Meet Rusty Summers.
How a Jiu-jitsu fighter with hearing loss has gained confidence on the mat and at home with Live Transcribe.
4 Minute read
Rusty Summers steps up to the Jiu-jitsu mat, his heart pounding. These seconds, just before a match begins, are both terrifying and liberating for Rusty, who competes for the University of Texas at Austin’s Brazilian Jiu-jitsu team.
He knows his opponent will be tough. But he is confident in his body and in himself in ways he never was before.
Rusty first decided to try out Jiu-jitsu back in 2018, at a club just outside Dallas. He’d never been much of an athlete, but he was looking for techniques that would help him feel more at ease in his surroundings. Jiu-jitsu immediately became the antidote to his anxiety. “Physically and spiritually, Jiu-jitsu is my ticket to maintain and enjoy my body and my youth,” he says. Soon enough, Rusty began to form friendships and connections within the Jiu-jitsu community. “They accepted me because I kept showing up,” he says. “My hearing didn’t even factor into it.”
“There’s this thing called Dinner Table Syndrome. It’s when you’re sitting at the dinner table with your family, and you smile and nod even though you don’t know what anyone’s talking about. You don’t want people to see that you’re clueless. So you miss out on a lot.”
Rusty was diagnosed with hearing loss as an adolescent in Fort Worth, Texas. Growing up, he recognized that although his family and friends loved and supported him, there was often a communication barrier between them. This taught Rusty to lean on visual cues and lip reading to follow conversations. This mindset would help him years later as he learned various Jiu-jitsu techniques, closely observing and then recreating the movements of his teachers and peers. “The problem with learning from visuals alone was that sometimes my teacher would be demonstrating what not to do,” Rusty says. “And because I couldn’t hear what he was saying, I would have no idea I was being told the opposite of how I should be moving and positioning myself.”
Rusty learned about Live Transcribe, a real-time, speech-to-text transcription app, in 2019. “It’s astonishingly accurate and it’s astonishingly fast,” he says. “When I started using it, my life changed.” Rusty began using Live Transcribe on his Android at the Jiu-jitsu club. At the beginning of practice, when he and his teammates gathered in a circle around their instructor, Rusty would hold out his phone with Live Transcribe open. Every word spoken by his teacher would appear on screen. It made it easy for Rusty to fluidly follow instructions without having to rely solely on visual cues. What’s more, during breaks and social gatherings with his teammates outside practice, Rusty didn’t have to read lips. With a quick glance at his phone, he could read the real-time transcriptions of his friends’ conversations.
Rusty remembers a competition in San Antonio, where there were last-minute changes to the rules and bracket structure. “The changes were announced orally on the mat as we were weighing in,” Rusty says. “Obviously I didn’t hear them, and most people I asked for clarification had only listened to the parts that were relevant to their own brackets.”
Rusty got ahold of the announcer and had him repeat the changes into his phone with Live Transcribe open on the screen. “I read along as he told me that heel hooks had been taken off the table for blue belts,” he says. “Without that piece of info, I could easily have been disqualified without even knowing why.”
Last year, Rusty was voted the president of the University of Texas’s Brazilian Jiu-jitsu team. “It was an honor for me,” Rusty says. “It’s fantastic to have this community and feel like I’ve found a place where I belong.”
“Live Transcribe has made socializing possible in ways I didn’t have access to for the first 37 years of my life,” he says.
That same sense of inclusion now extends to Rusty’s life back home as well. During breaks from school, where he’s working towards a Doctor of Pharmacy degree, Rusty travels to Fort Worth to visit his family. At the dinner table, with Live Transcribe on the table next to him, Rusty feels fully part of the gathering. “Live Transcribe has made socializing possible in ways I didn’t have access to for the first 37 years of my life,” he says.
How Rusty does it.
At Jiu-jitsu practices, Rusty holds out his phone with Live Transcribe open so he can follow the instructor’s directions. This allows him to feel confident he is taking in the same information as his peers, and to feel fully part of the class.
Rusty keeps his phone on hand at Jiu-jitsu competitions, in case he needs to use Live Transcribe to catch rule changes or last-minute details about the tournament. He no longer worries about missing an official announcement that might result in a penalty; he can give his full attention to his matches, and to being as competitive as the other fighters.
Rusty uses Live Transcribe at the family dinner table, so he can participate in conversations that he once struggled to follow, helping him feel connected and included while spending time with his loved ones.
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