Category Archives: Uncategorized

Let ACS and PostCAP help ensure instructional media accessibility


Did you know that it is not just professors lecturing and the videos they show in a classroom that need captions, so that persons who are deaf and hard of hearing can understand what is being said?  ANY media used by your institution on its website or in its distance learning portal must be accessible to students who are deaf and hard of hearing…regardless of whether or not students with hearing loss specifically make a request.  Think of how your institution makes its buildings accessible to persons who use wheelchairs without waiting for a specific request for wheelchair access.  In the same way,  your instructional content needs to be accessible to people who are deaf and hard of hearing.

It is sometimes erroneously believed that making media accessible is optional or at the discretion of whether or not the school believes it can afford captioning.  You might want to re-think that.  February 12, 2015, the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) filed federal class action complaints against two of our nation’s most prestigious institutions of higher learning. The lawsuits allege these two institutions discriminate against persons who are deaf and hard of hearing because their online instructional content is either not captioned, or captioned so poorly as to not support equal access to understanding its meaning. NAD alleged this lack of captioning deprives 48 million Americans who are deaf and hard-of-hearing of the same educational opportunities as those who can hear. The suits also alleged lack of captioning violates Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title III of the ADA.

So, how in the WORLD does an educational institution caption the instructional media it has in its digital library? Most institutions lack the number of people necessary to complete such a task.  Fortunately, a post-production captioning vendor, chosen wisely, can do it for you.  The trick is to choose the right captioning agency for your institution’s needs. 

T.J. DiGrazia, Operations Manager of Alternative Communication Services (ACS) LLC and owner of its post-production captioning sister company, PostCAP LLC, presented on this  very topic last summer at the Association of Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD) Annual Conference in Sacramento, CA.  T.J’s presentation was so enthusiastically received that AHEAD interviewed him for an in-depth follow up discussion published in the October 2014 issue of Disability Compliance for Higher Ed.

For more detail, you may view an electronic copy of the article published in September 2014 by clicking on this link

T.J. suggested you educate yourself on the following before speaking with vendors:

  1. Determine your institution’s internal policies on captioning online videos and DVD’s.  Document your efforts to secure written permissions to caption copyrighted material.
  2. Educate yourself about the post-production captioning process and the key terms captioning vendors are likely to use: open captioning vs closed captioning, roll-on versus pop-up captions, captions versus subtitles, types of audio files, standards for captioning (synchrony, placement, accuracy, and completeness), time codes, and so on.
  3. Trusted sources for acquiring this background information such as Alternative Communication Services, PostCAP,
  4. Understand how vendors determine cost

Once you understand the basics, T.J. said you are ready to interview vendors.  All vendors are not created equal.  These are the key questions you want your vendor to answer to your satisfaction:

  1. Determine the vendor’s per-minute pricing as well as any minimum lengths imposed with that pricing
  2. Ask what you will receive…will it be the finished product (captioned video) or just a captioning file you will then have to combine with the video on your end
  3. Find out how the media files will be exchanged between you and your captioning vendor
  4. See if there are any ways you can cut costs without sacrificing communication access
  5. Request the vendor to demonstrate by captioning a five-minute video for free.  Walk away if they balk.

Alternative Communication Services and its sister company PostCAP LLC have been helping entities with their digital media for a long time. They will be happy to answer any questions you might have. For more information, you may contact T.J. DiGrazia at

 Disability Compliance for Higher Education article cited in this blog:

(2014), Using post-production captioning vendor can help you ensure media accessibility. Disability Comp. Higher Ed., 20: 1, 4-5. doi: 10.1002/dhe.20082

Yes, You CAN Caption Your School’s Graduation Ceremonies


Speech-to-text services, delivered either remotely or onsite, can make the spoken word accessible to students, teachers, parents, grandparents, and siblings, (not to mention potential donors) who are deaf or hard of hearing.  Because hearing loss is so prevalent in the United States (its incidence doubles with each decade of life) it can significantly impact your audience’s enjoyment of this once-in-a-lifetime event.  You go to a lot of trouble to make your school’s graduation ceremonies worthy of the milestone they celebrate.  Imagine how excited people with hearing loss will be when they are able to fully follow every word that gets said, and the positive impression they will have of your school.

Want to know more? The Alternative Communication Services (ACS) white paper Communication Access for Graduation Ceremonies will demystify the process and start you on your way to providing communication access to everyone. ACS Business Development Manager Valerie Stafford-Mallis will be happy to send you a copy.  Please email your request to .

Scan ACS WordCloud Exhibit Design


Working Through The Noise

Hearing Loss Universal Signal

HLAA Executive Director Anna Gilmore Hall and I recently co-authored an article for Mediaplanet USA’s Vision and Hearing campaign.  Anna and I joined forces with industry leaders and advocates to raise awareness of the millions of Americans currently living and working with hearing loss and visual impairment. Our purpose was to help people learn about the technologies that assist people with hearing and vision loss and to encourage people to protect their vision and hearing.

Alternative Communication Services (ACS) was proud and honored to participate because our speech-to-text services help thousands of people not only survive, but thrive, in the workplace.  We make communication accessible in challenging workplace situations such as conference calls, webinars, videos, conferences, and meetings. For more information on how we can help you or someone you know work through the noise, please email me at

The campaign was distributed in the USA Today March 13th 2015 issue and published online. To view the full campaign, please click here:



Phil Hyssong, one of the founders of Alternative Communication Services (ACS) LLC, EduCAPTION (EC), LLC and PostCAP (PC), LLC was recently appointed by the FCC to the Video Programming Subcommittee of the Disability Advisory Committee.  The Disability Advisory Committee was established by the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), and its first meeting will take place March 17, 2015.  The Video Programming Sub-Committee is charged with addressing the issue of video programming access (including closed captioning, video description, access to video programming apparatus, and access to televised emergency information. This is an extremely prestigious appointment for Mr. Hyssong and speaks to his excellent reputation within the telecommunications industry.  “I am humbled and appreciative of the opportunity to work with such a talented group of professionals in such a meaningful way,” stated Hyssong.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler said recently, “I am tremendously excited for the FCC’s Disability Advisory Committee to begin its important work.  This new Committee will provide sorely needed expertise and recommendations from consumers and industry stakeholders on communications and video programming issues.  We look forward to using this expertise to improve our ability to meet the needs of consumers with disabilities.”

Alternative Communication Services (ACS) LLC, EduCAPTION (EC), LLC and PostCAP (PC), LLC focus on captioning and making the spoken word accessible to persons who are deaf and hard of hearing.  ACS was started in 2007 and met with immediate success.  ACS is one of the largest providers of CART Captioning and Text Interpreting services in the United States.  EC was successfully acquired in 2010 and focuses on broadcast captioning services.  PostCAP was started in 2014 focused on the post-production captioning arena.  All three companies continue to demonstrate positive growth toward a 2020 goal to exceed $10 million in combined annual revenues.   

Hyssong has over 27 years of experience in the areas of television, captioning and accessible media.  He is a Certified Manager of Reporting Services (CMRS), holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in Education and has successfully concluded the initial TypeWell training programming.  As company Owner/Manager with significant experience serving people with hearing loss, he will be an asset to the Commission’s work and is eager to serve on the Commission’s Disability Advisory Video Programming Sub-Committee. 

For additional information, contact Valerie Stafford-Mallis, Business Development Manager ACS Preferred: 

Alternate  800-335-0911.

What Can You Do To Make Listening Safe and Protect Your Hearing?


The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared March 3rd International Ear Care Day (IECD).

There are all sorts of great ideas you can take advantage of to prevent noise-induced hearing loss.  Make safe listening a priority.  Once you lose your hearing, it won’t come back!

Monitor Safe Listening Levels

Auditory Overload image

The permissible time for safe listening decreases as sound levels increase.  When listening to personal audio devices, it is advisable to crank the volume up no more than 60% of your device’s maximum. Carefully fitted earphones and headphones will allow music to be hear clearly at lower levels of volume than will be possible with inexpensive earbuds.  Noise-cancelling earphones and headphones will cut down background noise and allow you to hear clearly at even lower volumes. Even at this level, limiting the use of personal audio devices to less than one hour per day would do much to reduce your exposure to hearing loss inducing noise.

The picture below shows examples of various levels of sound produced by different objects. The red highlights the maximum safe listening duration in hours, minutes, and seconds. Applications, or “apps” accessible through smartphones can measure noise exposure levels in real-time, so you can inform yourself about your exposure to noise loud enough to damage your hearing. The daily recommended safe volume level of ANY and ALL sound is below 85decibels for a maximum duration of eight hours.

Scan Permissible Daily Exposures Picture

The risk from noise exposure is cumulative.  In addition to limiting the use of personal audio devices, what can you do?

  • Limit the amount of time spent engaged in noisy activities
  • Wear hearing protection
  • Take short listening breaks
  • Move away from loud sounds

Heed the warning signs of hearing loss

Make an appointment to see a hearing health professional if you find yourself having difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds such as doorbells, telephones or alarm clocks.  Also, should you have trouble understanding speech, especially over the telephone or when there is any background noise, get thee to a hearing health professional.  Should you begin to have ringing in your ears or hear phantom noises that sound like clicks or whooshes you should get checked out.

If you have already visited a hearing health professional, have implemented all their recommendations (including hearing aids), and find you still struggle, assistive listening technology might help you better understand the spoken word. At Alternative Communication Services (ACS), we caption conference calls, webinars, videos, meetings, training, events, and TV shows.  We capture 100% of what gets said at speeds of up to 225 words per minute, with a 98.5% accuracy. We use highly skilled professionals to do this.  We do not use speech recognition software.  Let us show you how our speech-to-text services can change your life!

You can reach me at


2015 National Court Reporting & Captioning Week Kicks Off Feb. 15

NCRA logo

VIENNA, Va., Jan. 7, 2015 — TheTakeNote campaign, launched by the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA), the country’s leading organization representing stenographic court reporters, broadcast and CART captioners, and legal videographers, serves as a main theme during the 2015 National Court Reporting & Captioning Week, which runs Feb. 15-21. This year’s event marks the third year NCRA has sponsored the celebration designed to help increase the public’s awareness about the growing number of employment opportunities the profession offers. 

Here at ACS we are especially mindful of the difference CART makes in the lives of our consumers and our employees. Our CART, broadcast, and post-production  caption writers make it possible for people who are deaf and hard-of-hearing to understand the spoken word on TV shows, in the classroom, on conference calls and webinars, at conferences and conventions, and when watching videos and films.  The impact of this amazing communicant access cannot be underestimated and we deliver our work product with great joy.

As ACS Business Development Manager Valerie Stafford-Mallis says, “I began losing my hearing in 1978 and I did not experience the miracle of CART until thirty year later,  when ACS co-owner and CART writer Mike Cano captioned a job interview for me. The heavens of equal communication access opened because for the first time, I was able to understand what everybody in that room said to me.  Ladies and gentlemen, on the eighth day, God created CART. “

So, congratulations to the members of NCRA as they Take Note and celebrate 2015’s National Court Reporting and Captioning Week kicking off the day after Valentines’ Day.  If you know a court reporter or caption writer, tell them “Thank you for making the world a better place.”  If you are interested in this exciting career option, check out the Take Note Campaign sponsored by the National Court Reporter’s Association

And, for more information on the many ways CART can open the world of equal communication access to you or someone you care about, email me at

Do you still think people in your workplace or classroom aren’t struggling to hear???

Hearing Loss Pie Chart

Alternative Communication Services (ACS) LLC has been providing speech-to-text and platform sign language interpreting services to businesses, conferences, and schools since 2007.  We have leveled the playing field for thousands of people with hearing loss.

  1. About 2 to 3 out of every 1,000 children in the United States are born with a detectable level of hearing loss in one or both ears.1
  2. More than 90 percent of deaf children are born to hearing parents.2
  3. About 48 million Americans have a meaningful hearing loss in at least one ear.  One in eight people in the United States (13 percent, or 30 million) aged 12 years or older has hearing loss in both ears, based on standard hearing examinations. 3
  4. Men are more likely than women to report having hearing loss.4
  5. About 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have disabling hearing loss. The rate increases to 8.5 percent for adults aged 55 to 64. Nearly 25 percent of those aged 65 to 74 and 50 percent of those who are 75 and older have disabling hearing loss.5
  6. The NIDCD (National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders) estimates that approximately 15 percent of Americans (26 million people) between the ages of 20 and 69 have high frequency hearing loss due to exposure to noise at work or during leisure activities.6
  7. Roughly 10 percent of the U.S. adult population, or about 25 million Americans, has experienced tinnitus lasting at least five minutes in the past year.7
  8. Among adults aged 70 and older with hearing loss who could benefit from hearing aids, fewer than one in three (30 percent) has ever used them. Even fewer adults aged 20 to 69 (approximately 16 percent) who could benefit from wearing hearing aids have ever used them.8
  9. As of December 2012, approximately 324,200 people worldwide have received cochlear implants. In the United States, roughly 58,000 adults and 38,000 children have received them.9
  10. Five out of 6 children experience ear infection (otitis media) by the time they are 3 years old.10The above statistics were compiled by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD).


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Identifying infants with hearing loss – United States, 1999-2007. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 59(8): 220-223.
    Vohr B. Overview: infants and children with hearing loss—part I. Ment Retard Dev Disabil Res Rev. 2003;9:62–64.
  2. Mitchell RE, Karchmer MA. Chasing the mythical ten percent: Parental hearing status of deaf and hard of hearing students in the United States. Sign Language Studies. 2004;4(2):138-163.
  3. Lin FR, Niparko JK, Ferrucci L.  Hearing loss prevalence in the United States. [Letter] Arch Intern Med. 2011 Nov 14; 171(20): 1851-1852.
  4. Pleis JR, Ward BW, Lucas JW. Summary health statistics for U.S. adults: National Health Interview Survey, 2009. National Center for Health Statistics. Vital Health Stat 10(249). 2010.
  5. Based on calculations performed by NIDCD Epidemiology and Statistics Program staff:  (1) using data from the 1999-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES); (2) applying the definition of disabling hearing loss used by the 2010 Global Burden of Disease Expert Hearing Loss Team (hearing loss of 35 decibels or more in the better ear, the level at which adults could generally benefit from hearing aids).
  6. Hoffman HJ, Ko C-W, Themann CL, Dillon CF, Franks JR. Reducing noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) in adults to achieve U.S. Healthy People 2010 goals. Abstract. Am J Epidemiol. 2006 Jun (Suppl S);163(11):S122.
  7. Based on calculations performed by NIDCD Epidemiology and Statistics Program staff: (1) tinnitus prevalence was obtained from the 2008 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS); (2) the estimated number of American adults reporting tinnitus was calculated by multiplying the prevalence of tinnitus by the 2013 U.S. Census population estimate for the number of adults (18+ years of age).
  8. Based on calculations by NIDCD Epidemiology and Statistics Program staff using data collected by (1) the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) annually for number of persons who have ever used a hearing aid [numerator], and (2) periodic NHANES hearing exams for representative samples of the U.S. adult and older adult population [denominator]; these statisticis are also used for tracking Healthy People 2010 and 2020 objectives. See also Use of Hearing Aids by Adults with Hearing Loss (chart).
  9. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), 2012.
  10. Teele DW, Klein JO, Rosner B. Epidemiology of otitis media during the first seven years of life in children in greater Boston: a prospective, cohort study. J Infect Dis. 1989 Jul;160(1):83-94.

For a demonstration of how we can help you create a more hearing-friendly workplace or classroom please email ACS business Development Manager Valerie Stafford-Mallis at

Hearing-Friendly Workplaces Pay Dividends



Unaddressed hearing loss affects not only an individual’s ability to understand and to be understood, but it can affect the individual’s on-the-job productivity. For instance, workers who are not able to communicate effectively in the workplace may experience more conflict with supervisors and co-workers, have difficulty following directions, be more accident-prone, underachieve, struggle with group assignments, and become isolated from their teammates.

The benefits of assisting workers with disabilities and of creating a disability-friendly workplace far outweigh the costs. For example, the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), funded by the United States Department of Labor (USDOL), interviewed 807 employers between June 28, 2008, and July 31, 2014. Employers in the JAN study represented a range of industry sectors and sizes. The study results consistently showed that the benefits employers receive from offering workplace assistance far outweigh the low cost. Employers reported that providing assistance resulted in such benefits as retaining valuable employees, improving productivity and morale, reducing workers’ compensation and training costs, and improving company diversity. These benefits were obtained with little investment. The employers in the study reported that a high percentage (57%) of assistance costs absolutely nothing to make, while the rest typically costs only $500. What is the bottom line? Workplace assistance low cost and high impact.

SOURCE / CITATION: Job Accommodation Network (Original 2005, Updated 2007, Updated 2009, Updated 2010, Updated 2011, Updated 2012, Updated 2013, Updated 2014). Workplace accommodations: Low cost, high impact. Retrieved 5 December 2014,

Making a workplace hearing-friendly to all employees can deliver the following benefits:

  • Creates a work environment where creativity flourishes, enabling employees to create a competitive advantage
  • Streamlines processes that improve operational efficiency
  • Reduces the high cost of employee turnover, absenteeism, and under-performance
  • Increases workplace safety
  • Reduces management time spent on handling employee conflict
  • Maximizes employee productivity at work
  • Improves interactions with customers and supply chain partners
  • Minimizes destructive disruptions to the work flow

You might wonder what kinds of assistance might cost little or nothing? No-cost assistance might be as simple as following effective communication practices and good meeting etiquette: Distributing meeting agendas in advance, having only one person speaking at a time after being recognized, offering note-taking projected on a computer + LCD or whiteboard visible to the group as a whole, and providing summaries of key discussion points and action items distributed promptly after a meeting concludes.

Improving communication access in the workplace might involve the use of other low-cost / high-impact services and devices such as personal FM systems, hand-held microphones, real-time speech-to-text captions, sign language interpreters, signaling and alerting devices. Even conference calls and web-based meetings can now be made accessible through remote captioning. None of these communication access assists typically presents an undue burden to a business nor fundamentally alters the nature of its business.

For more information, contact us today by emailing  and let us help you make your workplace more hearing-friendly.

Speech-to-Text Services for School Districts


With the first half of the 2014-2015 academic year coming to a close, ACS is receiving quite a few inquiries from school districts on behalf of students who have been struggling to access the spoken word in their classrooms.  Here’s an overview of the two speech-to-text options that we provide most commonly here at ACS. 

Remote CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation) is a word-for-word transcription of what gets said in the classroom. It is performed by highly skilled transcribers who have undergone stenography training, plus additional real-time transcription training to increase speed and accuracy.  Students with a reading grade level and reading speed equal to the level at which the instructor is speaking are best-served by this service. Courses with specialized vocabulary and content in which every word is critical are excellent candidates for CART.  It is billed with a one-hour minimum charge and then we bill in 15-minute increments thereafter. 

The second speech-to-text option is called remote Text Interpreting (TypeWell or C-Print). This is a meaning-for-meaning translation of what is said in the classroom. The integrity and quality of the sentence is not lost, but simply condensed.  This service is performed by highly skilled computer keyboardists who have been trained in alphabetic or phonetic text condensing strategies.  This is an excellent option for high school students who read more slowly or who have a reading grade level of at least 4th or 5th grade. It is also useful for students for whom English is a second language, such as students who communicate in ASL. This service is also billed with a one-hour minimum charge and then we bill in 30-minute increments thereafter. 

With both services you receive a transcript, training for students/staff, technical support, and the ACS experience! Our per hour pricing is all-inclusive, there are no additional fees. Providing remote services is the easy part, but at ACS we engage the student, staff, accounting and IT department making the use of remote CART services easy. ACS provides students with access to SAM (Scheduling Management System) and their own captioning account. 

The hardware needed for remote speech-to-text services is a laptop with access to the internet and a microphone (see below) to capture the sound. You will need SKYPE software to assist in the audio process, but the software is free and easily downloadable. In a majority of our high schools students are responsible for setting up their laptop, microphone, and accessing the remote captioning. We do provide training for the student, coordinators, and teaching staff, although there is very little training needed. Really we simply educate folks on what is happening. It’s nice to have the school’s IT department engaged in the process, but it’s not required.

Microphone Information

ACS provides a one-stop shop for your voice-to-text services and the equipment necessary to produce the best product possible.

To get additional information or order any product from ACS MarketPlace, please click on the link below.  Information and a rate quote will be provided to you with further ordering instructions.  

 Revolabs Desktop System with Solo EX Mic

When clear audio is needed for an interactive class, this Revolab system is an excellent choice. The microphone covers a wide range and is completely wireless. The base unit remains near the student laptop and needs AC power, but the microphone charges quickly, is very small and portable and can be moved to any location in the classroom.

Revolabs xTag 

This is the best lavaliere microphone that we have found. For lecture intensive courses, this microphone cannot be beat. Students power it through the USB port on their laptop. It can attach to the professor or lecturer with a clip or lanyard. This is a great microphone and delivers crystal clear audio.

One of the characteristics that set ACS apart from our competition is that we listen to you. We have vast experience in business and education, but we have found the most effective service is when we listen to you and provide a solution that best meets your needs. You can go to our website and click on StreamText

and then click on Demo.

You should be able to see text flowing on the screen. You can adjust fonts and colors to meet your needs. We would welcome the chance to demonstrate the service to you and staff at no cost. 

We will listen to you as you advise us on your student’s particular classroom challenges and together we will help you implement a solution. We look forward to demonstrating to you why we are the Alternative!


US Department of Justice Issues New Guidance on Effective Communication for Students with Hearing Loss

The U.S. Departments of Justice (DOJ) and Education (ED) released joint guidance on effective communication with students with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which outlines the responsibility of public schools to ensure that communication with students with hearing, vision, or speech disabilities is as effective as communication with all other students. Public schools must apply both the IDEA analysis and the Title II (of ADA) effective communication analysis in determining how to meet the communication needs of an IDEA‐eligible student with a hearing, vision, or speech disability. The guidance includes FAQs, a “Dear Colleague” letter, and a fact sheet on “Meeting the Communication Needs of Students with Hearing, Vision, or Speech Disabilities.”

You may view the documents on


The joint guidance explains public schools’ responsibilities under the ADA and IDEA to meet the communication needs of students with hearing, vision, or speech disabilities. IDEA requires that schools make available a free appropriate public education (FAPE), consisting of special education and related services, to all eligible children with disabilities (including those with disabilities that result in communication needs). Title II of the ADA requires schools to ensure that students with disabilities receive communication that is as effective as communication with others through the provision of appropriate auxiliary aids and services.

A recent federal court decision highlighted that the Title II effective communication requirement differs from the requirements in IDEA. In some instances, in order to comply with Title II, a school may have to provide the student with auxiliary aids or services that are not required under IDEA. In other instances, the communication services provided under IDEA will meet the requirements of both laws for an individual student.

For more information please contact ACS Business Development Manager Valerie Stafford-Mallis