In all of life, particularly work, I’ve noticed that we humans have a tendency to over-simplify our challenges. That’s why, if you’ve ever seen or read about how NASA manages their projects to the tiniest detail (and even that can’t completely avert a catastrophe), no matter how much effort we put into getting things set up perfectly, there’s always going to be a detail that becomes an “issue”.
Having fought for many months to get a captioned phone, and CART accommodation at work, I recently confronted my own denial about the “details” of using captions. I had believed captioning would enable me to easily resume full participation in the hearing world – and where did I get that belief? Formed as all irrational beliefs are – from ignorance – it hadn’t been an issue for me until the last couple years of my (now) 49. Non-issues get ignored – until they become issues.
Mind you, I’m not complaining here – captions are a godsend for the HOH and Deaf. On many days now, if it weren’t for captioning, the telephone and the TV would be useless (still: TV <g>), and even live group meetings would be pointless.
As anyone who’s used “live” captioning will tell you, the quality (speed, accuracy) can vary a lot. Aside from all the technical details that can get in the way (network connections, software, etc.), ultimately we’re still dealing with a person – so far, anyway – and people (even those trained as court reporters) come with different skills and capabilities. Add to this the fact that most of us (even me) naturally speak much faster than any human being could ever type (even in “court code”), and there’s going to be plenty of room for error and lag. Of course, the commercial interests will sing the praises of their products and services, but we all know how the real world works if we’ve lived in it long enough.
What motivated me to write this was the repeated frustrations I’ve encountered using captions for my work. I’m required to “attend” many teleconferences, and that’s one of the most challenging venues for even the best captioner. Not only do they have to manage room noise and multiple speakers; there seems to be a trend (in my company anyway) for presenters to literally compress their speech to fit as much material as possible into a short time frame. Time is money, as they say.
The other day I got so frustrated by one training session that I requested a transcript (they record most conferences, fortunately). Clearly this wasn’t a typical request, as nobody I asked knew how to arrange it – happily, my local office administrator stepped up to the plate and offered to do it – I haven’t seen the result yet, but I’m betting she gets a fast lesson in fast speech <g>.
Though I know it’s a weary subject in the HOH/Deaf community, feel free to comment with your own rants about captioning quality here.
Paul S (AKA: LifeWrecked)