Hard of Hearing? A Simple Solution.

Most of us have been at events with a sign-language interpreter, but how many have ever seen a CART screen?

CART (Communication Access Real Time) is the workhorse of hearing assistance, the one technology that works for almost everyone with hearing problems.

CART is one of the best-kept secrets in the hearing loss world. We are all used to seeing ASL interpreters at public events and often on television during live events. KB celebrity. MiguelEdwards-48There are 600,000 Deaf people in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control. There are 48 million with hearing loss. Very few of those 48 million can read ASL. Of the culturally Deaf, some may have limited reading skills or need a translator to “voice” for them, so they need an interpreter. But both services should be routinely provided.

ASL is routinely provided, but CART remains essentially unknown, even though those who would benefit from it outnumber the ASL users by many thousands to one.

CART benefits people with all degrees of hearing loss, from those with mild loss who may have trouble hearing at a lecture to the culturally deaf, who can’t hear at a distance even with hearing aids and cochlear implants. It’s also useful for hearing listeners for whom English is a second language.

For the moderately hard of hearing — or the relatively new English speaker — the captions reinforce the spoken sounds. For those who can’t understand what they hear, even with other hearing assistance, the captions provide a live transcript.

Here’s how it works. A trained CART operator types the spoken words in shorthand into a machine similar to a court reporter’s. The machine’s software converts the shorthand into standard English. The result is almost simultaneous captions, which are projected onto a screen or sent directly to a listener’s smart phone, tablet, or computer.

CART can also be used for conference calls that include people with hearing loss, with each hard of hearing caller connecting to a specific URL. They can also dial in by phone to get both voice and captioning at the same time.

A CART operator gets anywhere from $60 to $200 an hour. Training results in the ability to  type up to 260 words per minute (in shorthand) with 98 percent accuracy. Some CART operators are better than others, and those of us regularly exposed to CART — at HLAA meetings or other places — have their favorites. But even the most qualified CART operator will have difficulty with unfamiliar names or words. Most ask speakers for a list of any unfamiliar words they intend to use. An experienced CART operator can transcribe for two hours at a clip without a break. By comparison, most ASL interpreters work 15 to 20 minutes, trading off with a partner.

CART also gets a lot less coverage than induction loops, an innovative technology which The New York Times (inaccurately) described as “A Hearing Aid That Cuts Out All the Clatter.”

An induction loop is not a hearing aid but it works with hearing aids to transmit sound wirelessly directly from a speaker to your hearing aid (as long as it has a telecoil). If you don’t have a telecoil, you can wear headphones. Loops are an exciting technology, and if you’re lucky enough to find a place that has installed one, you’ll be surprised and delighted by the clarity of the sound. Unfortunately such places are not easy to find. In addition, loops don’t work for the culturally Deaf, who need an ASL interpreter, or (on their own) for the functionally deaf, even those with cochlear implants, who also need CART.

There’s no one solution for people with hearing loss. But CART should always be among them. For more information about CART and how to find a CART operator, or how train to be one, go to Collaborative for Communication Access via Captioning.

Photo by Miguel Edwards.

15 thoughts on “Hard of Hearing? A Simple Solution.

  1. This needs to be said over and over again. Thanks. Looped common rooms in libraries, town offices, meeting rooms – and on and on – should be standard. CART should be available in ALL public meetings. This is not going to happen in my remote area for a long time but it’s coming. We need to keep the pressure on – with a smile, of course.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My first HLAA convention in 1996 I viewed CART. I could not believe that I was reading word-for-word what the presenter was saying. The only other accommodation I was aware of is when the sign language interpreter mouth the words that was being presented in a whisper and I was suppose to understand every word. They called it an “Oral Interpreter” and it was not at all helpful. C-Print is not a substitute for CART in the college classroom or a technical presentation and sometimes the disability office substitutes it to the students with hearing loss because they are not aware of CART or even both to let the student know the difference.


  3. Lip reading someone who is signing is impossible! I tried it at a conference once when the loop was broken and there was no CART. I didn’t understand a word. It was a two-day conference on the international impact of hearing loss. I’m sure it was fascinating. Hugely disappointing experience.


  4. Brava, Katherine for this great post.
    You should have HLAA distribute this to every newspaper in the country.


  5. You may be hard of hearing, but I think most would agree that my wife Katherine’s writing “voice” is clear, direct, sympathetic, and eloquent in these posts. Very proud.


  6. Great post Katherine. I’ve watched CART develop over 3+ decades. SHHH/HLAA was the catalyst for making this happen. Early on, at board meetings and national conventions, beginning in the 80s, we actually had hearing staff hand write a summary on transparencies for an overhead projector. Then came computer assisted notetaking, a huge improvement as a typist used an LED projector and panel to summarize the proceedings. Along came stenography and the development of the CART we have today. It’s been a remarkable ride! Access to CART will continue to be difficult, though, unless more stenographers are trained in this skill. There are too few providers to provide CART on demand. For example, In northeastern WI, our CART provider travels from Milwaukee to CART for our HLAA chapter meetings. That’s a 170 mile round trip! Our area has a population of over 900,000 people, so we are not living in the back woods. There are a lot of court reporters in this region, but none are ‘certified’ to do CART. Some court reporters have told us that certification is an extra cost, so they don’t bother. It seems that until we find a way to get more certified providers, this service remains limited. These court reporters have the skill but not the certification. For the record, I know that many who have provided CART at national HLAA events were not/are not ‘certified’. Just saying….perhaps the profession needs to take a look at ways to make this service more readily available. All of us who have experienced CART will agree the service is invaluable. NOTE: In a few public meeting settings where I’ve been successful at securing CART, it has amazed me how many people with ‘typical’ hearing comment on how much it helped them keep up with the proceedings.


  7. Let’s make captioning ubiquitous!

    As speech-to-text improves there will be more technical options for situations when CART cannot be provided… even now there are less desirable versions to employ… but nothing can replace a skillful court reporter supplying CART. It should be a no-brainer to include it in most government and legal settings as court reporters are often already there — they just need to transmit the text to users. There are many more options for delivery of the text now too than just projections and LED screens — which can be blocked by bodies or hard to read from certain angles.

    Thanks for addressing this Katherine!


  8. Thank you, Katherine! CART provides a universally accessible “visual ramp” for people with hearing loss. It can now be read on smart phones, tablets, small and large screens. I’m hopeful that, as the technology improves, CART will become an integral part of our lives.


Please leave a reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s