Deaf History Month: 5 Great Achievements

Posted by Emma on March 31, 2010 at 9:41 am. Captioning

As Deaf History Month continues, CaptionMax wants to focus on inventions, discoveries, and improvements not just for the deaf and hard of hearing but by the deaf and hard of hearing. Enjoy five of our favorites. I’m sure we’ve left a few out. Do you have any favorites?

1. The Internet

Vint Cerf, who has used hearing aids since the age of 13, helped to connect packet switches to the ARPANet, the precursor to the Internet, during his time at UCLA. He continued his work at Stanford in the ‘70s, helping to advance the technology which now connects over a billion people from all parts of the globe.

Cerf (pronounced “surf”) has been called “the Father of the Internet” and “Google Chief Internet Evangelist.” He is currently serving on many corporate boards, performing numerous speaking engagements, and continuing to develop new Internet applications.

To learn more about this fascinating man:
Watch: The Internet Today (warning: no closed captioning on this video)
How the Internet Came to Be, by Vinton Cerf
Wikipedia: Vint Cerf (every college kid’s favorite source)

2. Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1975)

Sir John Cornforth, deaf since his teens, won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on the stereochemistry of enzyme-catalyzed reactions.

Born in Sydney, Australia, he started noticing signs of deafness at the age of 10. His loss of hearing took more than a decade, but he was completely deaf before graduated from university. He attended Sydney University and graduated with honors. From there, he had the opportunity to study in Oxford. It was at Oxford that he contributed to The Chemistry of Penicillin, a record detailing the effort to develop that world-changing drug.

Cornforth is still active in physics research at Sussex University.

To learn more:
Read: Nobel Interview
Wikipedia: John Cornforth
Watch: An Interview of John Cornforth (no closed captions but full text transcript is available in a link below the video)

3. First American Deaf Person to Earn a M.D. and Ph.D.

Dr. Judith Pachciarz, or “Dr. Judy,” had always dreamed of being a doctor. She studied medicine at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, (1979) where the invention of TDD (Telecommunications Device for the Deaf) helped her study alongside hearing students. The bioengineering department even modified an oscilloscope so that she could “see” heart & lung sounds.
Dr. Judy’s career has been illustrious.  Since graduating in 1983, she has been chief resident in pathology, director of blood transfusion services, and medical director of the World Games for the deaf.  She has always strived to have an active role with patient care and to mentor people with disabilities.

To learn more:
Read: Written Interview
Read: Her autobiograph

4. Ref for the Deaf

Ref for the Deaf is nifty vibrating bracelet for deaf players who can’t hear a referee’s whistle. Eighth-grader Celia Beron, with help from her father and the University of Texas at Dallas, invented the device. Celia’s father, Kurt, and the university have patented the technology and are currently studying market options for the bracelet. Have you heard anything about it?

To learn more:
Read: Texas News article

5. AcceleGlove

The AcceleGlove is an electronic glove that can translate ASL into spoken word or text. Sensors in the glove generate signals from movements, placement, and positioning on the hand and fingers. It also looks cool.

The glove’s creator is Dr. Jose Hernandez-Rebollar. While working as a visiting assistant professor at George Washington University, he devoted his time to help the deaf communicate more easily with the hearing. We include him because, while he isn’t deaf, he has had to deal with language barriers. He received a Fullbright scholarship to study in the U.S. while at University if Mexico. The initial transition was not easy, and he commented that he wished he had learned more English or attained a greater understanding of cultures before studying abroad.

He says the goal for the AcceleGlove is “not to fix deafness. The idea is to provide an instrument that can translate ASL to other languages.”

To learn more:
Read: Famous Hispanic Inventors
Product Website: AcceleGlove

(this article was edited by Tyler Nelson at CaptionMax)

Fun Film Friday!

Posted by CLeininger on March 26, 2010 at 8:35 am. Fun Word Friday, Movies, YouTube

Did you guys know that CaptionMax has a YouTube page? Our YouTube page is where we will post public domain content that we’ve captioned and described. Right now we have His Girl Friday and Charade available. His Girl Friday has already gotten over 1,200 views! (It was big news for us on Twitter this week.) That’s 1,200 people who are listening to description! We are also planning to post D.O.A and some more movies soon, so stay tuned…

Our page also features a video tour of our world headquarters. Max himself leads the way around our state-of-the-art, LEED-designed building in Minneapolis.  Head over and take a look if you’ve never seen our MPLS office. (Hopefully, we can get a tour of our Burbank office up soon, too.)

Lastly, just in case you don’t follow us on Twitter or YouTube, we are re-posting His Girl Friday here on Fun Film Friday. Because, really, what’s better on a Friday than watching a classic movie with impressive captions and superb audio description?!

Enjoy…and if you have questions about captioning for YouTube or audio description, contact us here or fill out a cost request. Thanks!

(By the way, we are proud to have Kate Schlagel and Jeremy Fisher describe this film.)

Let’s Talk, Max Duckler!

Posted by CLeininger on March 24, 2010 at 8:41 am. Captioning, High Definition, Subtitling, Video Description

Our chief scientist has come a long way from video editor to becoming CEO of an amazing, multifaceted (if we may say so ourselves) captioning company. We wanted to learn more about what inspires Max and why he works so hard to be an advocate for accessible media. Take it away Max!

CB: What inspired your move from editing to captioning?

MD: The editing that I was doing was changing from creative “storytelling” editing to special effects compositing editing.  People started doing their own storytelling with no training or sense of timing and then came to me to add the ridiculous effects and graphics, thinking it would make up for the poor cutting.  It got old, and I was looking for a business opportunity that would use my deep knowledge of post-production, running a high-service business, and my love for all things word-related.  I read a tiny one-paragraph article in a trade magazine about possible legislation that would mandate captioning, and that was all the inspiration I needed.  That was early 1992.

CB: How/Why did making accessible content become such a big part of your life?

MD: As I started to caption for some of my editing clients, I realized what a cool thing it was to provide access of video content to people who would not normally have it.  The more I talked with people who were deaf or blind, the more convinced I was that I was doing the right thing, and that, ultimately, I could build the world’s best media accessibility company that not only understood the needs of the end users but had an edge in truly understanding the needs of broadcast TV and studio producers.  They are very demanding and want it done perfectly the first time around.  And they always need it yesterday.  I was accustomed to these clients from editing, and I loved working with the creative people.  The demands were justified. The Film and TV industry responds quickly to audience demands.  Their suppliers need to be just as nimble.  I understood that.

CB: What was the first software you used to caption…or were there pens and paper involved?

MB: There was pen and paper involved, and there always will be.  I need to write down what sandwich to order at the Birchwood Cafe and whether I want sprinkle donuts or coconut-covered chocolate at he Mel-o-Glaze donut shop down the street.

I mortgaged my tiny house, bought a seat (aka license) of Cheetah Captivator Software from our friends Kathy and Gary Robson. I found a Panasonic SVHS machine, some time-code cards, an encoder from EEG and SoftTouch, and a high-capacity Mr. Coffee machine secondhand from Goodwill.

CB: In the beginning, how long did it take you to caption a thirty minute broadcast program?

MD: I type with two fingers, so it took me two hours to transcribe it and then about 8-10 hours to break it apart, fit it to the time code, add sound effects, and proof it three times.  Then the encoding was another 2-3 hours of taking my stuff to a post house, patching in, and taking it apart.  Of course, now it’s different, what with all these young’uns who grew up with a keyboard in one hand and a nuk  in the other.  Also, we have our own very elaborate digital tape operations center, which is actually much more extensive than the post houses I used to encode in back in the days of yore.

CB: How do you keep current and informed about everything our industry touches (i.e. emerging technologies, TV & movies)?

MD: I listen to our customers and listen to our Consumer Advisors.  I utilize technology as it comes out so I can visualize how it could and will be used for accessibility.  I’m a gadget freak, so it’s also a great excuse to keep up with the gadgets.  I read piles of trade magazines, websites, watch TED seminars, talk to my seatmates on my many plane rides, and get the inside scoop from the waiters at the hotels I stay at in LA.  Also, I call Donna and Gerald, and they just tell me.

CB: What do you hope for the future of accessible media? What are your most wacky dreams of accessibility?

MD: I hope that making media accessible will be part of the production process and not an afterthought. We have done some really excellent work in universal design of classroom media in which the media is published so that it’s useful to all audiences from the start.  It takes some extra planning up-front, but once it’s in place, it makes everyone’s lives easier.  The same could happen for broadcast and movies. And we are beginning to see a shift in that direction with more content on the internet than over the airwaves.  We’re helping our customers see the value of captions and description beyond providing access to people who are deaf and blind.  Teachers, people learning English, people with ADHD like me all have great uses for accessibility features.

CB: What is it about creating CaptionMax that you’re the proudest of?

MD: Without a doubt, the incredible staff of CaptionMax.  We are a big company, but we’re still a family.  Most of the staff has been with me since the beginning, and many have worked with me in my former life as a Post Production Exec.  Everyone here is passionate about accessibility, and the brain trust is huge.  It’s so very humbling to come into work every day and be surrounded by all these great friends who are ALL smarter and more creative than me in some way. I learn so much from my staff every day. I absolutely love being in our various offices.  I am proud that we have built the company in a local, organic way; no outside investors, no overbearing debt.  We support local businesses, and we keep everything in the USA.  We use the profits to invest in technology and the very best people we can find.  When we are able to, we invest back into our community’s various social service agencies and nonprofits dedicated to improving the lives of our fellow neighbors and citizens.

I’m also proud of our reputation for quality, and I’m proud of our reputation for being flexible and forward-thinking.  I’m especially proud that my wife and kids still give me “courtesy laughs” to the same jokes I tell over and over.

It’s Fun Famous Deaf People Friday!

Posted by Emma on March 19, 2010 at 9:26 am. Fun Word Friday

In honor of Deaf History Month (March 13 – April 15), we wanted to post some quick information about some famous (and not-so-famous) deaf people.

Laurent Clerc (1785-1869): He met Thomas Gallaudet in Europe, brought sign language to America and established the first school for the deaf in the U.S.

Alice Cogswell (1805-1830): Inspired Thomas Gallaudet to devote his life to education.

Juliette Gordon Low (1860-1927): American youth leader and founder of the Girl Scouts.

Linda Bove (1945-present): Famous deaf actress. Played “Linda the Librarian” on Sesame Street and helped to increase public awareness of deafness in 70s and 80s.

Curtis Pride (1968-present): Deaf professional baseball player. Played with the New York Mets, Montreal Expos, Detroit Tigers and Boston Red Sox, etc.

Watch DCMP’s Famous Deaf Americans – Parts 1 & 2 for even more information!

Jay Wyant on Jim Marsters’ Role in Deaf History

Posted by Emma on March 17, 2010 at 7:33 am. Captioning

When people admire the cochlear implant, clearly visible on my bald pate, they often ask, “Isn’t that controversial?” Controversy sells newspapers, books, and now blogs.

For this Deaf History Month blog, I’d like to talk about someone who wasn’t controversial. The late Jim Marsters was active in both deaf and hearing communities, with many friends in each. An orthodontist who read lips and spoke, he communicated so well with his patients that some were not aware he was deaf.

I may not consider him controversial, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t an advocate of change. Those of you old enough to remember “Ma Bell” will know that at one time, Bell owned the phones in your house and was extremely proprietary about what you could do with them. Back in the late fifties, a fellow invented an attachment to help people talk without others overhearing. Bell went after him because they viewed that as an imposition on their system. So imagine their consternation when Marsters and his friends Robert Weitbrecht, a Stanford University physicist, and Andrew Saks, an electrical engineer, invented the acoustic coupler now known as the modem.

Marsters drove the development of the coupler, which made the TTY (teletypewriter or teletype) possible, and then later traveled to Congress and all over the country to push for its use because he wanted to be able to use the telephone. At first, deaf people only used the couplers to connect to teletype machines and talk with other deaf people and their families. But Marsters didn’t want to stop there. He felt there had to be a way for deaf people to use the phone to talk with anyone. So along with Weitbrecht and Saks, he lobbied for communications policies that eventually made the modern relay services possible.

He also decided he wanted to fly planes. As Henry Kisor points out in his blog, Marsters learned that less than 10 percent of American airspace under 18,000 feet requires the use of radio. Small airports do not have control towers. This meant that he could legally fly without using a radio. On the occasions when an airport expected radio communications, he would simply message that his receiver was out (some commentators say he “fibbed,” but does a radio’s receiver work if you can’t use it?), and they would follow standard visual procedures to direct his landing.

Let’s step back and look at these accomplishments for a moment. Today, most people understand that deaf people have a right to free relay services, closed captions on television, and other access issues. We’re operating under the well-developed concept that television and telephone network providers who use federally regulated transmission spectrum have certain obligations in exchange for the ability to use that spectrum. (See: Telecommunications Act of 1996 and related legislation.)

But in the 1960s, the ADA and the Telecommunications Act were years away. Yet Marsters was no entitlement victim. He had a thriving practice. He flew his own plane. He invented the TTY, an achievement most people would consider to be sufficient for a lifetime. But Marsters continued to push for more and better telecommunication options, because he didn’t believe in barriers for himself – or anyone else.

Now let’s segue to the present. The latest initiatives to remove barriers are the proposed 21st Century Telecommunications Act (HR 3101) and the FCC’s development of the National Broadband Plan. In hearings last year, wireless carriers and phone manufacturers spoke against the 21st Century proposals, claiming that the accessibility requirements (for the blind, mobility impaired, and others, as well as deaf consumers) were too onerous.

Last I heard, this year they have shown a greater willingness to accommodate within the framework of HR 3101. But this comes after “enduring” years of resolute pressure from activists and seeing the list of House cosponsors grow by the day.

Such change is only possible because of leading visionaries like Jim Marsters, an uncontroversial radical.

Jay Wyant, CEO, Remotocom,

Wyant is also President of the Board of the Alexander Graham Bell Association of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (AG Bell).

For more on Marsters:

1. Harry G. Lang, “A Phone of Our Own: The Deaf Insurrection Against Ma Bell”





It’s Fun Word Friday!

Posted by Emma on March 12, 2010 at 9:24 am. Fun Word Friday

Welcome to Fun Word Friday!

Here are some of our favorites – and we’ll post more each week!

Indefatigable: Incapable of being fatigued.

Tizzy: A state of nervous excitement or confusion; a dither.

Ouroboros: Circle formed from a serpent with its tail in its mouth.

Dysphemism: The use of an intentionally more humorous or offensive term. Opposite of euphemism. Examples are “idiot box” for TV and “cancer sticks” for cigarettes.

Factotum: Employee or assistant who does just about everything.

Meet Chris Leininger, Technical Guru

Posted by Emma on March 10, 2010 at 9:39 am. Techy

A personal interview by our very own Bill Anholzer.

There are many people who keep the CaptionMax machine running smoothly.  And when computers break, servers need upgrading, or general technology-related mayhem breaks loose, Chris Leininger, CaptionMax’s director of technology, keeps everything in order.

Chris came to CaptionMax more than ten years ago.  After a successful interview (successful because, as CaptionMax legend goes, he chose to wear cowboy boots that day), Chris started working as a caption editor.  So how does a caption editor with degrees in history and medieval studies become a director of technology?  He describes it as a natural progression that started with troubleshooting office computers, moved into the machine room, and ended up overseeing all things CAMTOC (CaptionMax Technical Operations Center).

Outside of being CaptionMax’s technical guru, Chris enjoys spending time with his Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Hixton.   This summer, he plans to take Hixton to the top of Eagle Mountain, but he’s not going for the exercise or the scenic view.  His goal is to take the shortest dog in Minnesota to the highest point in the state.  When Chris isn’t amusing himself with the dichotomy between short dogs and tall mountains, you’ll find him growing beans and leafy greens in his garden and offering the extras to his co-workers when he gets a little overzealous with the Swiss chard.

He also surfs the internet a lot, but that’s kind of what you expect from someone who spends a lot of time with computers.

What Chris likes most about his work is the friendly atmosphere created by the smart, funny, and talented people he works with.  Their appreciation and dedication to their work is obvious, and he’s looking forward to another ten years at CaptionMax.

It’s Fun Word Friday!

Posted by Emma on March 5, 2010 at 3:41 pm. Fun Word Friday

Welcome to Fun Word Friday!

Here are some of our favorites – and we’ll post more each week!

Legerdemain: (1) sleight of hand (2) a display of skill or adroitness.

Pwn: An internet word meaning to own, to soundly defeat an opponent, from a typo of “own.” Most commonly pronounced “own” or “pone.”

Funambulist: a tightrope walker

Moonglade: the bright reflection of the moon on a body of water.

Ice Floe: Floating ice formed in a large sheet on the surface of a body of water

How “Huge” is Huge…an AD Conundrum

Posted by CLeininger on March 3, 2010 at 11:20 am. Video Describers, Video Description

by Jeremy Fisher

The audio description staff has been busy.  We’ve described a toy chest full of “Backyardigans” episodes.  It’s been fun describing Pablo the Penguin, Tyrone the Moose, Tasha the Hippo, and Austin the Kangaroo as they pretend-play their way across deserts and through museums.

But what to do about Uniqua…the pink…uh… thing.  Thankfully, the Nick, Jr. website helped us out by clarifying that she’s a “creature.”  Creature sounds better than “Uniqua the pink thing”. .

People don’t generally think about what to call all the odd stuff in the world around them or how they’d express it if retelling the story later.  I was listening to the public radio this morning, and the host was on assignment in a “huge” room with murals by Diego Rivera covering every wall.  Describer alert!  How huge is huge?  Is it as big as a football field?  Is it seven stories high, seventy stories?  How impressed should I be?  If you can’t see what’s being referenced, the most concise, vivid description is paramount.  And while I’m on the subject, do all public radio personalities change their names so they sound cool when spoken aloud?

Name the NPR host.

Hey, kids. Draw a line from the picture to the cool NPR host surname it most resembles!



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