Working with a CART Writer

A CART Writer is commonly used for consumers with a hearing loss. This is true whether they are fully D/deaf are hard of hearing. CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation) is primarily used in “larger” settings such as classrooms, conferences, or courtrooms.  If you’d like to know what CART is see our blog for more information.

CART Writer sign language interpreterThe Process

Working with a CART Writer is a relatively smooth process.  Writers arrive early to set up their equipment and go from there.  As a hearing person, I also find it extremely helpful in larger settings when CART is provided. If I cannot hear the speaker I can see the information on the screen via the CART Writer. Unfortunately, the CART Writer will not be able to provide the translation if they didn’t hear what the speaker said.   CART, like sign language interpreting, is equal access to language. If, therefore, the CART Writer did not hear the information they will not disrupt the event to ask for clarification. The person with hearing loss has the option to raise their hand and request clarification. You’ll likely see “inaudible” on the screen if the CART Writer did not hear what was said.


You may also see “errors” in the English when watching a CART translation.  It seems easy enough to type spoken language into written language. The CART Writer, however, is typing at the speed of someone talking so errors are bound to occur. Also, the stenotype is paired with a laptop/tablet software that is complex. A CART Writer is not typing each letter of each word because that would take too much time. They are typing a series of letters simultaneously. The CART program changes it into English. The software will make “mistakes” if any words recorded are not pre-programmed. Gibberish will appear in its place.

Provide Material Beforehand

You should provide CART Writers with a speaker’s material in advance just like sign language interpreters. This way they can program any new words into their software.  Usually there is no time to stop and fix anything since the speaker is still talking, so they keep going.  Afterwards, the CART Writer can go back and repair the errors if it’s negotiated into their rate. You can receive an understandable English format and a printed or electronic copy of the translation.

Should I still hire a Sign Language Interpreter?

Utilizing only CART Writers can create a barrier for some D/deaf people.  They may also want to network with people once they have completed their class or conference.  CART writers are usually not trained in sign language interpreting or D/deaf culture. So the D/deaf consumer wouldn’t have access to the rest of the “experience.”  Additionally, it’s important to consider each individual consumer’s needs. Promote all equal access services. CART may not be a good fit for their needs if sign language is their first language.

For additional information on working with a CART Writer, check out this informational video. Yale University describes how to access CART services on their campus. NOTE: Yale refers to CART as Computer Aided Real-Time Transcription.


Yale YouTube Video:  Transcription Service for Persons With a Hearing Impairment

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