Monday, December 20, 2010

Winding Down, Gearing Up

Two of my the three colleges I worked at this semester are already on winter break, and I sent off their last 2010 invoice today. I've only got one regular CART class left in the semester. For the past two weeks, I've been doing much less academic CART work -- since most students had finals instead of class -- but I've been surprisingly busy for mid-December. On the 12th and 13th I captioned the annual Holiday Songbook for the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, which was very cool; composers from all over the city were invited to submit new holiday music they'd written, for something like 40 songs in total over the two days. I was able to get some of the song lyrics in advance, and during tech runthroughs I was able to transcribe the rest of them so that when they were actually performed I could send them smoothly line by line instead of having to CART them live. The Library decided to try an experimental closed captioning system, where I sat up in the tech booth and sent the captions over the internet, while audience members went to the caption webpage on their phones and followed along that way. It went quite well, though this method certainly has its pros and cons. On the plus side:

* The event organizers were more comfortable with captioning being opt-in rather than having it visible to everybody.

* Several people -- including people of a somewhat older generation -- had their phones with them and were able to access the captions without any difficulty.

* This demonstration proved that captions can happen almost anywhere, even when a projector and screen are not available.

Of course, there are a few downsides to closed device-bound captioning over universal open captioning. Namely:

* The many glowing screens of patrons' phones can arguably be as distracting as the one glowing screen used in open captioning. Additionally, some people don't understand why the captioning is there, so they might assume patrons viewing captions on their phones are actually being rude and texting their friends, or even that they're pirating the concert.

* Not everybody with hearing loss who might be helped by the captions identifies that way; it takes an average of five years for someone with hearing loss to acknowledge the issue publicly or sometimes even to themselves. Some people might not even know that they have hearing loss, and open captioning can be a way of helping them realize how much they've been missing.

* Some people who could have taken advantage of the captions might not have had web-enabled phones, or might have been too intimidated by the prospect of navigating to a website on their phones.

* Open captions tend to be larger and more visible than hand-held device captions, which can often be a little too small to read comfortably. In addition, open captions tend to be in the same plane as the performer, while device captions require rapid adjustment between near vision and far vision as the patron looks from the performer to the caption screen and back, which can sometimes cause eyestrain and detract from the immersiveness of the experience.

* Closed device captioning only works when there's a reliable wireless internet connection or when people have fairly high-speed data plans on their phones.

So I obviously try to promote open captioning whenever possible, but it was cool to show the potential of closed device captioning, and I'm very glad that several patrons took advantage of it. So that was Sunday and Monday. On Wednesday I captioned the last new 2010 episode of That Keith Wann Show. Then on Thursday I open captioned a four-hour play Off-Broadway (Angels in America Part II: Perestroika), and on Sunday I made a new video for the open source steno software I've been helping to develop: Plover Speaks. The video demonstrates how people who are unable to use their voices to speak can use steno to communicate at a normal conversational pace. There are many people in this category: People who've had surgery on their mouth or throat; people who stutter; people who have autism; people with hearing loss who don't want to rely on an ASL interpreter or CART provider -- the list goes on. I'm really excited about the new version of Plover. We've got 40 people in the Plover Discussion Group and we're constantly working on improving it and adding new features.

Things are slowly starting to get a little less hectic, though I've got a few more jobs planned for this week, and I've still got to clean out my email inbox and finalize my spring schedule before I can truly relax and enjoy my vacation. During my time off, I'm hoping to write more frequently on this blog, and I'd like to expand my website a bit as well. So if any of you have questions about CART, captioning, freelancing, learning ASL, developing open source software, or living in New York City, write me at and I'll happily devote a blog post to answering whatever you'd like to know.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

StenoKnight Demo Video Getting Around

O'Malley Interpreters, an agency offering BSL interpreting, CART, captioning, and lipreading in the United Kingdom, has posted a clear and thorough explanation of CART on their website, including StenoKnight's own CART demonstration video, which you can see here and on my own demo page. I was hoping that this video would be helpful to other CART providers in explaining what CART looks like and how it works, and I'm happy to see that it is. Thanks, O'Malley, for spreading the word about CART and captioning; it's got a fairly low profile here, but from what I've heard it's even less well known in the UK. Good luck to you. And for all other CART providers, please feel free to use this video in any way that you like. Our biggest challenge as a service profession is lack of awareness, but I think we can begin to change that by boosting our visibility whenever possible, both on the internet and in our daily lives. CART consumers, you're of course also always welcome to use this video as a demonstration of what instant realtime verbatim transcription can do for you and other people with hearing loss. (And for kids, English language learners, people with ADHD, dyslexia, auditory processing disorders; the list goes on.)

While I'm at it, a great place for providers and consumers to work together on CART and captioning advocacy is the Collaborative for Communication Access via Captioning, otherwise known as the CCAC.

Consumers who join the CCAC are eligible for one hour of free CART per year from CCAC provider members. I've been a member for quite a while now and haven't gotten a chance to donate my free hour yet, so if you live in the New York City area or could use an hour of free remote CART, join today!

Monday, December 6, 2010

NatCapVidMo Wrap-Up Post

Here's a link to each of the 30 videos I did over the month of November. As of December 6th, 2010, all of these videos are live, though of course there are no guarantees that anything uploaded to YouTube will stay online indefinitely. If any of these links break, please let me know about it: Thanks again to Universal Subtitles for their amazing captioning tool, and if anyone else would like to attempt to caption 30 videos in 30 days, go for it! I'd love to see this idea catch on.

Introduction to NatCapVidMo

Day 1: Transcription and Translation
3D animation of how DNA is read and how ribosomes make proteins.

Day 2: The Vogelkop Bowerbird
Snippet of a BBC nature documentary with David Attenborough.

Day 3: That Keith Wann Show Information
Silly promo for That Keith Wann Show (Captioned every week by StenoKnight CART Services, 8:00 pm to 9:00 pm EST!) featuring ASL comedian Windell Smith.

Day 4: That Man
Music video for Caro Emerald's song That Man.

Day 5: Gerald McBoing-Boing
Animation of Dr. Seuss's book Gerald McBoing-Boing, filmed in 1950.

Day 6: Life of a Freelancer
A wry look at the foibles of freelancing by The Free Love Forum.

Day 7: The Shakespeare Sketch
A meeting between Shakespeare and his editor, played by Hugh Laurie and Rowan Atkinson respectively.

Day 8: Sleight of Hand
The essential tricks used in sleight of hand magic, as narrated by Penn Jillette and demonstrated by Teller.

Day 9: Crazy
Music video for the Gnarls Barkley song Crazy, interpreted into ASL by b. storm.

Day 10: The Mimic Octopus
Brief nature documentary on the many guises of the Indonesian mimic octopus.

Day 11: Visual Illusions
A video about visual illusions used in a college class that I CARTed, which gave my client equal access to that day's lecture and follow-up discussion.

Day 12: Feynman on Fire
Richard Feynman, Nobel Prize-winning physicist, explains what fire is and how it works.

Day 13: Foux du fa fa
Music video by Flight of the Conchords, with two Universal Subtitles language tracks: English and French.

Day 14: The Antikythera Mechanism
Brief explanation of the Antikythera Mechanism and demonstration of a modern replica in action.

Day 15: Molecular Gastronomy
Explanation of the whimsical science-based philosophy behind Moto, a restaurant in Chicago.

Day 16: Out of Sight (With Audio Description)
Animation about a little girl who wanders into a strange world, with both captions and audio description.

Day 17: Lunokhod-1
News report about the 40th anniversary of Lunokhod 1, the Russian moon rover.

Day 18: The Flashlight Toothbrush
The Stupid Inventor demonstrates how to construct a combination flashlight and toothbrush, should you ever want to do such a thing.

Day 19: Work It Out
Music video for RJD2's song Work It Out, featuring dancer Bill Shannon.

Day 20: Science Tricks for Parties
A few cool things you can do with household objects to amaze your friends and mystify your science-hating enemies.

Day 21: Engineer's Guide to Cats
Explanation of the cat-human interpersonal dynamic from an engineer's perspective.

Day 22: Why Can't We Walk Straight?
Animation of a program on National Public Radio about why blindfolded humans never walk in straight lines.

Day 23: Greubel Forsey
Brief segment on the design and manufacture of Greubel Forsey wristwatches.

Day 24: Signs of Our Ideas
Announcement of a contest by ASL storyteller Peter Cook, challenging Deaf and Hearing people alike to think up a new ASL sign for the concept of "poverty".

Day 25: Missoula Parkour
Explanation of the principles behind parkour, accompanied by brief clips of the Missoula Parkour Group.

Day 26: Organic and Polymeric Semiconductors
Scientists discussing the great potential of organic and polymeric semiconductors in making the extraction of energy from the sun vastly more convenient and efficient.

Day 27: Traditional Hand Signs
Explanation of traditional hand signs from the Australian Walmajarri people, by artist Clifton Bieundurry.

Day 28: Refreshabraille 18 on the iPod Touch
Explanation of how to link the iPhone or iPod Touch with the Refreshabraille 18, with a transcript of the captions posted below the video.

Day 29: Linda Buys a Hat
Brief story from Sesame Street in which Linda Bove buys a hat. In English and ASL/PSE, with captions for both.

Day 30: Probing Platypus Evolution
Light-hearted look at the Australian platypus and an investigation into its genome.