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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

My Experience With Captions at the Beth Moore Conference in Hershey, PA

Beth Moore and Travis Cottrell

"It was one of the best experiences that I've had in my life to be part of the Beth Moore conference. The camaraderie between the the women in the audience was amazing and heartwarming." Terri Avis, professional captioner at the Hershey, PA Beth Moore Conference, May, 2014.

I agree with Terri! I had the most wonderful experience at the Beth Moore conference, courtesy of Drew Dillon, the ADA Coordinator for Hershey Entertainment. Drew contacted 2 captioners to provide captions for the deaf and hard of hearing whose first language is English, not ASL
The first evening, Terri Avis was our captioner, and Lori Dulls from Silver Spring, Maryland of Vital Signs LLC provided captions the second day.

When Lori began to set up the second day, she had different colors on the screen, black background with yellow texts. Terri used the standard blue and white. I'm used to the blue screen with the white texts since that is what is used at our PUC Telecommunications Relay Advisory Board meetings at the PA State Capitol Complex in Harrisburg, as well as our Hearing Loss Association of America, Pennsylvania Advisory Board meetings.

Lisa Lee Swope, a member of the local ASL Dauphin County Facebook group came to us before the conference began the second day and told us that the captions were easier to read the night before from where she was sitting 6 rows up in the stands. At first, we thought it was because Terri had used a blue background with white captions. For me, the black background with yellow captions were easier to read, a very nice contrast. 

It was suggested perhaps it was because the captions Terri provided were all CAPS. The CAPS, along with the color contrast the second day were FABULOUS!! 

I would like to offer a few tips if you decide to attend a Beth Moore Conference (or any public event) in the future:

I first contacted LifeWay and requested CART when my friend Carol Mellott told me that Beth More was coming to our area. LifeWay, the sponsor for the Beth Moore event in Hershey, provided an ASL interpreter for the small culturally Deaf community, but refused to pay for captioning for the larger population who depend on captions for access to language.

Reach out and try to connect with LifeWay (or the sponsor of the event you wish to have access to) first in plenty of time before the event comes to your area.  You will have to meet with the volunteers and coordinators and explain why you need captions. You will have to explain that by providing access to only one group of deaf people, the culturally ASL Deaf, yet refusing to provide CART for English speaking deaf and people with hearing loss, is discrimination. It's an ugly word, but that is what it is.

LifeWay does not provide captioning, nor will they pay for it at this time, though they are accountable to do so and can be sued for not providing. I didn't want to be "that person" to pursue legal action since Drew Dillion, the ADA Cordinator of Hershey Enterainment stepped up and provided access for us.

If you have no success with the sponsor of the event, then contact the venue where it is being held. Find who is in charge of "Accessibility" and talk with them. Most likely, captions won't even be mentioned on the websites because they've not yet had experience with this kind of accessibility. You will need to educate them, as well, and encourage them to add this to their list of accessible means on their websites.

If your request is turned down by both, LifeWay and the venue, you need to contact your state ADA Rights Network to intercede for you. It took just one phone call from Carol Horowitz here in Pennylvania to get the process started. She simply stated in the phone call they have 2 choices, either pay for the captioning or for a lawsuit. Captioning is not only less expensive, it is the right thing to do. The issue is "equal access".

Be prepared to explain why you need captions.

People don't realize that CART is a very real need if they don't see it in action, or the faces of those of us who need it. Hearing loss and deafness are invisible disabilities, and for years many of us have hesitated to ask for captions because we been met with hostile inquisitions as to why we don't just learn to sign like the Deaf community. Our hearing families and friends don't sign. We don't belong in Deaf community because our lives are integrated with the hearing community. Many people begin to lose their hearing by middle age, and often the loss progressively gets worse. The fastest growing population of DISABLED people today are those of us living with hearing loss. It is unreasonable to expect people who have spent their whole lives in the hearing culture, and their friends and families to learn ASL at this stage in life. It IS reasonable, however, to accommodate their request for English in text captioning.

We are protected under the ADA, and we have the right to request CART captioning, not just in our schools or where we work, but anyplace that is a public venue, and especially if money is required for entry. This is why I have been advocating all these years for open captions at cinemas and churches. We need to be visible in order to bring about access to language for our deafened community and for people struggling with hearing loss.

If more of us who need access to language via CART will speak up and advocate for ourselves, captioning will be more accessible and visible to the population. Many of us who are losing our hearing don't realize this is available to us. You will not be the only person benefitting.

There was one woman at the Beth Moore conference who was asking for an assitive listening device who shared her appreciation for the captions being available, because, even with assistive devices we miss a great deal of what is being said. As we age, it becomes more difficult for some of us to understand speech, or distinguish words because our brain can no longer "process" what it used to hear, which are speech sounds. 

I want to take a moment to thank a few people before I get to the photos:

Terri Avis for meeting the LifeWay volunteers weeks before the event and demonstrating how captions work. Also, Terri did the leg work by initiating the conversation with Drew Dillon and finding out what equipment was availabe and compatible for captioning the event.

Nancy Kinglsley for going to the meeting with us and explaining the laws regarding access for deaf and hard of hearing people. Nancy is also the chair person for our local Lancaster Hearing Loss of America Association, as well as Director for Hearing Loss Association of America - Pennsylvania Advisory Board. Nancy also put me in touch with Carol Horowitz of the Disability Rights Network, PA.

A huge thank you to our Disability Right's Network here in Pennsylvania, especially Carol Horowitz for standing up for us and being our voice.

Drew Dillon, the ADA coordinator for Hershey Entertainment for making the event accessible for deafened people whose first language is English.

Here are a few photos from the event:

This is Terri Avis setting up the blue screen with white text the first night .

Terri shares her beautiful smile before the event begins.

                                                                                        Carol Mellott and me.

Lori Dulls of Vital Signs LLC captions for us the second day.

                                            Look at those beautiful captions! This is before the CAPS were turned on.

The lovely and inspiring Beth Moore.

I did not get the name of the ASL interpreter, but she was outstanding. The Deaf people I talked with spoke very highly of her skill. 

Beth Moore and Travis Cottrell, Christian singer/musician.  

Want to know more about captions? Visit Collaborative for Communication Access via Captioning

Need captions? Ask CaptionMatch

Learn more about "who" needs captions and "why" by watching this short film by CCAC

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