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Kind Bill to Ensure Closed-Captioning is Available to Hearing-Impaired Goes to President for Signature

August 1, 2008
Press Release

Grant Program Will Promote Careers in Closed-Captioning to
Meet Vital Need for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Americans

Washington, DC – Following Senate approval of the Higher Education Act today, Rep. Kind’s provision to help ensure there are enough “realtime” writers to make closed-captioning services widely available for deaf and hearing-impaired residents is finally headed to the President for signature.

“This is a great day for individuals who are deaf and hard-of-hearing,” Rep. Kind said. “Ensuring closed captioning is available is not only a fairness issue, it is a safety issue as well. Without closed-captioning, our deaf and hard-of-hearing residents are left without critical information – and could be left unprepared during a national crisis. Despite requiring 100 percent closed captioning by 2006, we are now educating only half the realtime writers we need to get it all done. This program will help change that.”

Included in the Higher Education Act was Rep. Kind’s “Training for Realtime Writers Act,” which establishes a competitive grant program to encourage careers in realtime writing and court reporting. Over 30 million Americans are deaf or hard-of-hearing, and approximately 90 percent of them rely on captioning services for news and information. The captioning industry is strained to capacity in its effort to ensure that the round-the-clock news and information is accessible to this community.

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 mandated that all television programming be fully captioned by 2006. However, with schools educating only half the captioners needed, thousands of hours of programming are left unavailable to the deaf or hard of hearing. Rep. Kind’s proposal advanced today establishes a competitive grant program which would allow colleges and universities to apply for funding specifically to help encourage more students to pursue a career in realtime writing or court reporting.

“Court Reporters are also the guardians of our public record, and play an important role in our government,” Rep. Kind said. “I am pleased that this long-overdue program will increase awareness and interest in careers in court reporting and realtime writing to maintain the integrity of our democracy and make sure every citizen can stay informed.”

Rep. Kind’s wife, Tawni, works as an official court reporter for the County Court System in La Crosse.