Anzac Day 2020 has caused me to reflect on how much change there has been in the past year. This year my family stood at the end of our driveway in grateful remembrance, like so many other Australians, to #lightupthedawn. We read the ode, played the Last Post and Rouse and sang the National Anthem. It was a moving ceremony and one I never would have thought would be taking place a year ago when I was watching the ANZAC Day parade from the Virgin Lounge at Sydney airport.
But COVID-19 has changed a lot of things. We did our first virtual conference in the first weeks of lockdown where within a few days, gatherings went from being limited to 100 and then to 10. Currently gatherings are limited to no more than two. UX Australia did a great job of very quickly changing their on-site conference into a fully virtual conference. We had to quickly change our method of delivery too and adjust our business model from onsite-only to remote-only. We were thrilled to be able to pull it off without a hitch and the feedback we got from users at the conference and UX was great:
Many thanks for the captions yesterday. I used the transcript lots of times.
Everyone on our end is incredibly impressed & thankful.
Captioning makes a huge beneficial difference for our attendees!
So where to from there? We’ve been helping our clients with their remote captioning needs in the workplace and other virtual conferences. The platforms have been really good and the sessions interesting. We are so pleased that we have been able to continue assisting our clients and helping conference attendees to improve comprehension and engagement. Just because we can’t be on site with you in the way we would prefer doesn’t mean we can’t be with you assisting you. And we look forward to more of it so get in touch and ask us what we can do for you. We have included some photos of a Zoom conference below, after all, who doesn’t like cute pictures of babies and puppies?!
On this day of remembrance I want to say how grateful I am to all who have served and sacrificed for Australia. Our history of bravery and mateship is an example for all Australians and is inspirational in helping us to do what needs to be done during this unprecedented time.
Lest we forget.
With captioning becoming more mainstream and making an appearance in all kinds of environments, the work is becoming more diverse and stenocaptioners are being exposed to more information and environments than ever.
Captioning is not an easy job. Caption accuracy is expected to be above 98% at all times, for some contracts above 98.5%. That is an incredibly small error margin. But as with a lot of things there’s too much focus on the negative. We tend to focus on the errors rather than realising how good the product actually is. And in terms of personnel, it is often forgotten how amazing the stenocaptioners are that maintain such a high level of accuracy. Let’s face it, if less than 2% is the error rate, then greater than 98% is RIGHT or ACCURATE. That level of skill is something to be celebrated.
Our stenocaptioners are incredible stenographers, writing well in excess of those standards. Let’s take a moment to acknowledge the great work done by stenocaptioners all around this country – great people; amazing results.
CaptionsLIVE – Australia’s best stenocaptioners providing the best captions for you.
Got a panel? Live onsite stenography is by far the most accurate way to caption a panel discussion/session.
Panel discussions, and panel sessions at conferences, are very popular. An onsite stenographer can see the speakers so can accurately designate who is speaking. This cannot accurately be done with remote captioning as it is sometimes hard to tell when the speaker changes when captioning remotely. This leads to speakers not only being wrongly designated but often not given names at all. Not being able to accurately name speakers does not help caption users at the time and does not provide an accurate transcript after the event either.
Panel discussions – it’s where we shine brightest. ★
So let me ask you, do you prefer stenocaptioning to all other types of captioning? Have you noticed how much better the quality is from a stenocaptioner (steno) and are thinking to yourself, “Yes, that’s the service I want all the time”? The fact is that captions provided by an experienced steno provide the best quality by far. So why do people put up with less? You’re paying the big bucks but you aren’t getting the Rolls-Royce service and the captions aren’t of a consistent quality because the service isn’t always delivered by a steno.
In this industry both court reporters and captioners are being made redundant and the captions-using community is being flooded with untruths about costs and technology. Over the past 30 years of my career hardly a day has gone by where I haven’t been asked, or told, in one way or other, “Aren’t you worried about technology making you redundant? There’s no future for this job.” And yet here I still am 30 years on and this is a valuable service that people really need. It seems it’s a case of the old adage: repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth, often referred to as the “illusion of truth”. But it is simply not true and it’s astounding when you consider the disparity in quality between stenocaptioners and other forms of captioning. Simply put, if the outcome is important to you then you need a steno. You only need to ask yourself how you like your captioning and what turns you off. What TV channels or programs do you prefer to watch live captioning on? When you book a captioner, do you prefer to have a steno do the job for you and why? Do you want your captioning verbatim or edited? Is the integrity of the record or transcript higher when a steno has done the job? And if the integrity of the record is important to you then you definitely need a steno doing the job.
Many cite the cost of a steno as being the reason for using other means of captioning but what is the true cost in quality and caption integrity? Technology is often touted as a cheaper solution but technology does not replace the human brain or the skill of a highly-trained stenographer. What happens when technology doesn’t work, which happens far more often than people like to admit, and important evidence or information is lost? And are stenos too expensive? In the current wage environment in Australia where casualisation of the workforce and low-wage growth is an acknowledged issue, steno wages have fallen dramatically and contracting or casualisation is on the rise. At many large companies that employ stenos, wages have dropped between 13% - 33% in less than five years. And what about the falsehood that other forms of captioning are less expensive? Just not true. In most cases more lower-skilled captioners, respeakers, typists or audio recorders are needed to replace a single steno, not to mention the cost of purchasing and installing the equipment needed for non-steno options to do the job and the ongoing software and equipment upgrades.
I know, so many questions, right? But it’s only through asking questions and considering these things that a true picture can be formed. Speak up and get what you want. Use a company that uses only stenographers. It’s not only about supporting stenos but supporting a quality product and supporting the communities that need and use captioning.
At CaptionsLIVE you can afford to have a steno caption for you. You can afford the very best. As well as that we pay our contractors well so they are paid a fair wage for an extremely difficult job. We are a business that is owned and run by a steno and supported by stenos. We know what it’s like to be at your job and what it takes to provide the highest quality captioning. We put our own reputations on the line every time we caption for you and we always put you first, never prioritising profits over quality and skill.
An issue that has plagued the court reporting industry in Australia for many years now is the lack of machine stenographers (stenos). It’s a vicious circle in which there are not enough people training and as a result there are not enough jobs. Put simply, if employers can’t find enough suitably-qualified stenographers to do the work, they will look for other solutions thereby reducing the number of jobs available to stenographers. I think this is a fact that is probably recognised by all in the industry. This seems incredible when demand for stenographers is actually as strong as ever, but again, not enough stenographers = employers looking for, and using, other solutions.
But there’s another side effect to all this. Pressure is being put on stenographers to work longer and harder without breaks. The lack of skilled stenographers has led to a higher price being put on the skill, the old economics of supply and demand. But machine stenography is a skill that cannot be overrated. Add to this there are also downward cost pressures when tendering and quoting for jobs. This results in companies paying stenos less and only allocating or booking one steno for jobs that involve many hours of work and either very small or no breaks. Or sometimes there are breaks but the work is very intensive and a steno is expected to work for hours at this intensity without a break. Stenos are burning out and developing work-related health problems. Often those who book us out (I say “us” because I am a steno too) worry too much about securing the work and profits. Not enough consideration is given to the fact that we are human beings or to safeguarding our particular skill for the future.
At CaptionsLIVE we aim to be a sustainable business – sustainable for our stenos and sustainable for our clients. We keep our prices low enough that you can afford to have two stenos when needed on a job. We want to look after our stenos for their own career longevity and quality of life, but also so they will be available to provide a premium service to clients well into the future.
From 14 – 16 November we captioned the plenary sessions of the Australian Assistive Technology Conference (AATC) held at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC).
It was a really interesting conference with a strong overall theme of experience, opportunities and innovations. Keynote speakers included present and past Australian Disability Discrimination Commissioners, assistive technology (AT) users, innovators, advocates, professionals in the AT field and an impressive young man (Oli Pizzey-Stratford) who spoke about his AT journey and his grandpa’s incredible creations in the back shed.
One of the keynote speakers, an AT user, said this about her equipment: “You might think it is weird to name my assistive technology, but they are so much a part of my life that they take on a life and personality of their own. I think it helps to break down barriers in interaction. If I tell you that this is a wheelchair, it is just a bit of equipment ‑ cold and impersonal. But if I introduce Xena and tell you that she is an important part of my life and creative work, you will see her totally different … I think because I do personalise my technology, it encourages my support workers to treat my equipment with more respect. It also tells you a lot about my relationship with the equipment. Penny is a good friend who communicates my personality. Xena is creative and a little bit sexy.”
I like what she’s said here, mostly because it’s very similar to how I feel about my steno machine. Now to think of a name for my sexy purple technology!
It was recently explained to me that the greatest strength of stenographers over other forms of captioning is the reliability of the output. You can rely on the output to be consistently high, even if given limited-to-no preparation. I have been thinking on this. Reliability is a pretty good thing to have going for you. A quick Google search of the words “reliable” and “reliability” turns up these results:
Reliable – consistently good in quality or performance; able to be trusted.
Reliability - the quality of being trustworthy or of performing consistently well. The degree to which the result can be depended on to be accurate.
When you’re relying on captions to get your information, “consistent”, “dependable” and “accurate” are all words that spring to mind to explain what you want the service to be. They are also the words that we like to use at CaptionsLIVE to explain the quality of our captioning service.
Using a stenographer is not only the best way to produce captions but also by far the most reliable.
So how do CaptionsLIVE ensure reliability in their caption output?
If the quality of your captions is important to you, then consider a Stenocaptioner to get the job done right. You may not know what you are missing.
Age-related hearing loss affects more than half of all Australians aged between 60-70 and is a major cause of disability in Australians aged over 55.
In October 2017 CaptionsLIVE proudly captioned the Libby Harricks Memorial Oration for the Deafness Forum of Australia. The 2017 oration was part of Dementia Australia’s “Alzheimer’s Australia National Conference”. Dr Piers Dawes spoke about the possible links between hearing loss and cognitive health and whether effective prevention, identification and management of hearing problems represent an opportunity to optimise well-being and quality of life in older age.
I spoke with Peter there, whom I have met and spoken to at a number of jobs. He is an older gentleman who enjoys being engaged in the community and continually learning new things. He is very interesting to chat to and he is a great advocate for captioning as it greatly assists him in staying active and engaged in the community. Peter does not have dementia but was interested in the topic. He would not have been able to successfully access the oration, or the many other events I’ve spoken to him at, if not for captioning.
A Dementia Australia fact sheet on hearing loss and dementia suggests: “There are a range of lifestyle changes that may help reduce the risk of developing dementia, including:
Live captioning of events can help people like Peter keep socially active and engaged and learn new things. You see, hearing impairment in midlife is a disability that affects quality of life and engagement of older people in society. Live Captioning will also help you communicate your message more effectively, given the problems older people with hearing loss can face with understanding speech when there is a lot of background noise or poor acoustics.
So here’s the question I’m asking today: why aren’t more events for older Australians being Live Captioned?
One of the aspects I really enjoy about workplace CART or one-on-one CART is the relationships you get to build with the client. So many of the larger jobs are a one-off where you caption a large event or conference and then that’s it until next year. But these small, often workplace, jobs are more regular, and you get to really know your clients. Often you become more than just a captioner, you become a friend at the workplace lunch or morning tea where you can assist the client to join in discussions with their co-workers.
I’ve sometimes had the honour of captioning alongside people at some of their hardest moments and other times have been able to be there for their greatest achievements. It’s not for the faint-hearted as you never know what each day might bring. But it is a privilege. It is rewarding. I’ve recently seen the quote, “Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.” It’s true: it does make me want to do my job better!
At a recent job a client introduced me as “My captioner”. I was so chuffed she was willing to take ownership of me and my work. It’s certainly better than the client claiming they’d never seen me before and had no clue what I was doing there! Being helpful or giving a smile or friendly conversation costs me very little but the thrill of the client allowing me to be part of their life moments is worth so much more than monetary payment. It adds something to my life. This is the real reward of the job. (The free lunches aren’t bad either!)