Braille Monitor                                             December 2014

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Can You Hear Me Now?

by Darlene Laibl-Crowe

Darlene Laibl-CroweFrom the Editor: Darlene Laibl-Crowe is the vice president of the NFB of Florida Statewide Chapter. She was appointed by Governor Rick Scott in 2012 to the Florida Coordinating Council for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing to represent deaf-blind Floridians. Here is what she has to say about enhancing the experience of deaf-blind members as we in the National Federation of the Blind harness the power of conference telephoning to conduct some of our business:

When the National Federation of the Blind of Florida Statewide Chapter was created in February of 2013, it became possible for those who live in Florida who do not live near a local chapter to become part of the Federation. The statewide chapter meets once a month by phone, unlike the traditional chapter meeting, where people are physically present. It has a once-a-year face-to-face meeting at the state convention. Now this avant-garde group is pioneering another approach by opening the door for those who are hard of hearing to participate in the conference call meetings more efficiently with captioning.

As a hard-of-hearing person it is difficult at times to clearly understand what is being said on the phone, even more difficult when more than one person is talking. Here is a sample conversation for me on the phone with one person:

Me: What? What was that you said? Could you please repeat what you said?
Voice on the phone mumbles: Mmph…dis…mmph.
Me (sighing): I can’t understand you. Can you spell that please?

Sometimes when talking on the phone I feel like I have a loose connection, since I can catch only bits and pieces of what the caller is saying. Now I can’t speak for others who are hard of hearing, but this seems to be the norm for me.

Fortunately, I am one of the lucky ones who have experienced the technology that is available to understand what is being said during a meeting and on conference calls. In 2012 Governor Rick Scott appointed me to represent deaf-blind Floridians on the Florida Coordinating Council for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (<>). Members of the board represent various state agencies and other organizations that serve the deaf, the hard of hearing, and the deaf-blind consumers of Florida. Some of the members are deaf and rely on sign language, and some are hard of hearing. The state provides accommodations such as interpreters, support service providers, and Communications Access Real-time Transmission, also known as CART.

CART (<>) is a form of captioning in which transcriptionists type into a program what is being said during a meeting or over the telephone. During the meeting I can read the conversation using my laptop on a website. This helps all of us on the board to understand clearly what is being said and to make professional decisions and comments.

As I continued to meet with the statewide chapter, I thought to myself on several occasions, “How wonderful it would be if we had CART.” But after some research I found that having CART was not an option due to our limited budget.

In September 2014 I found out about C-Print (<>), which is similar to CART. I researched the organization, and they connected me to a listserv that transcriptionists used. I asked some key questions. How does C-Print work? Can it be done by phone? How much does it cost? I had many people contact me with some very good information and some reasonable quotes. Then one of the emails connected me to Strada Communications.

According to CEO Chanel Carlascio, “Strada (<>) is committed to giving back to the people and communities we work with every day. A portion of our proceeds is set aside to provide services for people who have been denied them in some way and for organizations that could not otherwise afford them. We are proud to partner with the NFB of Florida in this way,” supporting NFB’s philosophy to empower all who are blind, even those who also have hearing loss.

Before the meeting there were some concerns that this type of meeting might be in conflict with NFB’s rules. I quickly explained how it works. The meeting would proceed as normal with audio recording. The transcriptionists would type the conversation. When the meeting was over, we would receive a copy of the transcription. This would mean that we would have two forms of documentation for our meeting to prevent any misleading information.

I also informed the members that there is one rule: all of us must state our name before we speak, so the transcriptionist can know who is speaking. A list of those attending the meeting was also sent to the transcriptionists before the meeting.

Sunday night, October 19, 2014, statewide chapter president, Holly Idler began, “This is Holly. Welcome to the Statewide Chapter.” During the call echoing or staticky phone lines were apparent, but overall the two transcriptionists, Joshua Kissel and Cora Sipe, were able to type the conversation as the meeting proceeded. We were able to read the captioning on the website (<>) by using our computers and listening to what was being said.

After the meeting there was much praise for how well the captioning worked. Brooke Evans, a statewide chapter member and also hard of hearing, stated: “It is a game-changer for the deaf/blind/hearing impaired. I'm very impressed with it. It is very good.” The captioning can also be accessible for those who rely on Braille displays.

For more information, or if you would like to visit our next meeting to learn more about captioning, please either contact me by phone at (386) 325-0218, or email me at <[email protected]>.

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