MERRILLVILLE | Captioning – instantly changing the spoken word into print – is the life work of Kathy Cortopassi and a quality-of-life saver to many of those she serves.
Cortopassi, a certified court reporter for more than 25 years, began captioning 10 years ago when a mentor asked her to attend a musical and convert the production’s words to text for a female client.
The client’s daughter was taking her to the theater as a birthday gift, an experience both had enjoyed for years before the mother's hearing declined.
The emotional result of Cortopassi’s efforts completely changed the focus of her career.
“The women came up to me afterwards and dropped to her knees,” Cortopassi said. “She wrapped her arms around my waist and with tears streaming done her face and told me it was the best birthday gift she’s ever been given.”
Cortopassi is president of Voice to Print Captioning, a business that provides instant and verbatim real-time closed captioning, post-production captioning, in-person captioning, remote captioning, internet streaming and court reporting and audio transcription services.
Although she loves to caption for theater performances, she also captions for television, conferences, churches, city council meetings, seminars and many other types of functions.
Much of her work is for businesses, with the majority of that for multi-national companies with employees with hearing loss or translation needs. Another 40 percent is called CARP: communication access real-time translation. CARP facilitates communication for people with hearing loss and other sensory or cognitive disabilities.
Voice to Print Captioning also performs transcription and court reporting, Cortopassi said.
“I take the spoken word and turn it into print verbatim,” she said. “People with hearing loss get exposed to something I’ve done and ask for it. Every time I do it people come up and tell me they just looked at the screen and the words were there.”
The cost of the service is often covered by the venue sponsoring the event to make it compliant with the American Disabilities Act.
When Cortopassi started captioning, it was done by having the captioner typing the words on a computer, which transferred them to a large TV screen.
“Now we use flat screens,” said Cortopassi of Dyer. “I send them through the Internet and persons can even read them on their smart phones or tablets. It even helps those with vision problems because each person can individualize their screen.”
When she started her business, Cortopassi invested about $25,000 purchasing the court recording machines, plus the computers, software and other equipment needed for the business. The investment was paid back in a matter of months.
Cortopassi said her company has been successful because she built her business and reputation on being the best. Her accuracy, as tested by special software programs, has been at 99.8 percent since at least 1995.
“This can be a very profitable business,” Cortopassi said. “But it’s very grueling, especially mentally. Ninety percent of those entering quit before graduating from court recording school.”
Voice to Print Captioning is located in the Purdue Tech Center, which Cortopassi said provides her with many networking opportunities as well as the conference rooms she can use for its work.
“This is one of the professions that are really in high demand,” Cortopassi said. "It’s a good career for people to consider. It’s a wonderful career because of all the different things you get to do. And you really get to help people too.”