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Church Assignments for Transcribers


 This is the third of a three-part series about introducing speech-to-text services to churches. (Read Part 1 and Part 2.)

I recently met a 79-year-old man who was born deaf. His name is David M. Harrison, and he is the founder of Let My People Hear, Inc., a deaf advocacy organization whose mission is to bring hearing accessibility into churches. David wrote a book, 'Lord, You Know I Can't Hear!', in which he describes what it's like to live with hearing loss.

Before reading his book, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what a deaf person's life might be like. It turns out that many people with hearing loss suffer in ways I had not even imagined. They often live in isolation, excluded from activities the rest of us take for granted. They may have no opportunity to express their thoughts and opinions. 

The one place you would think they would be welcome — in church — may offer them no accommodations at all.

Man In Church Alone

It bothers me terribly to think of anyone being excluded from attending the church of their choice — an important part of many people's lives — just because they have a hearing loss. In the town where I live, there are "deaf churches" where sign language interpreting is the only accommodation. Those who don't understand sign language, or who prefer to attend a church of a different denomination, or who would like to attend a church closer to their home, may have no available options.

Transcribers and churches: a match made in heaven?

Since churches operate year-round, church assignments provide steady work for transcribers during months where they would otherwise not have any income: over the summer and during holiday breaks, when schools are not in session. Church assignments are usually long-term assignments.

Churches have creative ways of providing audio to the remote transcriber. Some use Skype, but some churches broadcast their sermons over the internet through services such as LiveStream, YouTube, or internet radio. The transcriber can access the audio from these broadcasts. The broadcast may include video as well, so the remote transcriber may have a rare opportunity to see the event as though he or she were onsite. Many churches have elaborate sound systems, so the audio quality is usually quite good.

Transcribing for churches is different than transcribing for a student.

Your transcript will likely be viewed by a large group, rather than a single student. The viewers may be more critical of mistakes than a student might be. For this reason, exceptional skills are required to provide services to churches.

The Access Church

White Oak Baptist Church (Access Campus) in Chattanooga, TN announces they will become the first fully "hearing accessible" church in Hamilton County for hard-of-hearing people. Source: Let My People Hear

This is not to say that it's acceptable to provide low-quality transcripts to students. When my agency interviews a new candidate, we are actually looking for reasons not to hire them. We look for spelling and punctuation errors on their resumé and in every email they send us. We have candidates perform a live demonstration while we scrutinize their skills. After the demonstration, we comb their transcript looking for errors.

You've probably heard that there is not enough supply to meet the demand for transcribers. This may be one reason why those with poor skills are still able to make a living working for schools. It's a sad state of affairs, and the only thing I can do about it is to decline to hire those whose skills need improvement. So far, I have had no trouble finding qualified transcribers.

The Spirit of Improvement

As remote providers, we "chat" with our students, greeting them at the start of class, working through technical problems, etc., but we never really get to know them. We may have no idea of the struggles they face in their daily lives.

Being aware of these things can inspire us to become better transcribers. Consider taking advantage of additional training opportunities offered by your software distributor, such as TypeWell’s Learning & Enrichment Online (LEO). Identify areas in your skills that need improving, and establish a routine to work on them. 

 Ask your clients for feedback, and pay close attention to what they tell you.

The work we do enables people with hearing loss to get an education and to participate fully in their communities of faith. By accommodating those with hearing loss, we reap the rewards of their contributions to our society. We can feel good knowing that the work we do is meaningful and not just a way to get a paycheck.

I would like to ask you to join me in raising awareness of the need for hearing accessibility in churches. A conversation with your own pastor or church leaders can go a long way toward accomplishing this. You may find that the subject has been on their minds, but they’re unsure how to proceed.

If you know someone who needs accommodations, or a pastor who would like to explore adding transcribing services at his or her church, please ask them to contact us. We are always looking for exceptional writers, as well, so if you're dreading those long, idle summer months, we would love to hear from you. More information, including contact info, can be found at AllAccessCaptions.com.

photo credit: Church congregation via Morguefile (license)

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Cindy Aitken

Cindy Aitken is President of All Access Captions in Chattanooga, Tennessee. All Access Captions specializes in providing remote captioning to churches and schools.

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