Clear Captioned Gratitude

ClearCaptions for Mobile Use — Great Stuff!

Every Word You Say

I experienced triumph over pain last week that at-a-glance may seem unremarkable. It concerns a free iPhone App and real-time captioning service called ClearCaptions. It’s pretty nifty. ClearCaptions translates voice to text and allows me to see a callers words on my iPhone display. It works great—you say it, I see it. I talk back as normal and we enjoy a complete conversation. Simple.

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And now I’m over the moon with ecstatic euphoria. Why?  Because I can once again experience every word you say! See, I am deaf. In Spring 2010, the wealth of information that routinely came my way was suddenly cut to the quick. Complete, uninterrupted human communication flow was replaced by email bullet points and hasty notations via type-pad or post-it note.

.[bquote]I can once again experience every word you say! So I rejoice![/bquote]

Text messages replaced human voices as touchstone for all conversations. People use my iPad or laptop to kindly type Tweet-sized abstracts of their abundant vocal eloquence now denied.  Some tried Dragon Dictation voice-to-text by reciting into a device and showing me the readable replay.  I am grateful for these technologies. They helped me muddle through and rescued me from total isolation.  And now I have ClearCaptions to add to the gadgetry fold.  So I rejoice!

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The Worst of Deaf

Perhaps a little background will help explain my gratitude.  What makes a grown man exalt jubilation about an iPhone App?  The answer is found in the hard truths inherent in my challenge. These, in early-deaf experience, are the most difficult aspects of my silent trudge:

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  • Starving for information via human conversation
  • Exhaustion trying to interpret visual cues (e.g. reading lips)
  • Less interaction with everyone, including knowing people avoid conversation with me
  • Gradually losing treasured memories of many sounds and voices
  • Feelings of isolation and being ignored, especially when amongst a group of hearing people
  • Constant uncertainty about conversations just had. This includes knowing that I won’t know when I miss something.

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[bquote_right]Facing down the cold hard facts strengthens the joy of triumph.[/bquote_right]

Reads like a big fat bummer, don’t it?! Why do I list these torments so plainly? Because facing down the cold hard facts strengthens the joy of triumph. The miracle of healing can go undetected when the wound is tiny and pain is vague. But when anguish is stark and hurt is intense– our triumph over it is easy to distinguish. The miracle is unmistakable. Our relief is grand and gratitude reigns. No, the ClearCaptions App on my iPhone is not a miracle. That would be corny and weird. But the immense gratitude and joy that has carried me through the week is nothing short of amazing.

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Take Nothing for Granted

I itemize these laments for the benefit of hearing people too. Like you, I was blessed for the first 48 years of my life to hear every human laugh, cry, voice and song that God so graciously placed before me. Yes, I once knew sound just like you hear it now.  It’s an extraordinary gift you know. Yes, it is. Each of our senses serves a vital purpose to connect us to our fellows and engulf us fully in the splendor of God’s universe. Don’t take that for granted. Trust me, you never know.

.[bquote]Each of our senses serves a vital purpose to connect us to our fellows and engulf us fully in the splendor of God’s universe.[/bquote]

It is oh-so easy to undervalue routine privileges. Unabridged discourse between we humans is the common touch that binds us– so common that we no longer marvel at the wonder of it; the way we once did, for example, when we watched in awe as our newborn child recognizes our voice, immediately responds and progressively learns to speak back!  You forgot about that, didn’t you?

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No wonder then, that most folks are wholly unimpressed by connecting and conversing on a mobile phone. It is, after all, a routine daily occurrence in our high-tech, high-touch age. Oh sure, you “love” your Smartphone.  It’s convenient to call people on the go. But hey, people do it everyday. What’s the big thing?

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The Big Thing

Allow me to explain: Let’s look again at the list. I haven’t been able to use my iPhone as a telephone for 19 months. No calls. Nada.  By now seeing every word you say on the display, I am no longer subjected to your abbreviated text version. Telephone conversations will be complete again and  I will not be starved for the intimate details. My constant uncertainty about conversations after the fact is alleviated as well.  In fact, now I can review your words-turned-text long after the phone call ends. I can copy your words, for example, from my display screen and paste them into an email to myself.  This ability to read your words back is the most effective “paraphrase” methodology I’ve come across yet.  My retention of our conversation is thus exponentially enhanced.

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[bquote_left]I began to recall the sound of her voice again in my minds eye![/bquote_left]

I spoke with my daughter Amanda the other night. We discussed her college prospects. She’s very excited to be accepted at prominent schools. She couldn’t wait to tell me. And for an agonizing year and a half, I couldn’t wait to hear her! I literally ached because we no longer connected the way we enjoyed before I went deaf. But not this time! Not only was our conversation effortless and complete, but by reading Amanda’s every word and seeing the pace and vocabulary,  I began to recall the sound of her voice again in my minds eye!  I was losing the precious memory of her sound.  And now it’s coming back!


So now I’m hinged with elation to my daughters’ every precious word. No more uncertainty or awkward pauses. The conversation flows and we connect. I can listen to my children again without missing a syllable. That’s a pretty big thing, don’t you think?

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Joy Resonates

I’ll say! So for me, this obscure ClearCaptions App is a game changer. I spent the better part of this glorious week calling everyone like a giddy child from a remote village who never used a telephone. And as friends and family spoke to me, I marveled at watching every utterance auto-fill my iPhone screen. I know it’s just a handy gadget. But my exuberance is indescribable.

[bquote]I want you to know that I heard everything you said. Everything.[/bquote]

I want all of you to know that I heard everything you said. Everything. I see the sound of your voice and joy resonates.  Thanks for chatting!  Let’s do it again real soon.

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Love, Brian

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Author’s Update March, 2012.  My enthusiasm about iPhone captioning has not waned even a little since writing this post in December, 2011.  However, then and now I am NOT a representative or advocate of the ClearCaptions product.  It just happens to be the App I came across at the time.  Moreover, like any technology solution, there are good features and, well, not so perfect ones.  As far as ClearCaptions goes, the speed of their real-time captioning is top notch.  In other words, there is very little lag time between what the caller is saying, and what the captionist translates to text on my iPhone display.  So kudos to them all around. But, ClearCaptions, in my experience,  is fraught with technical glitches. It’s interface with the iPhone is clunky and it has locked up on me at the most inopportune moments, often in mid conversation.  They have had some App development issues as well, requiring multiple times where I had to delete the existing App version on my iPhone and re-download it.  Captionists are not always immediately available and their entire network has either gone down or my connectivity (which depends on the reliability of both IP and phone service) has inexplicably dropped off. So “planning” an important phone call  relying on ClearCaptions is iffy business.  Finally, swinging back to the good, they have an extremely responsive technical, sales and executive management team who–in fairness– has suffered my customer-complaint fury with professionalism and patience.  They are genuinely apologetic, responsive and obviously concerned when problems have come up.  They most recently came clean with me as well, that their product is designed primarily for the hard of hearing community (not the deaf) to “enhance” their telephone communication experience with text in addition to sound. My world, on the other hand, is soundless, so I am a tough customer, so to speak. The product is still worth my time and attention and I keep hoping it gets better.  My recommendation is to try it and be grateful, as I am, for the wonder of it’s benefits and patient (as I am not) for the flaws of their technology.

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9 replies
  1. Becky says:

    Brian, thank you for sharing your experiences. As a technology provider, it is always so inspiring to hear how technology is helping. I wanted to share two links that you may be interested in. One is a face-to-face communicator that allows you to sit across from someone and hold a conversation just like you are doing with the captions. It is called the UbiDuo at http://www.scomm.com. I’ve used it because my signing skills are not good and it allows for real-time conversation. I love being able to talk freely to someone who is Deaf. The other is the Association of Late-Deafend Adults at http://www.alda.org, lots of people facing the same challenges you are facing. Good luck
    on your journey.

    Reply
    • Brian Patrick Jensen says:

      Thanks Bill,
      I have looked into the UbiDuo on the web site and it’s expensive– for the price I have been accomplishing pretty much the same at work through laptops, skype, etc. But thanks for the kind suggestion. Regarding ALDA, I am now a member. Pretty cool you founded the organization!– I did read about the history a while back. I have not established a firm network there yet, and I live near Philadelphia, where–surprisingly–there is no chapter. It has been suggested that I start one!

      Thanks again for touching base. I encourage you to keep reading my blog and hope we cross paths again!

      Brian

      Reply
  2. Erin says:

    Brian, this is so awesome! Getting to talk to you on the phone was so awesome. I can’t wait to be able to do that more often! Love you!

    Reply
  3. Susan Conboy says:

    Brian, I’m so happy for you! Obviously this technology is going to be a huge help to you, and it’s great that you can use it to such a huge advantage. You inspire me to remember my many blessings and not take things for granted. Love you cousin!

    Reply
  4. Linda Marie says:

    Brian, are you on Facebook, I would love to have you as a friend and keep up on your progress, etc.

    Look for me as Linda Seibert. There might be more than one of me (I’m finding a few Linda Seibert’s around the USA). I’m married to Laurel if that helps you find me. Also look for Sign Language Interpreter and Teacher.

    Reply
  5. Linda Marie says:

    I just read your post. I was thrilled to hear your testimony.

    I would like your permission to share parts of this with my class. I will start teaching an ASL beginner class in January 2012. Some of my students (age 11 – adult) know signs but forgot due to non-use. Some are starting from scratch.

    I learned Sign Language in the mid 70′s and have used it off and on since then. I taught a class at a church school in the mid 80′s. And I’m starting classes again in 2012. Hope to have on-going classes from now on.

    I have my beginner lessons nearly finished, just need to tweak when I see how fast my class wants to learn. I need to start on my intermediate class lessons soon. Not sure if I will give an advanced class or not, seems futile if there is no outlet for interpreting in a group setting in our area. The nearest deaf group is 60 miles away.

    I am currently interpreting to a deaf student taking auto mechanics at the local college. He has a Cochlear Implant and it helps him to hear very well in quiet settings. Have you considered one? Or will your hearing loss not allow that benefit?

    Kudos to you from this 61 yr old Grandma who just doesn’t know how to slow down.
    Linda in Kansas

    Reply
    • Brian Patrick Jensen says:

      Linda, It would be an honor if you shared my sentiments with your class. I have taken two ASL classes and now get regular one-on-one tutoring. It’s a beautiful language and even the most basic ASL helps me in face-to-face conversation with the very few who know it. Every word I see in ASL reduces the strain of otherwise attempting to figure out what another person is trying to convey. It appears as if you are very committed to be of service to the deaf and hard of hearing. That inspires me. Regarding CI, I am looking into it, but have many reservations. Still, it is one solution and I am not going to dismiss it until I fully understand the possibilities. The simple iPhone App ClearCaptions has been around since January 2011, but I just didn’t know it until now. So it is important to keep looking for solutions and stay up on the latest and greatest tools to help us through our silent trudge. Thanks so much for reading my post and taking your valuable time to comment. This is exactly the type of dialogue that also goes a long way to reduce my “craving” for human interaction and complete communication. So, for the record, I hear every word you say! Regards, Brian

      Reply

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