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Stadium Captioning

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Updated January 04, 2012

About.com interviewed Jennifer Bonfilio, the President and CEO of Coast 2 Coast Captioning, a captioning service based in New Jersey, about stadium and arena captioning. Bonfilio also moderates the Yahoo group broadcastcaptioners.

Q: What is stadium and arena captioning?

A: Many professional and collegiate sports organizations are making their stadiums and arenas accessible to the deaf and hard-of-hearing community by providing captioning of Public Address announcements, musical lyrics, prerecorded videos played during sporting events, live ceremonies on the field or court, and even live performances during halftime or other breaks in the sports action among other in-game activities. [Through captioning], deaf fans can enjoy the full experience of a sporting event of their favorite teams.

New stadiums and arenas are required by law to have assisted listening devices; however, people with full hearing loss cannot benefit from such devices. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) "requires new stadiums to be accessible to people with disabilities so they, their families, and friends can enjoy equal access to entertainment, recreation, and leisure." Accessibility for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals means captioning.

Although the ADA specifies new stadiums, a lawsuit was filed against the Washington Redskins for failure to provide captioning at FedEx Field, and the Court ruled in favor of the [deaf] plaintiffs. Click here for the archived article.

Furthermore, a lawsuit was filed against Ohio State University, and the court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, requiring OSU to provide CART (Communication Access Realtime Technology) or captioning at Ohio Stadium, the Schottenstein Center and St. John's Arena. Click here for the archived article.

Q: How does it work? Is any special equipment needed?

This captioner may be onsite at the stadium or deliver the captions from a remote location through a telephone line and modem, much like broadcast captioning. The venue may be equipped with a caption encoder and a system by which to deliver an audio feed to the captioner. The captions may be displayed on a video or data board for the entire audience to view or on a hand-held device, such as a smart phone. If the latter is used, the stadium/arena may need to be configured with a special WiFi network.

Q: How does stadium and arena captioning differ from live theatre captioning?

A: Technically speaking, the delivery of captions is basically the same regardless of the venue. [Related: Affordable theatre captioning] The biggest difference is the type of material being captioned -- namely, sporting events. Captioning in stadiums/arenas is a fairly new concept and is becoming more popular since the lawsuit was filed against FedEx Field and as consumers become aware of it.

The other significant difference is that in live theater captioning, the captioning is often done by a non-stenocaptioner, who feeds pre-scripted material through specialized software. If an actor goes off script, the "captioner" types the text on the computer screen using a QWERTY keyboard [a standard keyboard such as those used with computers].

Stadium captioning is performed by a stenocaptioner in realtime. Although scripts of prerecorded material and repetitive announcements may be provided, the stenocaptioner must "write" all other material live, which requires the ability to "write" at high rates of speed with near-perfect accuracy.

Q: How can owners of stadiums and arena venues arrange for such captioning services?

A: They can contact a captioning company which offers stadium captioning services. The captioning company will work with the stadium/arena's staff to configure the venue and schedule services for upcoming events.

Q: What suggestions do you have for hard of hearing and deaf people who want stadium captioning?

A: Contact your local stadiums and ask if the venue is currently accessible to deaf and hard-of-hearing fans. If so, in what way? If the accommodation is not satisfactory, request an accommodation that is [satisfactory]. For example, if the stadium is providing captioning, but the captions are delivered to a hand-held device and the text is too small, a consumer may suggest displaying the captions on a large board for the entire audience to view. Even hearing people can benefit from captioning!

Q: Is there a directory online anywhere of all stadiums and arenas offering captioning? If not, can you give a few examples of places from around the country?

A: No, I don't believe a directory exists. Sounds like a good idea for a project! A few examples would be:

  • Arizona
    • Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, AZ (Arizona State University football)
  • District of Columbia
    • FedEx Field, Washington, D.C. (Washington Redskins)
    • Nationals Park, Washington, D.C. (Washington Nationals)
  • Florida
    • Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, FL (University of Florida football)
  • Minnesota
    • Target Stadium, Minneapolis, MN (Minnesota Twins)
  • New Jersey
    • MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ (New York Giants and New York Jets and college football)
  • New York
    • Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY (New York Yankees)
  • Tennnesee
    • LP Field, Nashville, TN (Tennessee Titans)
  • Texas
    • Cowboy Stadium, Dallas, TX (Dallas Cowboys)

Q: Why do you think this type of captioning is not more widely available?

A: The primary reason, I believe, is the cost and perhaps a lack of awareness on the part of the deaf and hard-of-hearing community that they are entitled to it. Stadiums are required to provide captioning as a result of the decisions handed down in these lawsuits; however, if nobody is requesting it, the stadiums may be taking their time in installing the captioning systems. Like anything else, when it comes to accessibility, some are faster in responding than others, and it is important the deaf and hard-of-hearing community advocate for accessibility everywhere.

Q: I see the terms "RMR-CBC-CCP" on your signature but what do they mean?

A: I have been a broadcast captioner for 13 years. I have provided CART (Communication Access Realtime Technology) services to the deaf and hard-of-hearing community for nearly 20 years. I also train court reporters transitioning into captioning and CART, as well as present seminars and workshops on captioning and CART.

Here is a description of the certifications I hold. The following certifications are obtained by passing exams administered by the National Court Reporters Association:

  • CRR - Certified Realtime ReporterTM; a stenograph machine Skills Test consisting of professionally recorded literary material at the speed of 180 words per minute.
  • RMR - Registered Merit ReporterTM; a written exam consisting of a 100-question Written Knowledge Test and a stenograph machine Skills Test consisting of dictated material ranging from 200 words per minute to 260 words per minute.
  • CBC - Certified Broadcast CaptionerTM; a two-part exam consisting of a Written Knowledge Test and a stenograph machine skills test which measures the knowledge, skill, and ability of the candidate to produce an accurate, simultaneous translation and display of broadcasts utilizing realtime translation software.
  • CCP - Certified CART ProviderTM; a two-part exam consisting of a Written Knowledge Test and a stenograph machine skills test which measures the knowledge, skill, and ability of the candidate to produce an accurate, simultaneous translation and display of text utilizing realtime translation software.

Coast 2 Coast Captioning (c2cc) offers stenocaptioning services to stadiums and arenas across the country and Canada. Stenocaptioners are professionals who were initially trained as court reporters. We learned a stenographic theory (language) on a stenography machine and spent years honing our realtime skills (instantaneous translation from steno to English). We capture the spoken word on a stenography machine and feed it through special software to a Daktronics board or JumboTron for instant voice-to-text display.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?

A: Yes. One of the ways to offset the cost is through sponsorship. [Sponsorship can be done by businesses such as Domino's Pizza.] By doing so, captioning would not cost the stadiums anything and could, in fact, even generate additional revenue. This would ensure quality captioning service providers are utilized.

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