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Transcriptionist Talk: Collaboration Behind the Scenes

Transcriptionist Talk started through a virtual platform to provide a sense of community. It is where the transcriptionists could problem solve, troubleshoot issues, and offer support to one another on how to manage the challenges of the job.

Top view of a braille machine

What is Transcriptionist Talk and how did it start?

Transcriptionist Talk is something I started last school year with my transcriptionists/material
modification specialists. This platform gave me the time to provide professional development to
ALL of the transcriptionists through a virtual platform. It also provided a sense of community,
where the transcriptionists could problem solve, troubleshoot issues, and offer support to one
another on how to manage the challenges of the job. The goal was to create a sense of
community for these individuals with such unique skills. Prior to this role, I was a transcriptionist
and I remember how hard it was to work in a district where no one knew what I did or how to do
my job.

How did you organize Transcriptionist Talk?

  • Create a Google Form: Try your best to stay consistent with days and times. For
    example, our sessions would always be on Friday morning for one hour. I provided
    different hour ranges based on their availabilities. List dates, times, topics (allow for a fill in option), and leave a blank spot for any questions or concerns.
  • Send the Google Form: Give a deadline of when you want to receive the Google Form back.
  • Collect Information from Google Form: Review the Google Forms and determine what topic would occur during each session.
  • Email the Transcriptionists: Send the transcriptionists the email the dates and times.
    Also email the links to the virtual sessions with the topic so that they can RSVP. This
    also allows it to be on both their calendars and yours.
Group of adults meeting around a table, taking notes and having a laptop and coffee on the table.

What were the topics of Transcriptionist Talk?

Here are some of the topics we worked on:

  • Creating Accessible Documents
  • Using Tactile Graphic Software (This was taught by one of the transcriptionists.)
  • Audio Description
  • Documentation
  • Time Management

What problems did Transcriptionist Talk solve?

  • Lack of Time: Like many Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments (TVI) having a large caseload and traveling throughout the state, I found it difficult to find time in my schedule to provide adequate training to all the transcriptionists.
  • Lack of Professional Development: When I worked one on one with the transcriptionists, they often asked similar questions and needed a refresher on certain skills. Often leaving me to troubleshoot on the fly. This provided an opportunity to get them all together and provide short sessions related to topics relevant to them.
  • Lack of Community for Transcriptionists: By creating Transcriptionist Talk, it provided each of them with the opportunity to connect with others who understand their role and their challenges. They would schedule virtual meetings without me, to learn from one another. It was beautiful to hear about their collaboration.

What are my Top 3 Takeaways?

1. The Importance of Networking

  • Opportunity to meet someone with the same role
  • Ability to reach out to another for support
  • Creating a sense of community

2. Continuing Education for Transcriptionists

  • Interest in learning
  • Updated information related to their role
  • Opportunities to ask questions

3. “I don’t need to know everything.”

  • Troubleshooting
  • Learning from the transcriptionists

The most important question: How did the transcriptionists feel about Transcriptionist

“I have been a Braille transcriptionist for a total of nine years. The student I am working
with is my second Braille student. I began transcribing with a high school student, and
my current the student I have worked with this since 5th grade and is now in high school.
I participated in the transcriptionist group. A transcriptionist is a singular position in the
school system. I really enjoyed the comradery that the transcriptionist group brought.
Before that time, I had pretty much been isolated, figuring out things for myself along
with my student’s TVI. I looked forward to each meeting. Our group brought opportunities to learn new methods and short cuts from other transcriptionists as well being able to share my insights and knowledge with them.”

“I have been a transcriptionist, with the same student, for 11 years now. Getting to meet
and talk to other people that do what I do was an invaluable experience. 
We were able to discuss the technology that we use as well as different ways to create
tactile graphics for our students. We also shared tips and tricks that we have learned
along the way. I’m looking forward to participating in future transcriptionist groups.”

“As a transcriptionist, I can feel isolated. So few people understand what my job is!
Teachers understand some of it, my student understands some of it, my TVI
understands almost all of it, but other transcriptionists really get it. Meeting regularly with
other transcriptionists was a tremendous support to my morale and sometimes saved my

I appreciated the time dedicated to a particular topic. I certainly learned a great deal
about technical topics like specialized software, which is a tremendous help. What only
other transcriptionists can help me with, however, is sharing their experience of what
works on the ground. Does this type of science diagram work better for your student as a
braille embossed graphic or a foam and Wiki Stix graphic? How do you problem solve
when the teacher often doesn’t send you diagrams in enough time in the first place?
What organizational systems do you use to get such materials back to teachers? This
kind of advice and group problem solving is invaluable.”

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