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June 21, 2012 Volume 33, No. 33

Captioning used at MU graduation ceremony for the first time


Four offices worked to make captioning possible

The first captioned graduation ceremony at MU went without a hitch. About 700 students and 125 faculty took part May 12 in the Graduate School commencement at the Hearnes Center. One of the graduates was Cami Garland, who has been deaf since birth.

Two widescreens on the left and right of the stage showed the black-lettered captions. The real-time caption process is called CART, or Communication Access Realtime Translation.

“For some who are deaf, it’s the first time they are ‘hearing’ the actual words,” said Jeanette Christian, who did the captioning remotely from her office in Topeka, Kan. “I am their ears.”

Garland, who received her graduate degree in art and archaeology, was one of five MU students who used CART in the classroom during the spring 2012 semester, said Jessi J. Keenoy, coordinator of MU’s Office of Disability Services. In recent years, about four MU students each semester have used CART. 

In a classroom, CART works by having instructors fitted with a microphone connected to a deaf student’s laptop. A certified stenographer working remotely connects to the audio stream and creates the captions, which appear on the student’s computer screen.

Though Garland lip-reads, it’s not a viable option in a classroom, she said. “I lose a lot of information when I have to focus so much on processing sound and lip reading,” Garland said. “That’s why captioning helps a lot. I can spend energy focusing on the substance of what is said rather than processing what is said.”

For previous graduations, MU has accommodated the deaf by providing hand signers. But because Garland doesn’t know sign language, CART was used.

“It was one of those things necessary to make her experience of the night memorable,” said Ashley Siebenaler, senior academic adviser at the Graduate School.

Four MU offices were involved in pulling off the graduation captioning: the Graduate School, the Academic Support Center, Intercollegiate Athletics and Disability Services.

“This took a lot of coordination,” Keenoy said. “No one department can make it happen.”