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Interview with Kayde Rieken

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In the fact that she is blind, Kayde Rieken is unlike most other students. Even though she has to do things differently than other students, she is still progressing and deals with the same challenges that other court reporting students face. Conducting an interview with her was a pleasure, and her answers were very informative as to how she progresses in the program.

 

So, how do you do it?! It is crazy to think about doing this without having any vision, but you are doing it, and you are succeeding, so how is it even possible?

 

I have an ordinary laptop which I take classes and run my software, Eclipse, on; but I also have a text-to-speech screen reader called Jaws for Windows. This takes any print on my screen and reads it out in synthesized speech. Most of the time, I have it read me things very fast because I’ve been using it for a long time. Most people cannot understand my computer and wonder if it’s actually speaking English.

 

I also, however, use what’s called a refreshable Braille display. This is a device that connects to my computer via USB or Bluetooth and works in conjunction with my screen reader. It has small metal pins that form the Braille as the print appears on the screen. In this way, I can mute the synthesized speech and just read the Braille output. I do this all the time for reading back steno, as Jaw for Windows tries to pronounce the steno outlines as if they are ordinary English words which, as you can imagine, does not work very well. Because of this, I don’t know how I could do court reporting without Braille. Since I learned Braille at the age that most sighted children learn print, I can read and write it as fast and efficiently as a sighted person does print.

 

Another thing I use every day is a Braille notetaker, which I was able to purchase with an equipment scholarship from CCR. This is similar to a Braille display, in that it has electronic Braille output, but it does not need a computer and screen reader in order to function. It has its own operating system, though it is not as powerful as a computer. It can best be compared, I think, to a PDA or tablet. On this device I have my theory notebook with all the briefs and phrases and rules, as well as all my CCR textbooks in electronic format. These were provided to me after I purchased the print copies and sent the school a receipt. By reading from my notetaker, I am able to do straight-copy, although I have to read a sentence or so and then write it, as I only have two hands. :) It may take me slightly longer to do this, but I don't mind; it's essential for helping me figure out how to write difficult words, and I can log more minutes on my time management plans!

 

Do you have someone who helps you transcribe for SEs and SAPs?

 

That’s usually not necessary. I am quite a stubborn, independent person; and if I can find a way to do things by myself, and it doesn't cause serious inconvenience, that is what I prefer. I can edit and submit my transcripts using my Braille display and screen reader with no problems. However, for Transcript Prep class, where things had to be formatted in a very specific way, I had a family member or friend check my paper for me to make sure things looked visually correct. I don't think this will be as necessary now that I've started to learn how to format things in Eclipse.

 

When first starting in Theory I and Theory II, what were some of the biggest challenges you faced?

 

Starting at CCR back in 2013 was a very overwhelming time for me. I had just lost my first Seeing Eye dog two days before my first semester; and on top of that, I was having major Java issues. I really had no idea how my CAT software worked, and at that time I hadn't acquired a Braille display. I will never forget how patient and encouraging Jami, my theory teacher, was when I was working all these things out. Within a week or so, one of my close friends loaned me a
display; another blind friend of mine who works in IT was able to fix my Java problems; and I found another blind court reporting student who also used Eclipse and who was able to coach me through the basics. (Her name is Kolby, by the way, and she is a recent transfer student
to CCR.) To be honest, I didn't find the material itself or the concept of writing machine shorthand to be challenging. This may be because I've always been fascinated by languages, and I play the piano, which has been compared to writing on a steno machine. Also,
Braille and steno are similar in many ways, as one letter can mean a single word in the Braille code, just like in machine shorthand.

 

Do you still face those challenges or have they become easier with time and experience?

 

The challenges I face today are those of a typical court reporting student. I still occasionally have problems with Java, along with a lot of the people on the forums. I sometimes become frustrated when I can't pass a speed test, and I still sometimes get stuck on that darned steno outline I always get wrong. During these times, I have my instructors and fellow students from whom to get ideas and encouragement.

 

What are your biggest accomplishments, either pertaining to school or just your life in general?

 

As for my accomplishments in school, I am rather proud of the fact that I attained a 4.0 GPA for the majority of my semesters at CCR. I also feel like each passed test and each SE is an accomplishment because it helps me learn what I'm doing right and what I need to work on. As for other accomplishments, I have won awards in, and am an active member of, the National Federation of the Blind and have been involved with the Nebraska Association of Blind Students for several years. I love networking with blind students and being a mentor. Also, I am a pianist and vocalist, I love to cook, and I am an avid reader. I think my most recent accomplishment not related to school, though, is working with my current Seeing Eye dog, Fawn, and changing her from a wild puppy into a civilized service animal.

 

Do you have any advice you would like to give to blind students or students who have any other disability who are wondering if this is something they can do?

 

The advice I would give to students with disabilities is to do their research and find mentors. It's very important to be well-informed on the field of court reporting and to talk to those who have been there. I have not yet found a blind reporter who is presently working; but I do have many blind mentors and mentors who are court reporters, and they all have been supportive and helpful. Once I am out of school and working, though, I would be happy to mentor someone.

 

What field of court reporting do you want to go into upon completion of the program?

 

I am waiting for my internship to make a firm decision as to what field of reporting I want to go into, but I have always found the courtroom setting fascinating. However, I am taking a captioning class and think that being a CART provider or captioner could be an amazing career option as well.

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