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September 24, 2003

Captioning Device Helps Deaf Theater Patrons

From: WNBC, NY - Sep 24, 2003

Hand-Held Unit Captions Performances

NEW YORK -- A new wireless, hand-held captioning device promises to open up the theater to 28 million Americans who are deaf or hearing-impaired.

The device captions what happens on stage in real time and is synchronized to the lighting and scene changes so that it remains accurate even if the actors pause or go long.

"I think it's absolutely fantastic," said Jean Post, a deaf theater patron. "The first time I used it, I just was so excited that I could get so much more out of a play than I ever did.

"The one thing that meant so much to me was [that] I could get the lyrics of the music."

The personal captioning system is the brainchild of Richard Fitzgerald, who won a Tony award 20 years ago for developing the infrared listening system that is now used throughout the world.

The PCS could become just as popular.

"Most of the times in the theater, it gets very loud," Fitzgerald said. "The nonimpaired patrons -- the hearing patrons -- are sometimes annoyed."

The PCS works silently and even filters the light so that only the intended user can see it.

Fitzgerald hopes that it won't be long until hearing-impaired theatergoers are offered the unit free of charge to fully enjoy their shows.

Fitzgerald remembers Post's first reaction to the PCS.

"She was in tears when she first used it," he said. "Literally in tears."

Copyright 2003 by All rights reserved.