By Emma Harding

Lisa Torres

Beginnings of a deaf Advocate

Disliking the legal system in 1999, Lisa Torres transitioned from court reporting into captioning and eventually a deaf advocate for the next 23 years. Her first experience with the Deaf community was in Dallas, Texas when she was hired by two colleges to provide Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) services for students in 2001. She sat in their classrooms and listened to every lecture for every one of their classes. The students would then look at her laptop if they missed something that was said. At the end of each class, Lisa emails them the full transcript for their personal study material. One girl she worked for was shy and when her instructor asked the class to “grab two partners and get into a group,” Lisa noticed people would leave her out, so she immediately asked students around her if her student could join them—and they welcomed her with open arms. Lisa and the girl became very close as the semester ended.

Understanding Deaf Culture

As a hearing person, Lisa was unaware of the different levels of deafness and was afraid of offending her deaf/HOH students. However, as time passed, she became more comfortable and confident communicating with her students. Another deaf student she CARTed for had a “laid-back surfer vibe” and was one of the smartest guys in the class. He was born deaf, married to a deaf wife, and they were about have a child. Congratulating him, Lisa asked if he wanted the baby to be born hearing. He said, “No. I hope my baby is deaf also.” That’s when Lisa realized how proud many people are of their deafness. “There’s nothing a deaf person cannot do, except hear. It was a beautiful thing for me to understand.” The last student Lisa had was also fully deaf; he signed and used to work at night. He would dose off most of the class but would thank her for her transcript. He’d then review her notes at night and pass his assignments with all As the next day. It was a wonderful experience.

CARTing to Captioning

Since then, Lisa has given personal access to myriads of people with all levels of deafness during their workshops, seminars, training classes, etc. Many of them had high-profile government jobs and prompt her to travel around the country to provide live captioning services for big events at sports stadiums, seminars, conventions, and even cruise ships. She even worked next to deaf professionals like Marlee Matlin, John Maucere, and Sean Forbes. “What an experience that was being a minority with 2,500 deaf/HOH people in the middle of the Caribbean. Best time ever!” When she’s not traveling, Lisa works from home as a closed captioner for live broadcast news stations all over the country as well as city council meetings, sports shows, presidential debates, and bad weather at 3 am.

Advocating Against “Craptions”

Lisa invites everyone to join her Facebook group, “Closed Captioning Quality Club.” As the admin for almost 2,000 people around the world who advocate for equal communication access through quality captions, Lisa has traveled to DC to speak in front of the FCC board to fight for better captioning standards. Additionally, her group works together to contact people who don’t care about what we call, “craptions” on their video content. She also uses her Twitter to advocate for change @dcaption. While in our group, Lisa hopes to better understand the needs and concerns of the deaf and HOH community, as well as learn what technologies the community approves and disapproves of, so she can better serve and advocate for her clients.