By Laura Brewer
Perhaps you’ve heard of CART captioning, but you don’t really understand what it is. You are not alone. I once had a prospective client call me, wondering how much room the CART took up! That brought a smile to my face, because I am the CART. She thought I would wheel in a device on a cart that would magically provide instant speech-to-text service. That day has not yet arrived, despite much progress in voice recognition. In order to produce accurate speech-to-text of multiple speakers at high speeds, it takes a person – a CART captioner.
CART – communication access realtime translation – is realtime speech-to-text provided by a CART captioner (stenographer) using a stenograph machine, computer, and special software. Like a court reporter, a CART captioner can write at high speeds, capturing what people say, and turning it into instant text via special software. One way I like to contrast court reporting from CART captioning is by explaining that while court reporters must write verbatim, they do not have to be 100 percent accurate because they have the opportunity to edit and correct their transcripts. CART captioners, in contrast, do not need to write 100 percent verbatim, but what we write must be highly accurate and accurately reflect what is being said, no matter how arcane the language, thick the accent, or foreign the name.
CART captioners use much of the same equipment as court reporters, including similar software. However, we must refine our writing and our dictionaries (computer files that translate steno outlines into English words and phrases as well as computer macros) to meet the demands of having to accurately reflect unexpected names, terms, formulas, and environmental sounds.
CART captioners develop special skills in order to meet this challenge. Like sign language interpreters, we “finger-spell,” using specially developed steno outlines that are defined as letters that abut one another when we need to build an unusual word or name letter by letter. Because we are acting as “ears” for our clients, hearing and writing what they are unable to hear, we must be able to accurately indicate whatever environmental sounds occur, such as a telephone ringing, siren sounding, or dog barking. Unlike court reporters, who are limited to reporting only what is on the record, CART captioners must write whatever is said within the hearing range of the CART consumer.
There is a special code of ethics related to CART captioning as well – taking care not to reveal the name of a deaf or hard-of-hearing client, being sure not to interject oneself into communication except in order to carry out our work, and, importantly, treating the CART captioning file (transcript) as the property of the presenter or our client.
CART captioning is a diverse field that covers all types of events: classroom work – both on site and remote – conferences, meetings, litigation, and broadcast. Maybe CART is in your future.
Laura Brewer, RDR, CRR, CBC, CCP, is a captioner and agency owner based in Los Altos, Calif. She can be reached through her website, quicktext.com. This article was originally published on the Kramm Court Reporting blog available at kramm.com/blog.