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Accommodating New Jersey Employees in the Workplace

Benefits from Relay Captioning
as reported by Management Analyst Doreen Dougherty 

Disabilities Special Emphasis Manager Nancy PaoliniAs the Disability Emphasis Program Manager for NRCS-NJ, Nancy Paolini is always on the lookout for new ways of accommodating the workplace needs of NRCS-ers with disabilities. As a deaf NRCS employee, I am fortunate to be the beneficiary of Nancy’s diligence. She recently sent me an e-mail asking me if I had ever heard of a service provided free to all Federal workers by Sprint and Federal Relay, managed by GSA. It’s called Relay Conference Captioning (RCC).

Doreen DoughertyAlthough I was familiar with the Federal Relay Service, which provides deaf, hard-of-hearing and speech-impaired Federal employees with a means to make telephone calls, I had never heard of RCC. I checked out the link Nancy had sent me. The website explained that RCC offers deaf and hard-of hearing individuals with a functionally equivalent means of participating in meetings, phone calls, video conferences, and multi-party conference calls. Employees can receive high quality, live, real-time text of an event streamed to an Internet-connected computer.

This sounded great to me. I normally need the services of a sign language interpreter to participate in those types of meetings. While I have no problem using an interpreter, needing a third party’s actual physical presence has its drawbacks. It is difficult to watch the interpreter and my computer screen simultaneously during a net meeting. Furthermore, two weeks notice is generally required to engage an interpreter for an event, and teleconference details are seldom published within that time frame. According to the RCC’s web site, only 48 hours advance notice would guarantee a conference call captioner for any event!

I was definitely interested, but still had my doubts as to how well a real-time captioned event would work for me in practice. Those doubts vanished the first time I made use of the RCC for a teleconference. Registering my request for a captioner for the teleconference was done online and took me less than five minutes. I immediately got an e-mail confirmation for my event.

During the actual teleconference, the captioner did an excellent job of keeping up with the dialogue, and accurately transcribing it. I could participate in the teleconference by typing what I wanted to say in a dialogue box; the captioner would then speak my text on my behalf. I found I was able to comfortably split my computer screen between the captioning site and the net meeting conference site, and easily keep up with both. I also had a transcript of the entire conference that I could print out once it was over. From start to finish, the entire process was simple and effective. For someone who had never before been able to participate in a teleconference without the help of a third party, this seemed almost too good to be true!

RCC provides a wonderful and much-needed service to those Federal employees who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. According to the RCC web site, you can also obtain video and internet relay services. Thanks to Sprint, Federal Relay, and GSA for providing these services. And thanks to Nancy Paolini for doing her part to raise awareness that they exist!