CART & ASL – Promoting Understanding and Team Work

CART & ASL – Promoting Understanding and Team Work


by Shelley Arthur

Editor: Many of you are familiar with CART; you may think that there’s not much more you need to know about it. If so you would be wrong (in my humble opinion ;~) Here’s a very interesting article that provides a Canadian perspective on CART, discusses some of the professional organizations involved, and explores similarities and collaboration possibilities between interpreters and CART providers. We think you’ll learn a lot!


What is CART and Realtime Captioning?

CART, Communication Access Realtime Translation, is an evolving and growing profession in B.C. [Ed: British Columbia, Canada] and North America. CART and Realtime Captioning is a branched off profession of traditional court reporting where official verbatim records are made in shorthand for legal proceedings. The college education for court reporting consists of classes in English, medical terminology, legal proceedings and transcription. As well, students must achieve a minimum of 225 words per minute with high degrees of accuracy. CART training also includes Deaf culture, the role of the CART Provider, introduction to sign language as well as technical skills and equipment in various settings.

Realtime is spoken words translated instantaneously from shorthand into English. This is done with the help of specialized computer software and skills. CART & Realtime Captioning includes environmental sound descriptions for the hearing impaired. This communication access is used primarily by people who are hard of hearing and/or late-deafened. There are certain applications in which people who are culturally Deaf find it beneficial as well, such as TV captioning.

It is beneficial to use realtime captioning in business and educational settings because the information, (text files) are transferred to clients for further reference. The text file of the realtime captioning can be saved on a disk or the CART Provider can email it as an attachment. The viewer can also load software on to their personal computer/laptop to receive a live realtime feed from the CART Provider’s laptop and make their own annotations and notes.

CART is commonly referred to as Realtime Captioning. Technically, CART is when text alone appears on a computer, laptop, TV or projection screen. Realtime Captioning is a process whereby text is encoded with video images, such as in closed caption TV or at large venues where video conferencing showing images of presenters and/or ASL interpreters with the captioning. Advances in technology mean that CART Providers and Captioners can be physically located in one location listening over the phone and transmitting the Realtime text by internet or modem to other locations.

Professional Organizations Involved

The British Columbia Shorthand Reporters’ Association (BCSRA) is the provincial association. The majority of provinces in Canada each have their own association; however efforts are currently ongoing for a Canadian Association. The National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) is primarily a U.S. association, but has countless reporters from other countries as members. The NCRA mid-year, annual conventions and online seminars offer courses in realtime, broadcast captioning and CART.

CARTWheel is an independent network of CART providers who saw the need to establish a training manual as well as standards for CART providers early on. This was later adopted by the NCRA. CARTWheel members served as volunteers on the NCRA CART Task Force and helped bring about the creation of the CART Providers’ Manual. This year the NCRA will be implementing certification exams for CART & Broadcast Captioning professions. CARTWheel’s Advisory Council will also be bringing one of its initial training and endorsement workshops to Vancouver and other locations to help bring educational courses/endorsement levels closer to home. With the recent closure of the court reporting program at Langara, there remains only one full-time program at NAIT in Edmonton and a remote part-time program at George Brown College in Toronto in Canada. To date, colleges in Canada have not had adequate funding to implement CART or Captioning criteria/courses into their programs. The NCRA has been successful in obtaining millions of dollars from Congress to implement these new fields into court reporting programs in the States while we struggle to replace Langara’s program and add CART & Captioning education and training.

Information on CART can be found at and . The British Columbia Shorthand Reporters Association (BCSRA) has formed a CART committee and will be establishing criteria for CART Providers while acknowledging certifications/endorsements from the NCRA & CARTWheel.

CART and Interpreters Working Together

Through information sharing, it is hoped that interpreters and CART Providers will have a greater understanding of each other’s profession. This understanding will help avoid misconceptions about each other’s work and at the same time help foster opportunities to work and learn together.

The settings in which CART providers and interpreters find themselves together are growing. Historically, it has been used at functions where there are both Deaf and hearing impaired participants. For example CART providers and interpreters have worked together at the Western Institute for Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Island Deaf & Hard of Hearing Centre, annual general meetings, fund raisers, workshops, etc.

Recently, there have been post-secondary courses in B.C. where both CART & ASL are providing communication access to students. Another example is at Deafway II last summer, where Realtime Captioning and three forms of sign language were used to communicate to 10,000 participants. With video conferencing both sign language & realtime captioning can be shown on the screen at the same time. This means that people living in isolated rural areas can connect with people in the larger cities. Two California educational institutes recently settled lawsuits commenced by students and conceded to provide both CART & ASL instead of making them choose one over the other. This decision recognized that the student’s first official language is ASL, as well as the need for text files of classes for studying purposes.

CART Providers and Interpreters share some common frustrations, such as getting our hands on preparation material in advance and receiving compensation for services rendered versus volunteer requests! CART providers and Captioners must contend with the perpetual expense of state-of-the-art software and equipment as well as ongoing education. CART providers generally work alone, but do team up in some settings. Interpreters commonly work in teams. I have been part of venues where one of the ASL interpreters assisted the CARTer by quietly repeating the Deaf person’s speech to ensure the CART Provider understood correctly. ASL interpreters and foreign language translators make use of realtime text on the screen to get information they may have missed or not understood because of the presenter’s accent.

The more prepared CART Providers are the better the translation from shorthand into English. Sharing preparation material, names/words, before or during assignments is beneficial to both professions, as well as those participants relying on the text or interpretation for communication.

With the difference in backgrounds, CART Providers and Interpreters have an opportunity to exchange experiences, ideas and expertise so we may all continue to improve and evolve. We have two very distinct roles but share a common goal; fluid and cohesive communication access.

I would like to give a note of thanks to Deloris Piper for assistance with this article, the opportunity to share with WAVLI’s (Western Association of Visual Language Interpreters) members and for her pending reciprocating article for the BCSRA newsletter.

Please feel free to contact Shelley Arthur at Visual Voice Captions, or Phone: (250) 337-8071 / Fax: 337-8081. She is part of CARTWheel’s Advisory Council and the BCSRA CART Committee.