How Shall They Hear: Challenges Along the Way
By Pat Gardiner
Realtime captioning for your church may run smoothly, but more than likely you will have challenges as we have had and, as it turns out, others have had, too. Don't be discouraged! Martha Newton, RPR, of North Aurora, Ill., e-mailed me her interesting story:
"I've wanted to work with the deaf and hard-of-hearing for a long time. I began praying about providing realtime at church and thinking through scenarios, and I began to feel like this is a direction the Lord would have me take.
"I approached the pastor and told him I would like to realtime church so we could start a ministry for the hard-of-hearing, would he have a problem with me writing down his every word and having it translate on a screen? He said no, if that's something I want to do, that's fine. I figured he didn't have a clue what I was talking about. So I created a directory on my computer for church, copied in my dictionary and began the process of building it into a church dictionary.
"Along the way those doubts start creeping in, but they were always followed by an unsolicited affirmation from somebody in the church. At one point the pastor told me someone had given the church a TV monitor device. Now I had all the hardware I needed to start. I set up the equipment each Sunday in the back of the church and wrote the service for about eight months. More affirmations. One man said his mother is deaf and he really appreciated my efforts; others were fascinated by the technology and thought what I was doing was great. One Sunday after the service, I translated to see how I had done. Ninety-eight percent. After I packed up, a man who was sitting at the end of the row approached me and said he was reading the screen and I was about 98 percent accurate in my writing. I said you're exactly right.
"Well, it was time to move up-front and go public. I met with the pastor to discuss the setup. He had a plan, and I had a plan. I was impressed by how much thought he put into this. We talked through some of the sensitivity issues and incorporated those into his plan.
"My first Sunday was a disaster. I wasn't even that nervous taking the CSR. Each Sunday it seemed like I was being hit with a new dilemma with either the software or the television. I was convinced that the guy with the horns in the red jumpsuit was on a sabotage mission, but I was determined to succeed.
"I've been providing realtime at church for one year now. There are two ladies who use the realtime intermittently at this point. When I was told the church received a letter from one of these ladies expressing how thankful she was for a church that was providing realtime so she didn't have to sit home with a TV evangelist, I forgot about the many obstacles I had encountered. I enjoyed my first year of church realtime and the growth I achieved and look forward to the future."
We have been asked a number of times how many people we caption for. Approximately 250 people attend our Sunday 10:45 a.m. church service. Of course it varies, but generally we have about five who really depend on the captions, and another five to 10 who are hard-of-hearing and/or visual learners who use the screens.
A few suggestions that may help to increase the number of people watching your screens:
- Involve your pastor and your congregation. Our pastor, Dan Rogge, supports the captioning 100 percent. As he has been involved in this endeavor from day one, he understands all of our challenges and realizes how special each one of the members of our captioning team is, the effort that they put into it and how valuable a captioned church service really is to people who are deaf, hard-of-hearing, visual learners and people learning English as a second language. He shares with the congregation what we are doing and why. Our church motto is "enlarge your circle of love," and he explains how captioning is one way of accomplishing this. Whether he is in a church service or elsewhere speaking to people, if the situation is right, he promotes our captioning.
- Make it convenient for the people using the captioning. Our TV screens are suspended from the sanctuary ceiling about halfway back from the pulpit. One person who uses the captioning has commented that he likes that very much because (a) he does not have to go to a special section for people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing and (b) if he or his family happen to be late they can very comfortably find seats and get settled in without any disruption.
- If any of the following organizations are in your area, let them know that you provide captioning: AARP, American Association of Retired Persons; ALDA, Association of Late Deafened Adults; CHHA, Canadian Hard of Hearing Association; CHS, Canadian Hearing Society; NAD, National Association for the Deaf; SHHH, Self-Help for Hard of Hearing People.
About the Author:
Pat Gardiner is from Milton, Ontario, Canada. Please forward your ideas and comments to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her site about CART/Captioning in churches- http://www.newlife-milton.org/captioning/2nd.htm.