Author Archives: Valerie Stafford-Mallis

Certified Sign Language Interpreter Laurie Reinhardt Joins ACS Team

Laurie Rinehardt FB pic

ACS would like to officially welcome Laurie Reinhardt to its team as Interpreter Coordinator.  Laurie is no stranger to ACS, having consulted with ACS for the past couple of years on some very high profile conventions and projects requiring sign language interpreters. ACS is excited to deploy Laurie’s expertise to serve our convention clients who request sign language interpreters. 

Laurie holds multiple sign language interpreter certifications through the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) and has been active in the interpreting field for more than 30 years. Laurie received a BFA from Rochester Institute of Technology and a Master Degree from the University of Washington in Fine Arts. She is a pioneer in the field of video interpreting and has presented nationally and internationally on video interpreting. Laurie is a founding member of the Association of Visual Language Interpreters in Canada and well as a founding member and co-owner of SignOn, Inc from 1997-2011. Currently Laurie is pursuing another Master’s degree in Interpreting Studies at Western Oregon University where she applies the creativity of an artist to the technical aspects of interpreter development. 

Send Laurie an email and let her make providing sign language interpreting at your next event a snap!

Laurie Reinhardt, CSC, NIC-A

Interpreter Coordinator

office: 800-335-0911 | fax: 813-926-7875 | direct: 206-941-7619

“Try the alternative…where the client AND employee matter.”

P.O. Box 278, Lombard, IL 60148

email  |   website  |   vCard


New Year Resolutions at ACS


It is Christmas Eve and much of the world is getting ready to celebrate the birth of the Christ Child.  Others are celebrating the closeness of family and friends.  Thoughts are turning to the year that is coming to a close.  It has been a fabulous year for Alternative Communication Services (ACS), thanks to the consumers we are blessed to serve and the ACS Team that makes it happen.

Our New Year’s Resolution is to continue to provide world-class alternative communication services that make the spoken word accessible to persons who are deaf and hard-of-hearing. We will continue to do this in an environment that fosters innovation, collaboration, and substantially rewards achievement.

Specifically, our New Year’s Resolution at Alternative Communication Services is that, every day…

ACS Consumers can expect ACS to respond promptly to their inquiries (within hours of request) when or 1-800-335-0911 are used

ACS Consumers can expect to be kept updated on the status of their service requests  

ACS Consumers can expect the necessary training and support to help them use ACS services effectively

ACS Consumers can expect ACS to be committed to providing the highest quality voice-to-text and sign language services possible

ACS Consumers can expect all-inclusive pricing with no hidden charges or fees, no charges for services cancelled with 24-hours’ notice and prompt invoicing for services rendered

ACS Consumers can expect the most highly qualified service providers, who possess the professional skills and subject knowledge required for the assignment.

ACS Consumers can expect to be treated with respect, kindness, and professionalism

ACS Consumers can expect their CART, captioning, text interpreting, and platform sign language interpreting needs to be handled with one request and one method of payment

ACS Consumers can expect ACS to go the extra mile to ensure total consumer satisfaction

From all of us at Alternative Communication Services, may the blessings of the Season be yours throughout the coming year.

Access To the Spoken Word Supports Student Achievement

A popular song in the United States begins with the words, “I believe that children are our future…”  If that is so, then education is certainly vitally important to preparing children to meet that future and excel in it.  Alternative Communication Services (ACS) is committed to supporting student achievement in the classroom by helping deaf and hard of hearing access the spoken word.  Speech-to-text services are very important tools to help accomplish this.

Many parents and students have never heard about CART, C-Print and TypeWell. Others have many questions about these speech-to-text services. What are they, what are their differences and similarities, and how they can be accessed?

1. What are speech-to-text services, or CART, C-Print and TypeWell?

CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation) C-Print, and TypeWell belong to a class of communication accommodations for persons who are deaf and hard of hearing known as text-based accommodations, or speech-to-text services. 

Speech-to-text services are often used in place of sign language interpreters for students who do not use sign language or when the classroom content may contain specific vocabulary that is more easily presented in print.

All three systems can function either with the service provider at a remote location or in the classroom with the student. The transcription can be projected for a large audience or the student may view text on an individual computer screen, whether using the student’s own or the service provider’s computer. All three services are considered real-time accommodations to support communication access.  

CART is a word-for-word (verbatim) speech-to-text service produced by a stenographer using a stenographic machine, software, and technique. The stenographer transcribes 100% of what gets said at speeds of up to 225 words per minute. The stenographic equipment is connected to a computer where the words appear in English for the student to read. This accommodation is appropriate for students who demonstrate strong reading skills.

C-Print and Typewell are meaning-for-meaning interpretations of what gets said in a classroom by typists specially trained in text-condensing strategies. Fewer words are produced than with CART. A regular laptop computer is used by a typist trained in either a phonetic or alphabetic text-condensing strategy. Similar to CART, the typist’s laptop is connected to screen where the student reads the words typed. From the standpoint of the student and what they read, the particular text-condensing strategy chosen will make absolutely no difference in what the student reads. They will see regular English words condensing the discussion or instruction in class. The minimum reading grade level for text-interpreting to be useful is at least fourth grade.

Here is an example of verbatim text from CART, and the same speaker transcribed through text interpreting.

Phil: (CART) You recognize, it’s like, I’ve done lots of fun things, and I’ve had lots of fun opportunities, but this morning is the first day of the rest of my life.  And so I look forward to sharing with you a little bit this morning, and I look forward continuing to grow in this industry.  It’s pretty exciting.  Pretty unique opportunityName is Phil Hyssong.  My work within NCRA is certified manager of reporting services.“I will tell you right up front I am not a steno writer.  I have the utmost respect for the work that you do. I think the work you do is a gift and I wake up every day excited to be able to be a part of this fun profession.”

 Phil: (Text-interpreting) I’ve done lots of fun things, but this morning is the first day of the rest of my life. My name is Phil Hyssong. I am a certified manager of reporting services.  I’m not a steno writer.  I think the work you do is a gift and it’s a fun profession to be a part of.


2. What issues are at the forefront of accessing CART, C-Print, and TypeWell?

The first issue is documenting the need for the accommodation being requested in the student’s IEP.  Exactly when CART, C-Print, and TypeWell are considered necessary to support student learning and achievement is a topic often debated by parents, students, and schools.  

One family shared the perspective that when classroom content shifted to a more conversational, discussion-based format, it was more difficult to keep up with classroom information. For the student and his mom in Wisconsin quoted in this story, this shift happened in sixth or seventh grade and both felt that this was the time when real-time speech-to-text services became necessary to support the student’s ability to follow and fully participate in classroom discussions.

A second issue is cost.  Because CART requires stenographically trained practitioners with additional training in real-time technique, it is the more costly service to deploy.  But, for complex subject matter where capturing every word is essential to understanding, it is the preferred method. Text interpreting (C-Print and TypeWell) is less costly to deliver because the training is not as extensive and the equipment is not specialized.  Text interpreting does not capture every word. Text interpreting is considered when the subject matter lends itself well to an interpretation as opposed to a word-for-word translation. This particular student used both systems.  He started off with text-interpreting but as he moved into more challenging material he found that CART better supported his comprehension and learning. Only highly skilled service providers with the requisite certifications should be considered, because of student safety and confidentiality. Using unqualified providers will wind up costing more in the long run than it saves.

The third issue is actually deploying the service in the classroom. The student has to learn how to use the service. The teacher has to be willing to be transcribed, to speak in such a way that they can be transcribed (diction, pace, and possibly wearing a lapel microphone).  The teacher and the student need to be working together to make speech to text successful.

When asked if there were anything he wished teachers working with students who are deaf and hard of hearing and using technology could know and understand, the student shared, “This is what I would offer …   1) When a student tries to advocate for themselves, they are not trying to criticize the teaching style, but rather offering suggestions that allow them (the student) to succeed in that teacher’s class. 2) It helps to have a teacher willing to be accommodating to the student’s needs. 3) Know that a modification in teaching style for one student may benefit the whole classroom. 4) You can create a willingness to “do the best they can” attitude from your students.  What I mean by that is by having a teacher who is committed to working with you, the student may feel more committed to the class.”   

The fourth issue is that technology has to be present to allow the service to be used (internet access, audio capture for the speaker, equipment is in place and ready to go, etc.). None of these things are difficult, but they do require coordination between the school’s personnel, the student, the parent, the teachers, and the support or information technology staff. Some trial and error is to be expected at the beginning. The service provider should take the lead in offering technical support and trouble shooting. Thousands of students in hundreds of school districts successfully use this service remotely every day across the nation.  It can be done.

 3. What should every parent know about advocating for speech-to-text services for their child?

Every parent should understand that accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing definitely are NOT one-size-fits-all and speech-to-text services are no exception. Is your child sharing in effective communication in the classroom? If using interpreting, are qualified interpreters available and able to deliver content in each subject area at the grade level needed? If using residual hearing, do teachers implement preferential seating, check frequently for understanding, and utilize visual supports and different instructional methods for diverse learners? Don’t wait until the student is hopelessly behind to begin considering speech-to-text services in the IEP planning process. Assessments like the Functional Listening Evaluation can document speech comprehension in the classroom with and without speech-to-text services (with noise and distance) for comparison purposes for IEP or 504 planning. Objective data is priceless in any discussion about accommodation needs. Logan Wood also kept a log to record when he encountered specific challenges and how those challenges affected his learning and inclusion. Parents may be interested to know that the IDEA law does state that…”almost 30 years of research and experience has demonstrated that the education of children with disabilities can be made more effective by: (H) Supporting the development and use of technology, including assistive technology devices and assistive technology services, to maximize accessibility for children with disabilities.” (IDEA Assistive Technology Requirements, 20 U.S.C. 1400(c)(5)(H) (italics added.)

The mom interviewed for this story added, ”

“…as far as the IEP is concerned….maybe have one IEP a month after school starts and another 2 months before school ends, and if there are problems…more often in between :)

Also, have someone (we had WESP…Wisconsin Educational Services Program for the DHH) WESP-DHH.WI.GOV come and evaluate how your child does in school…with noise, without.  Get all the numbers on paper so you have that to back you up as a parent!  That was very helpful!  Two people came and observed Logan for 2 days in school. When we’d have difficulties requesting a service, we could go right back to the papers and there it was in writing!  Priceless!

And finally,   NEVER, EVER GIVE UP!     Keep looking, talking, searching, and networking with people until you can find someone to help you!  Be the squeaky wheel!”

4. Where else can parents find information about speech-to-text accommodations?


Contact Alternative Communication Services at

What is speech-to-text? What is the difference between CART, C-Print, and TypeWell?  A Guide to Speech-to-Text Services in the Postsecondary Environment,

Maryland Governor’s Office of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Author: Valerie Stafford-Mallis is an oral, late-deafened adult. Her bi-lateral sensorineural hearing loss was first noticed during her college years. She earned her MBA from Webster University, after losing most of her hearing. She now uses bilateral cochlear implants, and utilizes many types of assistive technology, including CART. Stafford-Mallis is the Business Development Manager for Alternative Communication Services (ACS) LLC, a full-service speech-to-text service provider that currently delivers over 1000 hours of speech-to-text services to school districts and post-secondary institutions throughout the United States each week. Reach the author at through


Hearing Assistive Technology to Make Meetings Accessible


Do you have a webinar or a conference call coming up?  If you do, ACS can help make the spoken word accessible for any participants who might be deaf or hard of hearing.  It is so simple when you contact ACS. Send us an email and let us demonstrate the ACS Alternative for webinars and conference calls today!

  • We interface seamlessly with the most commonly used web conference platforms (examples: Adobe Connect, Blackboard Collaborate, Cisco WebEx, Elluminate Live!, Citrix GoToMeeting, Google Hang Outs, Microsoft Live Meeting, and Centra)
  • We caption videos, DVD’s, webinars, and webcasts as well as speakers
  • Separate caption screens not necessary – we can insert captions into the same screen as the PowerPoint
  • We provide the most highly qualified caption writers and interpreters 24/7
  • We provide the hardware and software plus technical support.
  • We assist you with meeting planning and technology coordination.
  • Our staff are always pleasant, professional, and committed to meeting your needs.
  • We provide all-inclusive price quotes – there are no hidden fees.

ACS Team Members Supports HLAA Florida Walk for Hearing In a BIG Way

Team ACS really put its money where its mouth was this past Saturday (November 9th)…to the tune of $4253.00!

Valerie walked in the Hearing Loss Association of America’s Walk for Hearing in Jacksonville, Florida.  She participated as part of the Hearing Loss Association of Florida’s Sarasota Dream Team. The Mission of HLAA is to open the world of communication to people with hearing loss by providing information, education, support, and advocacy. Alternative Communication Services (ACS) LLC matched the funds Valerie Stafford-Mallis raised.

Team w Plaque

The Sarasota Dream Team was the top fundraising Team at the Walk.  Valerie was the top individual fundraiser.  In her remarks, when called up to the podium to be recognized for raising $4,253.00, Valerie thanked all of her friends and ACS colleagues who donated.  She credited the generosity of those friends and colleagues for making her success possible.  The Sarasota Chapter of HLAA will keep 40% of the funds raised and the rest will go to HLAA National.

Top fundraiser thanking ACS Team

In Valerie’s words “The generous CART writers, TypeWell transcribers, and sign language interpreters at ACS are the real heroes.  I was but the conduit.”   If you know any of these people, please reach out and thank them for supporting the Hearing Loss Association of America.

Donor Gift Amount
Valerie   Stafford-Mallis $100.00
Debbie and   Patrick Jimmerson $50.00
Sally Maiorano   and Family $100.00
Anonymous $50.00
The Christy   Family $50.00
Annette Blough $100.00
Lisa B.   Johnston $100.00
Tammy   Milcowitz $100.00
Mydge Heaney $50.00
Bonnie Gaventa $50.00
Beth Frazier $50.00
Anonymous $100.00
Loveeta $50.00
Anissa – ACS $100.00
The Hyssong   Family $100.00
LaShae and   Mike Flowers $150.00
Ken Deutsch $25.00
Heidi C Thomas $50.00
Jack and Brook   Nunn $50.00
Mrs. Belinda J   Bukovitz $35.00
Anonymous $15.00
Maria Anderson $200.00
Cindy Thompson $50.00
Darlene   Pickard $20.00
Richard   Williams $50.00
Mr. Michael J.   Cano $100.00
Tammera   Richards $100.00
Darlene   Herndon $35.00
Jodie Eckard $100.00
Corporate Match – Alternative Communication Services (ACS)   LLC $2,123.00

ACS gives back by supporting causes meaningful to its Team members.  ACS believes in making the world a better place through its services, through its people, and through the causes they support. ACS proudly supports the mission of the Hearing Loss Association of America in many ways in addition to donating to the Walk for Hearing.  Valerie serves the Hearing Loss Association of America as a Board of Trustees member.  ACS gladly underwrites her travel expenses and donates the time she spends away from her job as Business Development Manager to attend Board meetings.

You can learn more about ACS Corporate Philanthropy by clicking here.

ACS “Weathers the Storms of Change” at Southeast Regional Institute on Deafness

ACS was proud to support SERID 2013 by exhibiting, presenting, and making the spoken word accessible via CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation).

SERID 2013 Conference

at the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista this week.


ACS CART writer extraordinaire Mike Cano provided real-time speech-to-text translation for two days non-stop.


Keynote presenters included some very big names:



Monday evening’s entertainer CJ  was so taken with Mike and his skills that he included Mike in his act!  Mike and CJ brought the house down!

Photo of CJ Jones

ACS staffed an exhibit so attendees could learn more about remote CART, text-interpreting, and captioning.

Another Day at Exhibit

Valerie presented with Chris Littlewood on Real-World Emergency Preparedness for Persons Who Are Deaf and Hard of Hearing and then a solo workshop on Communication Strategies to Survive in the Workplace.  Both workshops were enthusiastically received and the audience participation was wonderful!

Hats off to the Southeast Regional Institute on Deafness for another wonderful conference and hats off to Team ACS for being a part of it!

Team ACS Heads Out to TDI-ALDA in Albuquerque NM – “The Land of Enchantment”

Team ACS is “on the road again”.  We are headed out to Albuquerque NM today and tomorrow to begin the Telecommunications of the Deaf Inc.-Association of Late-Deafened Adults (TDI-ALDA) Joint Conference. The Conference officially opens Wednesday Oct. 16 and runs through Sunday October 20, 2013 at the beautiful Hotel Albuquerque in Albuquerque, New Mexico.


CART writer extraordinaire and co-owner Mike Cano was the first Team ACS member to arrive.  He is donating his services at the Conference.  He begins providing speech-to-text services for the ALDA Board of Directors Meeting bright and early tomorrow morning and will be kept busy during the entire conference.  Co-owner Phil Hyssong and Business Development Manager Valerie Stafford-Mallis will arrive Wednesday to provide information and educational materials to Conference Attendees at the ACS exhibit.

There is a great line-up of Speakers and Workshops.  Valerie will be presenting a session on Saturday on what persons who are deaf and hard of hearing need to know BEFORE they go to the hospital. To see more information on the Workshops and other conference activities, go to this link and scroll to the bottom.

The conference will have lots of opportunities for play as well as work.  There are several “field trips” planned “before, during and after” the conference.   Saturday brings a beautiful walk through Old Town Albuquerque. This is on Saturday afternoon, October 19th, after the workshops and before Karaoke. ALDA Karaoke is a world unto itself and is a highlight of the Conference every year. This year we will invite our friends at TDI to “sing along with ALDA”. Last, but not least, is a guided tour of the Pueblo of Acoma “Sky City” on Sunday afternoon (after the brunch), October 20th, about an hour from Albuquerque.


Here is “Born To Be Wild” Valerie channeling John Kay of Steppenwolf with a group of her buddies last year.

Phil, Mike, and Valerie are very much looking forward to reconnecting with old friends and making new friends.

Come join us in “The Land of Enchantment”!

ACS Rocks at USBLN

Last week I was fortunate enough to exhibit at the USBLN Annual Conference and Expo in sunny Los Angeles.  It was a great experience!  I attended interesting and informative workshops, met a lot of great contacts and reconnected with people I met last year. As a result, Alternative Communication Services is poised to even more effectively make the spoken word accessible to persons who are deaf and hard of hearing.

Big Grin Bfast Plenary

The ACS exhibit was very active and folks were really interested in learning more about our fabulous speech-to-text and sign language interpreting services.

Big Grin Exhibit Shot

If I spoke with you last week, please be sure to take advantage of the special ACS services post card I gave you with a fabulous offer just for USBLN attendees. If for some reason your post card did not make it home with you, please email me and I’ll give you another one! Just send a message to me thru , tell me the offer you are requesting, and give me your contact info. I will respond right away.

All work and no play makes for a dull day.  We made time for fun at USBLN, too.  The Awards Reception and Banquet was elegant and it was such fun to dress up in our Hollywood finery.  After all, if you can’t glam it up in LA-LA Land, where can you?

2013 USBLN Evening Event

Thank you for reading this far and please let us help you make the spoken word accessible in your organization.  We would love to demonstrate our services to you and demonstrate why we are “The Alternative”.

Valerie Stafford-Mallis

Business Development Manager

Alternative Communication Services (ACS) LLC

What Are You Doing To Protect Your Hearing?

October Is…

National Protect Your Hearing Month
National Audiology Awareness Month

Have you stopped going to restaurants and social gatherings? Do you keep to yourself when in noisy environments? If you answered yes, you may have a hearing problem.  Some tell signs of hearing loss are: trouble hearing conversation in a noisy environment such as restaurants, difficulty or inability to hear people talking to you without looking at them, and/or a constant   pain or ringing in your ears.

Hearing loss is an increasing health concern in this nation that is often preventable. “Hearing loss can be caused by exposure to loud noises, ear infections, trauma, or ear disease; harm to the inner ear and ear drum, illness or certain medications, and deterioration due to the normal aging process,” explains the American Academy of Audiologists web site.

The amount of noise Americans are exposed to today plays an important role in the recent increase of hearing loss across the nation. Over half of the 36 million Americans with some degree of hearing loss are under the age of 65, according to the American Academy of Audiology.  One in three developed their hearing loss as a result of exposure to noise, causing noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).  Hearing loss is no longer just a health concern for seniors.

Here are some signs that an event is too loud and that you should wear hearing protection:

  • You need to shout to be heard by yourself and people around you
  • Your ears ring during or after the event
  • You experience a decrease in your hearing or a feeling of fullness in your ears before or after the event

October is National Protect Your Hearing Month.  Alternative Communication Services and the American Academy of Audiology are encouraging Americans to be aware of the danger of NIHL and to protect their hearing.

October is also National Audiology Awareness Month.  On average, most Americans don’t know how to recognize the first signs of hearing loss or which health professional is qualified to diagnose and treat the condition.  If you think you may have a hearing loss, you need to see an audiologist or other licensed hearing health care professional.

An audiologist is a licensed and clinically experienced health-care professional who specializes in evaluating, diagnosing, and treating people with hearing loss and balance disorders. The first step in treatment of a hearing problem is to get your hearing evaluated by an audiologist. A hearing evaluation will determine the degree of hearing loss you have and what can be done. Although most hearing loss is permanent, an audiologist can determine the best treatment, which may include hearing aids, assistive listening devices, and hearing rehabilitation.

For more information:

What Are You Doing To Celebrate International Week of the Deaf?



The National Association of the Deaf and the World Federation of the Deaf will be celebrating the International Week of the Deaf this fall during the week of September 23-27.  For the last several years, the World Federation of the Deaf has identified yearly themes and this year’s theme in 2013 is Equality for Deaf People.

What can you do to be a part of the effort to support equal access for deaf people in all aspects of life?

Well, if you are a political activist / organizer you can organize a march, debate, campaign, or meeting to promote the rights of deaf people in your community or state.  The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) has several national initiatives planned to promote its support for equality for deaf people. NAD is advocating to Congress that it ratify the Convention of Rights for People with Disabilities (CRPD).  In a partnership with the US International Council on Disabilities (USICD) NAD is planning a “Contact Congress Day” that will include a visit to Capitol Hill for all who wish to participate.  To learn more about the CRPD and the National Association of the Deaf’s advocacy, click on  and

If you believe that the personal is political, you can always advocate for equal communication access for yourself and for those whom you hold dear whenever you encounter the need.  This could take the form of requesting sign language interpreting, speech-to-text services, or assistive listening devices at work, at church or synagogue, at live theatrical performances, at the movies, at the doctor’s office, at school.  If you are unsure of how to advocate for what you need, do a web search on How to Advocate if You Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing and then browse the websites of  the organizations you see. You will be amazed at how many local, statewide, and national resources come up in a web search!

Here at Alternative Communication Services, we advocate for methods that will improve communication access for persons who are deaf and hard of hearing.  We present at national conferences, we hold webinars for interested organizations, we reach out to businesses, convention planners, employers, educational institutions, healthcare organizations, and anyone who wants to learn more about making the spoken word accessible to persons who are deaf and hard of hearing. For more information on who we are and what we do, click

Happy advocating!