Captioning Corner: Realtime vs Captioning vs CART
By Deanna Baker
Over the past few months, it has become clear that there is a terminology problem arising from the various services that court reporters are providing to the nonlegal community. This has caused confusion not only in the Deaf and hard of hearing communities, but also among corporations, educational institutions, and convention and meeting planners.
First, let's get some definitions squared away, and then I'll describe the unfortunate situations that are happening as a result.
Realtime - translating the spoken word instantly into written words
CART - Communication Access Realtime Translation. Can be displayed to only one consumer or projected to entire audiences.
Captioning - the dictionary describes this as "the explanatory comment or designation accompanying a pictorial illustration."
Realtime is used in multiple settings from courtrooms and depositions to working with students who are hard of hearing. The use of the term CART has become the norm for describing this service to the nonlegal community. This service uses CAT software and a notebook computer sitting near the CART consumer; the CART provider may provide this service on site or from another location. Many CART settings require the realtime text to be projected and possibly enlarged.
Captioning, as noted in the above definition, is words underneath a picture, such as a cartoon or actual captioning on a television or projection screen. Software above and beyond CAT software is required to provide the captions, as well as the use of other broadcasting equipment such as cameras, projectors, etc., to provide the picture. For the captioner providing the service, it can be done either remotely or on site, depending on the situation.
The problem arises when the term "realtime captioning" is used to describe CART settings or even "Internet captioning" (which can also be a misnomer, but I'll get to that in a moment). Consumers are requesting "realtime captioning" services when in fact they need only CART services. I have had many calls from educational coordinators and meeting planners who have passed along this request to me, and I'm thinking one service and they are meaning another. I then provide quotes for one service, again, when they are meaning another. This causes much wasted time and energy on everyone's part. If the terms would be used correctly, not only by consumers but the providers, we would have had an easier time getting the services needed -- as well as educate everyone involved.
I recently had an educational institution call to request "captioning" for their graduation ceremonies. This was to be on on-site job, not remotely, so I started asking the questions about what A/V company was being used, did they have an encoder/character generator or should I bring one, did they want to consider doing this remotely using phone lines, etc. The poor woman was near hysterics, and I soon realized she only needed CART services for a few people and not captioning services. The consumer had requested "realtime captioning" services. I quickly passed along a reference to an excellent CART provider in her area.
Another situation, a meeting planner called requesting "captioning" services for a week-long event, on site in another city. Again, the same questions were asked, but actual captioning was required. While doing the tests ahead of time, I realized a few sessions were only projected CART. Usually that wouldn't have been a concern, but one of the captioners for the project didn't have CART software, only captioning software. Plan B is always in my back pocket: With some hardware switching, software swapping, and excellent reporters, all went beautifully. But again, the meeting planner was simply using the terminology she was given.
I'm hearing many stories similar to this, all because of a simple terminology distinction.
This gets even more complicated in talking about C-Print and Typewell services, which are not realtime or CART services. C-Print and Typewell are services where providers are typing on notebook computers in a macro-type code, approximately 80 wpm and summarizing, not verbatim. These types of services are most common in educational settings. For more information, you can view www.typewell.com or http://cprint.rit.edu. Still, consumers and some providers are calling this service CART, captioning, or "provided by a captionist."
In regards to the Internet services, CART or captioning may very well be provided. But going back to square one, if there is a video image with open captions, then, yes, that's captioning. If there is only text, that is realtime or CART.
I'm seeing that providers are using and at times advertising the wrong terminology, and the consumers and others are following suit. If we all use the correct terms and help the consumers understand the distinctions, we will all find it easier to best services we can provide.
About the Author
Deanna Baker, RMR, is from Flagstaff, Ariz. If you have a question about captioning, you can ask her at email@example.com.