Welcome to part two of our InnoCaption Captioners’ blog series where we’ll get to know one of our very own stenographers, Rachel. In this Q&A, Rachel takes us on her journey as a stenographer, sharing what she loves most about helping the deaf and hard of hearing communicate more easily. Let’s get to know her! 

Q: What made you decide to become a Stenographer?

A: I have always loved languages and secret codes. As an adolescent, I collected language dictionaries and even a musty old shorthand book that I bought at the local library for 50 cents! I was naturally drawn to a career in stenography and remember smelling the ink in the steno machine and seeing the indigo letters print on the paper. It felt familiar to me, and I started on my journey in 1996 by enrolling in a program in Riverside, California.

Q: How did you get involved with InnoCaption?

A: I happened upon InnoCaption almost two years ago and took note of the work they were doing. To help with expenses while my son was away at his first year of college, I found myself considering InnoCaption as a side gig and decided to reach out. By March 2020, I was taking my first call. Suddenly, COVID-19 hit, and many things since then have unfolded that helped me realize I needed to fulfill my true purpose and intention with my skill — to directly assist my neighbors that could benefit from captioning. At the beginning of July, I focused all of my attention to providing services to InnoCaption exclusively, and it has been the happiest decision I have made yet in my career.

Q: What do you most enjoy about your work as a stenographer? 

A: Now that I am with InnoCaption, I get to enjoy my favorite part of stenography, which is just being one with my steno machine and writing. When my fingers are on the keys, I find my groove, and it feels like my machine is just an extension of my mind. I enjoy a professional relationship with a rich community of fellow stenographers that share their “briefs,” which are our code shortcuts. I can quickly look up how other reporters and captioners are writing certain phrases or technical terms in shorter ways, really providing a sense of community and camaraderie. 

Every new day is an opportunity for me to level up, and I’m not the same writer today as I was yesterday. That’s the beauty of this field, you are constantly learning and growing and inventing new code, which helps you deliver your skill faster, more efficiently, and more accurately than the day before.

Q: What makes this work so important in your opinion?

A: As a person who has full use of their hearing ability, I did not appreciate how challenging communication can be for those with hearing loss in a world that is set up to reduce human contact by filtering everything through automation. The prompted greetings and menus do not have patience, and they cannot slow down or adapt for callers that need more time to understand what’s being asked of them before getting to the assistance they are seeking on the phone. My hope is that I’m creating that human bridge. I can never hear the caller, but I can feel their frustration on the other end of the call.

As stenographers, we don’t just provide the captions, but we provide context when needed. If something confusing is happening on a call, I’m able to explain with a parenthetical like (dog barking near mic), or (echo on the line), allowing the user to understand everything happening. Being able to decipher each sound is vital for a hard of hearing person to feel as if they are able to go about their business virtually.

But I must say that my absolute favorite part of this job is the role I get to play in communicating “I love you” and the heartfelt moments. The emotions like laughter and crying that I get to capture on a daily basis fill me up with warmth. When tears fall, I write “(crying),” and while Artificial Intelligence has its role, it can’t convey that emotion to a person. If I can help set the mood of the call by describing some of the atmospherics, I will fit them in whenever I can. 

Did you enjoy getting to know Rachel? Leave use a review on Google Play or the App Store and let our Stenographer community know how much they are valued. If you’re interested in a job as a real-time captioner, apply now: https://innocaption.com/about-us/prospective-stenographers/