need for more closed captioners to fulfill the requirements of the 1996 Telecommunications Act and provide communication access to hard-of-hearing people, Congress recently approved $5.75 million in funding to train broadcast captioners. The funding is part of the Department of Education appropriation for fiscal year 2002.

The federal grants, which range from $25,000 to $1 million, will ultimately ensure that the more than 28 million deaf or hard-of-hearing Americans will have complete access to captioning of television news and programs and allow deaf and hard-of-hearing children to get a better education and participate in the mainstream school system. The grant will help 14 schools across the country expand their closed captioning and realtime judicial reporting programs by enhancing the current curriculum, updating technology, implementing a distance learning program and recruiting more students to help fill the growing need for captioners.

“Federal regulations require that the amount of TV captioning double every two years, until 100 percent of all new programming is captioned in 2006,” said William Weber, president of the National Court Reporters Association in Vienna, VA. “To accommodate this demand, captioning companies and broadcasters will need qualified reporters to caption tens of thousands of hours of live programming every week. The federal funding will help eliminate the current shortage of reporters and make sure that we have enough people to do the work.”

“This tremendous leap forward for assistance to deaf and hard-of- hearing Americans’ and reporter education wouldn’t be possible without the work of numerous Representatives and Senators, all of whom played a key role in helping to secure the funding,” said Weber. “In addition to the appropriation, Rep. Ron Kind is working with the NCRA to authorize additional funding to meet the mandates. To provide complete access would cost merely 54 cents for each deaf and hard-of-hearing American. Congress’ efforts will help make sure that deaf and hard-of-hearing people have access to captioning services, locally and nationally.”

The schools that will receive funding include: Gadsden State Community College, Gadsden, AL; Midstate College, Peoria, IL; Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, Carbondale, IL; American Institute of Business, Des Moines, IA; St. Louis Community College at Meramec, St. Louis, MO; Alfred state College, Alfred, NY; Clark State Community College, Springfield, OH; Rose Sate College, Midwest City, OK; Community College of Allegheny County, Pittsburgh, PA; Orleans Technical Institute, Philadelphia, PA; Chattanooga State Technical College, Chattanooga, TN; Green River Community College, Auburn, WA; Lakeshore Technical College, Cleveland, WI; and, Madison Area Technical College, Madison, WI.

Captions are created by specially trained court reporters who convert the spoken word to text on computerized stenotype machines. The same process is used to create instant voice-to-print for hard-of-hearing people in meetings, classrooms and other settings. Captions enable 28 million hard-of-hearing Americans to visually follow the audio portion of news, sports and entertainment programming. They also allow people with normal hearing to follow TV programming in noisy environments, such as gyms and restaurants.

There are instances when captions are absolutely critical. For example, during local and national emergencies, the ability to read what people are saying can save lives and reduce fear. Captioners for networks and local TV stations across the country spent 100s of hours captioning the events of September 11. What happened that day was frightening enough for people who could hear what news reporters were saying. Without access to captioning, millions of Americans would have had little idea or a false sense of what was happening.

The skills to create captions of live TV programming are similar to those used by verbatim reporters to create transcripts in judicial settings, such as court proceedings or pretrial depositions.

About the National Court Reporters Association
NCRA is the 27,000-member professional association for the court reporting industry. Its members include captioners, official court reporters and freelance reporters who are responsible for making verbatim transcripts of legal, business, government and educational proceedings. These proceedings include court trials and hearings, federal and state legislative sessions, depositions, arbitrations, business and union conventions, and numerous other meetings and events that require an accurate record of what takes place. For additional information please visit the NCRA Listing in our Resources Directory