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Category: Broadcast Captioning

CLOSED CAPTIONING: “Captioning as I Get Older – Should I Keep Paying Those Fees to Maintain Those Certifications?” Broadcast Captioner Lorilyn Roberts

Captioning Weather for WVTM, Birmingham











Many years ago I let my certifications lapse when I went back to get my college degree. Life changed and I ended up having to go back into court reporting. I didn’t need the certifications to get hired but I did need the certifications to participate in the External Degree Program through the NCRA (or whatever the current name is) at the University of Alabama. 

I retook the tests for the certifications and went on and received my B.A. degree from the University of Alabama in interdisciplinary sciences five years later. I was able to deduct the costs of getting my college degree as part of my business expenses because I received C.E. credits for the classes. When you consider I traveled to Israel, Italy, England, Australia and New Zealand as part of my college degree, I took tons of money off my income taxes, so I have never been one to complain about the costs of C.E. credits or membership. It’s paid for itself.
However, I do think things continue to slide in the wrong direction. Pay per hour is less than I earned for the first show I captioned with no experience. A few years ago I got worried when the bottom fell out and went back to college and received my Master’s degree in Creative Writing. I started writing books and continue writing, hoping to someday make a living from it. 
While that hasn’t happened yet, without the flexibility that captioning offers, I would not have been able to do that. Not only that, but I was able to adopt two children from Asia as a single mom and homeschool them—because captioning paid well (especially back then) and gave me flexible hours working at home.  

Captioning also gave me skills for writing I wouldn’t otherwise have. And to maintain those certifications, I have done online classes that will help me with writing—Microsoft Word, Photo Elements, and a copyediting course. The money I spent on the courses wasn’t that expensive, I think around $80 each, and I did them from home. I also deducted them for tax purposes.

I don’t think the NCRA is unreasonable in what they ask. It’s pushed me to take courses I probably wouldn’t have taken but from which I benefitted. Those certifications look good after my name on email, and it means I’ve met a certain standard that people in the industry recognize.  
Will I continue to pay the yearly fees and maintain my certifications? I just turned 60 (ouch) and I am asking myself that question. Probably till I’m 65 or until I start selling tons of books. Remember, I let my certifications lapse once and I told myself I would never do that again.
I sure wish I could earn what I earned a few years ago, but those days are gone unless I want to work A LOT of hours. But it’s still better than anything else I’m qualified to do—yet. It’s hard to start over in an entirely new career at my age, but it does allow me to pursue my passion—writing books—that a typical day job would not afford. 
When I’m not sure what to do, I usually stay the course until a door opens so wide that I know not to shut it. And as far as I’m concerned, that means staying certified and paying those dues (which I just paid). Seems like they went up this year. AGAIN.

FREE on Amazon Kindle


When you look at the alternatives, captioning is still a good field. It’s just not as good as it once was. But then, rarely does anything stay the same. Except for taxes and death.

Want a free book for your Kindle? Download “Seventh Dimension – The Door” from Amazon.


Merry Christmas, Everyone.
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CLOSED CAPTIONING: “Captioning for the Deaf – Creation Station Contest Winner for the Jan/Feb 2013 Christian Women’s Voice Magazine,” Broadcast Captioner Lorilyn Roberts



I’d Rather be Writing Books but Captioning is What I do for a Living
by Lorilyn Roberts
I fire up the computer, turn on the modem, punch the TV remote control, hit the on-button on my other computer, flip the button on my stenograph machine, open the file—wait, I remember this is on iCap. I don’t need the modem for this show. I turn off the modem.
I am captioning golf tonight, 11:00 p.m. until 4:00 a.m., from Melbourne, Australia—the Talisker Masters. I’d better pull up the leaderboard on Google and check the spelling of those Asian names. I glance at Spark, the National Captioning Institute Messaging System – 37 captioners online captioning television shows all over the world. Only a handful will still be online when I finish my assigned show in the early morning.
I sit in my office chair in cotton pajamas alongside my bed, a candle burning on my dresser. A bag of Cheez-its and mug of coffee is close by—but not so close to my equipment that if I knocked it, it would be a disaster. I swallow a quick gulp in between strokes on my stenograph machine.
I have a long night ahead, but golf is easy to caption compared to hockey. I can see my captions on the Golf Channel without having to rely only on an audio feed (more commonly known as a telephone).
Such is the life of a closed captioner. I have been providing closed captioning for television for the last fifteen years. I work from my home—which has allowed me to stay at home and raise my two daughters—a good thing since I am a single mother by choice. I adopted my two daughters, 14 and 21, from Nepal and Vietnam. I also homeschooled them (my ninth grader is in a private school-home school program in high school now, which is nice).
I feel blessed to have the job I have, which pays well, but I hope to launch a new career as an author. I just finished my Master’s in Creative Writing and published my fourth book, Seventh Dimension – The Door, A Young Adult Christian Fantasy. Writing books is my passion, but closed captioning pays the bills. At fifty-seven, I continue to follow my dreams, knowing God will lead me and show me His perfect will, and for that, I am grateful.
To learn more about Lorilyn Roberts, visit
Be sure to check out my newest book, Seventh Dimension – The Door, a YA Christian Fantasy.


REMEMBER: There is no pit so deep, no hurt so painful, no secret so horrid that God can’t cover it through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ. Open up your heart to the infinite possibilities of living a life of love, no longer warped by bullying or scarred by deceitful words. Where there is life, there is hope—and healing! 




CLOSED CAPTIONING: “Cat Captions for Television:” Video by Broadcast Captioner Lorilyn Roberts


Captions play an important role in the lives of many. They are vital for disseminating information related to news, weather, sports, entertainment, and national security. Captions enable hearing-challenged individuals to live a healthy lifestyle.

Please enjoy my newest (and greatest) video on Youtube to promote quality captions on television:

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LORILYN INTERVIEWS BILL GRAHAM: Late-Deafened Adult Shares His Story

LORILYN: What is it like not to hear and live in a world of absolute silence? While I have spent the last twelve years providing closed-captioning for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, on a personal level, I had no idea what it meant to be deaf. As I see the degradation in caption quality due to pressures within the industry, I decided to do a little research. 

I wondered how poor captions would affect someone who relies on them to communicate, have access to information, and live a normal life. In the process, I met Bill Graham, a late-deafened adult. I asked him if he would be willing to share his personal story and his experience with closed-captioning. It was an eye-opener for me to get a “snapshot” into Bill’s life as someone who depends on television captioning every day.

LORILYN: Bill, thank you for taking a few minutes to talk with us. Were you born deaf?

BILL: No, I wasn’t born deaf. I gradually lost my hearing, and by the time I was 25, I couldn’t use the phone anymore. I consider that as the age I became deaf. I didn’t know anyone who was deaf and I wouldn’t admit to people, even friends, that I couldn’t hear. I bluffed my way through life for years, lip-reading as well as I could and translating body language. Not surprisingly, this was very stressful. I began to learn sign language in my late 20s and tried to get involved with the Deaf community. I liked Deaf people a lot, except I couldn’t understand their ASL. And I didn’t fit in all that well with hard-of-hearing people either as assistive devices were useless for me. When I was 35, I co-founded the Association of Late-Deafened Adults (ALDA). People in ALDA share my experience of growing up hearing and becoming deaf as an adult. It can be a powerful bond.

LORILYN: Tell us about your family.

BILL: My wife Karen is CEO of SignOn, a sign language interpreting agency. She was a social worker when we met at a bowling benefit. I bowled over 200 so that qualified me for a date. Later Karen worked as a psychotherapist before co-founding SignOn. We adopted two children from the former Soviet Union: Eva, from the Republic of Georgia, now 14; and Tony, from Northwestern Russia, now 12. They’re our darlings—the best reason we have for working and staying out of trouble. Everyone in my family is hearing except me—even the cat and two dogs.

LORILYN: Share with us a little about your life, your occupation, hobbies, or anything else that would be interesting.

BILL: I grew up in a blue-collar neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. Like all my friends I did sports: baseball, basketball, tennis, golf, whatever. I played semi-pro baseball and was the most valuable player on my college team. Go, Bill! As I became deaf, I also became something of a loner. I threw parties and arranged happy hours, but I was always on the periphery, a personable mascot. After I learned sign language, I got involved with deaf activities. One of my favorites was Chicagoland Advocates for Signed Theater (CAST). A friend and I did a triathlon to raise money for CAST; the four-day Border-to-Border Triathlon from the southwestern corner of Minnesota to the Boundary Waters at the northern border, consisting of 435 miles of biking, 50 miles of running, and 50 miles of canoeing. I was in shape back then.

As a single guy, I took most of my vacations by bike. Once I took a train to Kansas City and biked back to Chicago; every day was in the 90s with high humidity. I don’t recommend it. I did ten or 11 marathons and many regular triathlons.

ALDA didn’t just come into my life. it dominated it for years. But I was a lucky duck; the organization identified a new segment of the deaf/hoh world—late-deafened adults; and I got a lot more attention than I deserved along the way. I was named to numerous disability-related national boards: VITAC’s Captioned Viewer Advisory Panel, Lighthouse International, the National Court Reporters Foundation, the Gallaudet University Board of Trustees, and others. I was profiled in the book Great Deaf Americans…it was quite a ride.

My entire professional career has been in publishing. I was an editor at The World Book Encyclopedia for 18 years and served as Managing Editor of Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia for 12 years. I got laid off last year and after a year of scrambling as an editorial consultant, I decided to get back into the disability world on a professional basis. My first gig is a part-time position as Director of Advocacy and Education with Alternative Communication Services (ACS), a CART/captioning company. I’m having a great time, and there’s so much to do: educating organizations about the need for realtime captioning is an endless and formidable job….hopefully, soon it won’t be!

LORILYN: Do you use captions?

BILL: I’m not sure I would have been successful without captioning. I know for sure ALDA never would have thrived without CART—for deafened adults, communication is a special challenge; some of us lip-read, some of us sign, some of us hear with cochlear implants, and some of us do none of the above. The only way for us all to communicate together is through realtime captioning. CART is the cornerstone of ALDA. At work, I’ve used remote CART a heckuva lot of times. Once when I had a meeting in Dublin, Denise Phipps realtimed the meeting from Nevada; she worked from 2 a.m. well through the morning. Pretty cool (for me). At Microsoft, I helped drive the inclusion of closed captions in Encarta, the first multimedia reference product to have captioning. What would I have done without captioning? Oh, I dunno, but surely something else.

LORILYN: If you had a chance to tell the FCC what captions mean to you, what would you tell them?

BILL: I would tell them what I’ve told you here: Captioning has been an essential, critical, and irreplaceable tool in my success on the job and in my family life. Without captioning, I probably wouldn’t watch television with my wife and kids. That would make our family room a family room minus one. I don’t want to be left out. I was a mascot long enough.


SCAG (Standards Captioning Action Group) hopes to reach 20,000 signatures on the “Petition to the FCC to Mandate a Standard for Television Captioning.” Your signature will encourage the FCC to institute a minimum standard to ensure quality captioning in the future. Thank you for making a difference. To sign (it only takes seconds), go to

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CLOSED CAPTIONING: “AARP, The Closed-Captioning Question,” by Broadcast Captioner Lorilyn Roberts

Letter to AARP

Will They Encourage Members to Sign the Petition to

“Mandate a Caption Standard for Television Programming?”

Dear Sir,

How many AARP members are hard of hearing? According to the website, up to 43 percent of the population over 65 suffer from hearing loss. Twelve percent of the population is over 65 and that translates into four million Americans. And because AARP considers anyone over 50 to be “old,” adjusted conservatively down to 55 years, these figures would probably double to eight million Americans who have hearing impairments.

Today I received this email from a friend a mine:

“I signed the petition. Alvin and I watch TV with captioning all the time. Even with the volume turned up, sometimes it is difficult to understand the dialog. And some captioning is awful! Thanks, Carol.”

I have been a closed captioner for television for twelve years and I want you to know that the state of television captioning today is frightening — both for me personally as a professional and for the future of those who rely on them for a healthy lifestyle. What few people realize is that newer but inferior technology is on the verge of replacing steno captioners.

Most reputable companies are being forced to bid below the current quality of service which they have been providing for years. They are losing contracts to companies promising the same level of service, but the truth is, they can’t duplicate what a trained captioner can do. By the time television stations realize they made a mistake, those steno captioners will be gone — to CART, court reporting, and other business endeavors where there is job security and they aren’t forced to accept the steep pay cuts.

Most captioners provide captioning because they love what they do and want to help the hearing-impaired, but I can’t and others can’t continue to take the pay cuts to compete with an inferior product. As the old saying goes, “you get what you pay for.”

The result: A disaster is on the horizon for the aging population. If you think you see poor captions now, you haven’ seen anything yet.

Because I am captioner, I know what is happening. To do something about this, I have started a petition to the FCC to mandate minimum captioning standards. By establishing a standard, it will halt the downward spiral and protect millions of senior citizens.

AARP is the most prestigious organization representing the elderly population. As a result, I hope AARP will help play a vital role in protecting the rights of seniors to quality captioning. The American with Disabilities Act without the minimum standard is no longer sufficient. We live in a very different economic climate today. Unless a minimum captioning standard is added, captioning companies will continue to pursue the inferior technologies — why should they opt for quality when it’s not mandated in the Act? Because of the tough economic climate, television stations unfortunately are believing the lies that these new technologies are as good. They aren’t!

Please go to this link and read the petition that will be delivered to the FCC. Urge your readership and members to sign it. We need 20,000 signatures to make our voice heard . The petition to “Mandate a Caption Standard for Television Programming” will expire in six months. We must do it today before it’s too late.

Again, let’s ensure that the elderly population and hearing-challenged will have quality captions into the future. Older citizens who have given so much to our country deserve access to the same information as the rest of us. I hope AARP will help them now before it’s too late.

Lorilyn Roberts
Standards Captioning Action Group, also known as SCAG

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CLOSED CAPTIONING: “Mandate a Caption Standard for Television Programming,” by Broadcast Captioner Lorilyn Roberts

Recently I have seen degradation in caption quality as many providers have sought ways to cut costs, oftentimes through the use of unqualified captioners and inferior technologies.

The only way to reverse this trend and ensure quality captioning in the future is to establish a minimum captioning standard.

As the population in our country ages, the need for captions will become increasingly important for those over 65 who may develop hearing loss.

We are a nation of immigrants, foreigners, and naturalized citizens who rely on captions to communicate and receive vital information.

A significant portion of the population, perhaps as high as eight percent, is hard-of-hearing or functionally deaf.

Captions are used by school-age children to help bolster reading skills.

Many restaurants, motels, and public places display captions as part of the ambiance of the establishment.

As a result, captions play an important role in the lives of many. They are vital for disseminating information related to news, weather, sports, entertainment, and national security. Captions enable hearing-challenged individuals to live a healthy lifestyle.

We need a minimum standard to ensure that quality captions are not compromised by inferior methods, technical issues, or incompetent providers that undermine the integrity of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

I ask that you seriously consider signing this petition which I started to ask the Federal Communications Commission to establish a minimum captioning standard. The petition requests the FCC require all live local programming to meet a standard of 97.5 percent and 99 percent accuracy for national and international programming. Please click on the link and it will take you to the site where you can add your name to the petition. It only takes seconds. Promote Caption Standard for Television Programming:

You can view and sign this petition at:

In addition to preserving caption quality, you will also save the jobs of highly-skilled captioners (like myself) who are at risk of being replaced by voice-recognition computers that deliver an inferior product to the end-user; and who knows, but that end-user someday may be you or someone you love.

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