By Cathy Rajcan
Working with intelligent, pleasant adults is a joy. As a seasoned court reporter in the 1990s, I expanded my skill set to provide Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART). At that time, I remember arriving at a high-level medical conference to provide CART, and let me tell you, it was the most daunting assignment I had undertaken up to that time. The majority of terms were between three and seven syllables and in an area of medicine with which court reporters are not regularly exposed to: neurofibromatosis.
In my 33-year career, I have discovered that of the professional hats I wear – as both court reporter and captioner – by far the role within which I receive the most appreciation and recognition is on-site CART captioner. We provide a critical link for people who are deaf or have hearing loss to the world around them. And in the consumers’ professional settings, our skills have a powerful impact on their success. I believe that the most significant effect these services have is in a person’s professional life and in and medical and health settings. Perhaps this is why, when I arrived at the above-mentioned conference decades ago, the organizers gave me a corsage as an expression of their appreciation.
As a captioner, I spend a large part of my time focused on obtaining in advance as much prep materials as possible. Often this is like pulling teeth, as many invited speakers and lecturers are well-seasoned experts in their careers and, due to busy schedule, unfortunately put off preparing for an engagement until the 11th hour. Understanding their professional demands, I keep in regular communication with the event organizers to receive prep materials. When all is said and done, I am consistently emotionally moved and positively affected by the work and efforts of these organizations and their undeniably honorable influence on our world.
When preparing for a recent celebratory event for a different nonprofit, the point person at the organization provided me materials piecemeal as they became available. As the event drew closer, the materials grew to be more extensive, and some earlier versions of scripts were replaced with updated versions. I was also provided the event rundown, which is a timeline of when each piece of the show is to be cued up. Even on the day of the event, some of the moving pieces are morphing; and as I was on my way to downtown Chicago, there was a change in a song selection and thus lyrics, so I asked the organizer to print out the lyrics for me and bring them on-site to the venue.
Once on-site, I was provided the updated lyrics in hard copy form, and I plugged the pages into my 30-some page aggregated script. I explained to the organization’s point person that constructing the entire script, ready to go live, was like working on a jigsaw puzzle.
The event was a wonderful amalgam of an instrumental percussion piece, an instrumental work on piano, a moving vocal blues number, and an upbeat, fun, stylized rap about Chicago; the music was interspersed with congratulatory speeches, presentations of awards, and expressions of appreciation. During the speeches, a speaker apologized directly to me in advance for going off script, but I was mesmerized by the joy and excitement of the occasion and didn’t miss a beat. The awards and recognition portion of the event was followed by a mix and mingle, including open bar and hors d’oeuvres.
Reconnecting with acquaintances in the arts and disabilities communities and making new friends from among this talented, passionate, and compassionate group is adequate recompense in and of itself. However, in addition to being paid for my professional captioning services, my client followed up with having delivered to my home a few days later a beautiful bouquet of flowers! It is sure nice to be appreciated – and it’s a blessing to work with such a giving, thoughtful, and supportive organization.
Cathy Rajcan, RDR, CRR, CRC, is a captioner and agency owner based in Wheaton, Ill. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.