1. Q. How do I know I’m ready to provide CART?
A. If you have been schooled recently and learned a realtime theory, you are way ahead of the game. Many veteran reporters have had to completely revamp their theories to get to “realtime readiness.”
Before providing CART services, make sure you can check off the following items:
1. Have no conflicts
2. Have prefixes and suffixes defined in your main dictionary
3. Be able to format numbers – time, money, etc.
4. Can fingerspell words on the fly
5. Use correct punctuation
6. Enable your phonetic translation for untranslates
7. Have speaker identifications and a generic speaker identification
8. Have outlines for environmental sounds: (laughter), (silence), (phone ringing), (thunder), etc.
9. Can enlarge the size of your font
10. Can change colors of font and non-text areas
11. Have attended sensitivity training on working with people with hearing loss
12. Are familiar with NCRA’s Code of Professional Ethics, and Sections III and IV of the Guidelines for Professional Practice for CART captioners
13. Are familiar with The CART Captioner’s Manual, CART Captioner Bill of Rights, and the CART Consumer Bill of Rights
14. Have the skills and knowledge required to meet the minimum standards established by the current Certified CART captioner exam
15. Have a detailed written agreement related to fees
It is strongly suggested that you take advantage of every opportunity to intern with and shadow qualified CART captioners. Gaining experience in such an environment will provide you with a comfort level that will give you the confidence needed to begin your new career. It is also suggested that you learn basic sign language in order to communicate with the deaf and hard-of-hearing individual you are working for.
2. Q. Consumer expectations: What are some common questions from CART consumers?
A. Consumers should ask:
1. What are your credentials?
2. What type of CART experience do you have?
3. How long have you been providing CART services?
4. What equipment do you have or need for providing this service?
5. What are your rates?
6. Do your rates include a transcript?
7. What information do you need from me? (Spellings of names, agendas, PowerPoints, handouts, etc.)
Make sure you have an agreement clarifying who can be supplied with a transcript.
3. Q. CART captioner questions: What questions should be clarified before a job?
1. If onsite, location of assignment
2. If onsite, does the consumer(s) have a preference for seating location, screen location, font choices, colors?
3. If onsite, the display method: One on one or overhead
4. If onsite, who is providing the screen, the projector, extension cords, table, etc.
5. Who will provide prep materials, such as agendas, textbooks, Power Points, speaker lists.
6. Are prep materials to be discarded or returned, and to whom?
7. Length of assignment
8. Will a text file be needed afterwards?
9. Who will receive the text file afterwards, if ordered?
10. When is the text file to be delivered, if ordered?
11. Has permission been obtained from the speaker(s) for a text file to be delivered?
12. Billing information
4. Q. How much should I charge for providing CART services?
A. You can almost hear NCRA's legal counsel groaning as he reads that question. We are not supposed to discuss our rates. In the world of antitrust law, it appears that when we discuss rates, we are agreeing among ourselves to establish the value of our services at a certain level. Yet that question is among the first asked by court reporters who want to step into the CART field.
So, if you are setting out to provide CART and no one will tell you how much to charge, how do you figure out what to bill your clients? It's not easy when we come from a profession that evaluates our worth by the page.
Here is a rough formula which will allow you to calculate a per-hour charge for CART on your own. Please keep in mind that all the numbers used in this example are purely hypothetical. Use the figures from your own region to determine your rate. To calculate how much you currently charge per hour for reporting services, simply take the sum of your transcript bill plus any appearance fee and divide that number by the hours you spent on the job and in transcript preparation. For a 200-page deposition in the freelance world, I might charge an appearance fee of $150 and $5 per page for an original transcript and two copies.
If I spent six hours writing those 200 pages, and another six hours in editing, proofreading, printing, copying, binding, billing, and delivering the resulting transcript, the total bill would be $1150, then divided by the 12 hours it took to produce it would equal $95.83. Bingo! The worth of my services in completing that job is the basis upon which I can establish my rate structure for CART. Hypothetically, of course.
There are many variables in CART, as there are in the freelance world. Beyond a base hourly fee, CART captioners may charge more for displaying the CART text for two or more deaf or hard-of-hearing consumers, for example, on TV monitors, flat screens, LED display boards, or with a projector and screen. Difficulty of material may justify enhancing the fee. Delivery of the text file afterwards might be an additional charge. The skill level of the CART captioner may also factor into setting a pay rate.
There is a tendency in CART for newcomers to set an extremely low hourly rate for the service. Be careful not to sell yourself short. CART requires a high skill level and often extra equipment and software. While there is no transcript production following the job, there is frequently a great deal of dictionary preparation that takes place in advance of the job. If the preparatory time is not billed separately, it should certainly be factored into any per-hour fee you charge for the service.
When people new to the field ask veteran CART captioners, "What do you charge for your service?" they are often met with a blank stare and stony silence. No, we cannot discuss rates in that way. However, there is no mystery in determining that number. Spend a few minutes with some recent court reporting invoices and your calculator, and then launch your new career as a CART captioner.
5. Q. How much money can I expect to make as a CART captioner?
A. One of the myths about CART is that captioners take these jobs for the hugs and the feel-good aspect of the work. Certainly there are non-monetary rewards in this field. However, it is not pure altruism; it is a business, too.
Unlike judicial reporting, CART captioners seldom run into those windfall jobs – a medical expert’s deposition with 12 copies ordered, for example. CART, however, does pay very well. CART captioners most often charge by the hour or by the day instead of by the page. Occasionally, educational institutions will offer a salaried position with benefits.
The income level varies depending on a lot of factors: the skill of the captioner, the number of hours worked, the difficulty of the job, and the price negotiated for the jobs. It may also depend on whether the service is provided in a metropolitan area or where there is a smaller population.
CART captioners can choose to work on-site with consumers who are deaf or hard of hearing. They can travel to provide CART for conferences and meetings. CART captioners are also working from their homes or offices to deliver the service to remote locations using audio connections through the telephone and Internet connections with their consumers.
A CART captioner, like any other court reporting professional, can earn a small income if they limit the variety of work they tackle and the number of hours they devote to this job. However, they can also make over $90,000 per year if they accept challenging assignments and work full time in the field.
6. Q. How do I get started?
A. Once a professional reporter meets all of the requirements outlined in the CART Consumer Bill of Rights and is confident that their skill set is at the appropriate level (speed, accuracy, and a general understanding of the needs of the deaf or hard-of-hearing consumer), the natural question becomes, where do I find assignments?
Local chapters of deaf or hard-of-hearing organizations can be a good place to start, as well as local government offices and local college and postsecondary institutions. ALDA (Association of Late Deafened Adults) and the Hearing Loss Association of America (formerly SHHH, Self-Help for the Hard of Hearing) are national associations with local and state chapters, and their Web sites contain listings of contact information.
Colleges and state, county, and local government offices will very often have an office on disability services with a contact person. Each state may have a Commission or Division for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and some keep a referral list for sign language interpreters, CART captioners, and C-Print transcriptionists. You will want to find out the requirements to be included on that list. Also, traditional freelance agencies may field requests to provide CART. Let them know you are ready, willing, and able to take these assignments.
Most CART captioners will tell you that the first year or so builds slowly. Many assignments are of short duration -- one to two hours -- but because of the timing you may need to block an entire day. You should be prepared to do this. By mastering the shorter assignments, you will build the skill to handle the longer more lucrative ones. On a positive note, many assignments are booked well in advance, with a clear start and finish time, which allows you to plan your day and build other errands or perhaps another short assignment into the same day.
When possible, it is highly encouraged that new captioners practice in real-life situations to assess their readiness. If an internship or mentor is not available in your area to help you with this important step, consider taking a back row seat and realtiming a local hard-of-hearing organization’s meeting or realtiming a class, town meeting, or symposium. In the beginning, you may find assignments come in sporadically. Remember to use any spare time to hone your skills and gain knowledge about your local disability community. Find out who the well-known advocates and practitioners are in your area. Introduce yourself, and let them know your qualifications and availability. Check your local paper for meetings and events on disability and accessibility topics that may be interesting and informative, and plan to attend them. Set aside some time each week for Internet surfing. Many articles and Web sites deal with deaf and hard-of-hearing issues, as well as disability awareness and advocacy.
7. Q. What is remote CART?
A. Remote CART is a method of support for a CART consumer where the consumer and captioner are not physically located in the same place. Rather than the consumer reading directly off of the CART captioner’s computer screen, the text from the CART captioner is sent through the Internet to a specified place on a server. The consumer goes to that specified place on the server and is able to read the text of what is being said. The audio is heard by the CART captioner via a telephone call or through the Internet.
8. Q. How do I provide remote CART?
A. Remote CART allows great flexibility for consumers and for CART captioners, because there are times when a CART captioner is unable to travel from place to place. There are times when a consumer needs to have a last-minute meeting covered by a CART captioner. There are times when a consumer does not want a person sitting right next to them in a class or meeting or conference. But the most important concept about remote CART is this: There are times when remote CART is appropriate and there are times when remote CART is not appropriate.
Effective uses of Remote CART. Remote CART is often used in a classroom setting where there is minimal class participation; that is, where the professor does most of the speaking. Remote CART is often used in business meetings, seminars, conferences, and presentations.
To get started doing remote CART, you first need to figure out which program you are going to send the words through. There are several options:
Lexnet by ProCAT
Teleview by Eclipse
Based on which program you choose to send the words, you next need to figure out how to send the words there. Most CAT systems have the ability to send ASCII code out of the system.
For most CAT systems, the words come out of Case View. There is often a program used called Serial IP. Serial IP is purchased through Tactical Software. That software is the conduit through the Internet from Case View to one of the vendors listed above. Again, depending on which vendor is chosen, there are options for font colors, font size, chat options, and multiple user functions. Font color, type, and size are often choices offered both to the consumer and to the CART captioner.
Audio needs to be acquired for a remote CART job. The audio can be heard through a direct phone call, through a teleconference center, or through the Internet using software such as Skype. If it is not clear or understandable, the CART captioner should inform the consumer by using parentheticals such as “inaudible” and “off microphone.”
There are several contributing factors for successful CART, with the motto being: If the CART captioner can hear it, they can write it! Sometimes people at the meeting need to be reminded to speak up. Sometimes extension microphones need to be placed on the table, sometimes people need to raise their voices a bit. It all helps and it is done cooperatively between the consumer and direction from the CART captioner.
Another factor for successful remote CART is the ability to identify who is speaking. To think all voices will be remembered is not a reality. The best way is for the moderator to identify each speaker before they speak. Alternatively, the speakers need to start their statements with something like “This is Elvis… .” And then they say what they want to say.
Environmental sounds should be inserted into the files, just as if you were in the room with the consumer. All other protocols for CART remain intact for remote CART. Again, if there are some things that cannot be heard, then the CART captioner needs to let the consumer know that. One way is to put in a parenthetical such as “inaudible” or “off microphone.”
The most important thing about remote CART is that, although it is a solid technology that provides the consumers great independence, there are some situations where it is impossible to use the technology and an alternative needs to be provided.
9. Q. Are you looking for more information?
A. Start your journey by checking out all the Internet links provided on the left-hand menu and below – and welcome to this wonderful part of our reporting world!