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Yolanda Walton elected a director of National Court Reporters Association

By JUDITH LINDER-ASHAKIH • Sep 26, 2018 at 10:00 PM

It was an exciting experience for Yolanda Walton to find she had been elected to fill a year's term on the board of directors of the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) in August when she attended its convention in New Orleans.

Walton is one of 12 women on the 14-member board of NCRA, which has 14,000 members.

While in New Orleans, she was also one of five people nominated to receive recognition as a Fellow of the Academy of Professional Reporters. It was a very pleasant surprise for Walton, to say the least. She has been an active member of the Ohio Court Reporting Association since 1997 and has never missed a convention since 1988.

Walton decided to become a court reporter thinking it would be a stable, certain way to support herself and her children along with her husband. She is married to Mark “Wally” Walton, originally of Monroeville, and they are parents of Patrick and Rachael. They live in Norwalk.

Yolanda Walton trained in the court reporter program at Stark State College in North Canton and interviewed with Marie Fresch in Huron County for her first job doing freelance reporting for two years. Since 1988, Walton has worked with four Huron County Common Pleas Court judges — Earl McGimpsey, Phillip M. White, Robert W. Smith and now Judge Jim Conway. Sometimes Walton works with magistrate Bradley Sales.

The court reporter said a major issue in the forefront of NCRA's professional concerns is the situation of artificial intelligence represented by IBM Watson.

“It is critical for the deaf and hearing-impaired community to be able to correctly assess the language used in news media on TV and computer,” Walton added.

This is especially so in times of crisis, such as the current flooding in the Carolinas, the 9-11 disaster or in any weather-related situation. Full updates by accurate captions of what is happening and what to do to remain safe can save lives in these cases. If you can't hear what is happening you can be in serious danger.

The NCRA has certified live captioners who provide very accurate captions for programs for this special community. Walton said IBM Watson doesn’t do this effectively in many cases.

“The board of directors is also addressing the shortage of court reporters nationwide,” she added.

“It’s a great job; It's an interesting job. I love my work. We are trying to get people to go into court reporting as a profession. To promote interest in the profession, NCRA 'A to Z' is a free, introductory program. This six-week course teaches the alphabet on the stenograph machine. It gives students an idea as to whether they would like to pursue the career.”

There are three colleges in Ohio that offer the two-to-four-year program — Stark State College in North Canton, Clark State Community College in Springfield and Cuyahoga Community College (aka Tri-C) in Cleveland.

Three options for a career are: first, as a freelance reporter who travels doing depositions in many cities and counties. This allows a flexible schedule and can become a self-employment opportunity.

Secondly, one can become an official county court reporter, working in a local community or finally, a captioner who works for the media on behalf of the hearing impaired. These are known as cart providers and provide access in schools and colleges for deaf and hearing-impaired students.

“This also can be very flexible since captioners can work at home, in their pajamas even,” Walton said with a smile.

Students can graduate early as Walton did, although it is a demanding study. Graduates must be able to write 225 words per minute at 95- to 97-percent accuracy. The free “A to Z” program gives students a chance to sample what is to be expected.

“This is a two-part job,” Walton said. “First on the stenograph machine in the courtroom and second on the computer where transcripts are produced. These are for attorneys’ use if they wish to appeal the court’s decision. This is by request only, not a daily procedure.”

As one of the directors of the NCRA, Walton is working hard on behalf of the deaf and hearing-impaired population to bring more accurate and timely, even life-saving, information to this nationwide community. Advocating to enlist more qualified court reporters is also a large concern of hers.

As Walton said, “it is a fascinating job, a great job.”

Anyone interested in such a career which doesn’t require a four-year college yet offers a good salary, can arrange an interview with a working court reporter or learn about career information via email at [email protected] or at https://www.ncra.org/discoversteno.

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