On March 25, HLAA was represented at a panel discussing captioning quality and standards during the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) Midyear Conference in Baltimore, Md. Lise Hamlin, director of public policy at HLAA, joined consumer advocate and long time HLAA member, Joe Gordon, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) attorney-advisor at the Disability Rights Office, Consumer & Government Affairs Bureau, Elliot Greenwald, and AG Bell President Kathleen Treni to discuss caption quality issues and standards for captioning. The panel was moderated by NCRA Executive Director and CEO, Mark Golden.
A lively discussion was held at the conference. One caption writer stood up to say that when she goes to a party and identifies herself as a caption writer, she is distressed to hear complaints about caption quality coming not from people with hearing loss, but from the hearing people who do watch those captions. The caption writers expressed concern that quality was suffering because the purchasers of captioning services are not the end users. Even though consumer organizations petitioned the FCC to create standards for caption quality back in 2004, no rules are in place at this point, leaving the industry, instead of the end user (the consumer who depends on the captions), to determine what captions appear. Because there are no set of standards or universally accepted credentials in place for hiring of caption writers, people with few skills are hired because they can undercut the fees highly trained professionals are asking. In addition, sometimes speech recognition technology that is not yet up to snuff is being used to provide those captions. According to the FCC, now that the complaint process is easier there has been a dramatic increase in consumer complaints to the FCC. However, that does not address the problem of a complaint system that depends on people who cannot hear everything they are missing to register those complaints.