Higher Education Opportunity Bill Includes Program to Train Realtime Writers and…

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Higher Education Opportunity Bill Includes Program to Train Realtime Writers
and Captioners

VIENNA, Va., August 4 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The National Court Reporters
Association (NCRA) today urged President Bush to sign the Higher Education
Opportunity Act (H.R. 4137, S. 1642), better known as the Higher Education
Reauthorization bill. Included in the bill, which was passed by Congress last
week, is language that creates a grant program to train realtime writers to
provide both captioned information and communication access for the 30 million
Americans who are deaf and hard-of-hearing.

NCRA President Karen Yates, CRR, CBC, CCP, states, “As a certified broadcast
captioner and realtime writer who works with the deaf and hard-of-hearing
community week in and week out, I laud Congress’s passage of the Higher
Education Opportunity Act with the inclusion of the Training for Realtime
Writers Act language. Through my daily work, I see firsthand the needs of the
deaf and hard-of-hearing community and the difficulties that some in the
community have in fully accessing communication. Having the opportunity to
give back to the men and women in America who are hard-of-hearing has been one
of my most rewarding achievements. This funding will encourage more
individuals to enter the realtime writing workforce and deliver positive
changes to the 30 million Americans who are deaf and hard-of-hearing. On
behalf of the Officers and Board of Directors of the National Court Reporters
Association, we thank Congress and our Congressional champions for moving this
vital piece of legislation forward.”

NCRA Executive Director and CEO Mark J. Golden, CAE, states, “With this
passage of the Higher Education Reauthorization bill, Congress is keeping its
promise to the 30 million deaf and hard-of-hearing Americans who have come to
rely on captions as a means for communication access. This service can only be
provided by qualified stenographic realtime writers. This critical funding
will be truly instrumental in helping the captioning profession meet the
growing demand for full access for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community.”

In the United States, one out of three adults suffers from some amount of
hearing loss, and one out of six adults has difficulty discerning speech. An
ever-aging population means an increase in the number of Americans with
hearing challenges.

Opportunities within the field continue to grow. According to recent data
released by the U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics
“Occupational Outlook Handbook 2008-2009,” court reporter employment will grow
by 25 percent through 2016, because of “increasing numbers of civil and
criminal cases” coupled with federal telecommunications legislation that
requires television captioning and the increasing demand for realtime
communication access for people who are deaf and hard of hearing under the
Americans with Disabilities Act.

NCRA’s Golden said, “On behalf of the 23,000 members of the National Court
Reporters Association, I sincerely commend Congress for keeping its promise to
all Americans for full communication access.”

NCRA has worked tirelessly with legislators in order to ensure the passage of
this vital legislation. Sens. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) took
the lead in the Senate in order to guarantee the success of this legislation.
This legislation truly would not be possible without Sen. Harkin, whose
brother was deaf and who has been a stalwart champion for court reporters and
captioners throughout America. Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) has been dedicated to
ensuring that this language is on the agenda each of the last four Congresses,
and Rep. Robert Andrews (D-NJ) was responsible for the addition of this
crucial language to the Higher Education Reauthorization Act.

“Closed captioning is a vital service that provides the hard-of-hearing with
the information they need in their day-to-day lives,” Sen. Tom Harkin said.
“Although the law requires that all programming be captioned, our nation still
faces a serious shortage of captioners. I hope that this funding will help
alleviate that shortage.”

Rep. Kind, whose wife, Tawni, is a court reporter, said, “Ensuring closed
captioning is available for the hearing impaired is a fairness issue as well
as a safety issue. Despite requiring 100 percent closed captioning, we are
educating only half the realtime writers we need to get it done. I am pleased
that this long-overdue program will increase awareness and interest in careers
in court reporting and realtime writing so we can preserve the integrity of
the public record and make sure individuals who are deaf and hard-of-hearing
can stay informed.”

With their hard work behind them, Congress must wait and see if President Bush
values this legislation as much as they do. They can only hope that he
recognizes its importance for the deaf and hard of hearing population and
signs it into law. NCRA urges President Bush to realize the significance of
the Higher Education Reauthorization and College Opportunity Act and the
detrimental effects of allowing the court reporting workforce to continue to
shrink while the demand for trained court reporters grows.

On behalf of its 23,000 members, NCRA, again, truly commends each of its
champions on Capitol Hill and appreciates the hard work and dedication that
went into this legislation.

SOURCE National Court Reporters Association

Pete Wacht of the National Court Reporters Association, +1-703-556-6272
(office), +1-571-228-7346 (cell), pwacht@ncrahq.org