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CART-WISE: Are you prepared for anything?

By Tammy Milcowitz

Have you ever gotten to an on-site CART job and set up your steno machine and laptop computer only to realize that you forgot your power cord for the laptop?

Have you ever gotten to an on-site CART job and were told that you needed to connect to Stream Text but you didn’t have a way of connecting and, therefore, couldn’t fulfill your job due to lack of internet connectivity? Or have you ever gotten to your job and realized that this was not one-on-one, but projected and you were the one who was supposed to bring the projector?

These are horror stories that no one wants to live out, and I want to talk about what you can do or have in your tool box so these scenarios don’t happen to you.

As CART providers, sometimes we are asked to go on-site. Some people do this more frequently than others and have down exactly what they need or want to have with them and are very comfortable with the process. Others might be asked on a less frequent basis to provide on-site CART and might not be as comfortable with the process and what they should or should not take, or what they will or will not need.

If you are working for a larger CART company, they should have done their homework and provided answers to questions like: How will the captions be displayed? Will they be streamed to the Web? Will you need an encoder or projector? If you need one of the latter two items, or both, frequently these will be provided for you, but it is a good question to ask the company for which you are working. Will there be presenters with PowerPoints? Do you know how to use Text on Top? Will there be an AV person at the on-site location to assist you?

If you are taking on an on-site job on your own, these are all questions that you need to ask your client. You also need to learn what the content of the particular job will be. Is it something with which you are familiar and knowledgeable? Is it technically difficult content? If you don’t feel comfortable with the content, be honest with yourself and your client and politely refer them to someone who you think would better serve their needs. Not only will this action serve the client better in the long run, but it is also in keeping with the NCRA code of ethics which state that it is against the code of ethics to accept a job for which you are not qualified.

If you do feel comfortable with the content, ask for prep! Can they give you copies of the PowerPoint, or documents to which they will be referring? Maybe there is an agenda they could share with you, or tell you the name of their Website. Is there a list of names of people that will be present that you need to know, or speakers? These are all helpful questions to ask and get answers to so you can do your research and prep before the job. In my experience, the client or their representative is always more than happy to share any prep that they have. Don’t forget, they want to have a good end product just as much as you want to provide it!

You should have your own tool box for on-site CART jobs that you keep together in one bag or location. Keep a typed checklist of everything that should be in that bag and go over it and check it to make sure everything is in there.

On your checklist should be the following basics:

  • Steno machine
  • CAT software
  • Wireless/wired connection for machine
  • Laptop
  • Power cord for laptop
  • Headphones – noise cancelling
  • USB hub for computer if your laptop does not have an adequate amount of ports

You should have backups of the following:

  • Laptop computer
  • Steno machine
  • USB cables to connect machine
  • Power cords for both laptop and steno machine

For more advanced on-site CART jobs, the following is suggested:

  • Output devices: Stenocast, iCVNet, BridgeMobile, iPad, tablet, or netbook
  • Internet: 1capApp, Streamtext, virtual serial port or connector
  • Bring your own hotspot!
  • USB mic if using audio sync
  • Flash drive
  • Duct tape
  • Small flashlight – sometimes it’s dark

Some good things to know for the particular area, if it’s unfamiliar to you and you have traveled to get there, are:

  • Location of local Radio Shack/ Staples/ Best Buy
  • Names and contact information for local CART providers in case their assistance is needed

Some of the above-mentioned items may seem very obvious to you, while others may not. For those experienced CART providers, maybe there’s something on this list that you have not thought about and this has been a good read for that one particular item. I hope so. For newbies, this list is not meant to intimidate at all, but to be helpful. If you are new and intimidated, please reach out to somebody with more experience! There are mentors available on the NCRA Website,

Tammy Milcowitz, RMR, CRR, CBC, CCP, is a captioner in Oldsmar, Fla. She can be reached at