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. There 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.