SayWhatClub

My Experience with CART

Our guest blogger is SWCer Cristal Alferez. Cristal is a Mechatronics Engineer who works for a Manufacturing Company in San Diego CA. She is Mexican, speaks Spanish fluently and currently is mastering English pronunciation. Cristal loves to read.  It is one of her many passions.  She likes many genres, but what she enjoys the most are romantic novels. She also likes traveling by train in the Pacific coast and eating tacos. In this post, she describes her experience getting communication access real-time translation (CART). You can contact Cristal at calferez0911@gmail.com

My Experience with CART By Cristal Alferez

I always thought I was pretty normal, until I started elementary school. Although I don’t remember very well, my sister told me that at some point in the fifth grade I refused to go school.  I couldn’t hear the teacher, since I sat in the back part of the classroom. I’m not too sure why, but I never gave that event much importance. Maybe I didn’t think about it much.  During middle school and high school, the teachers sat us in alphabetical order. My last name starts with an A, so I always sat in the very front.

It wasn’t until college that I really began feeling secluded.  My classmates would often tell me that I was unable to hear my name during roll call, or when someone called me behind my back.  They would all remind me with a grin on their faces. Although it kinda bothered me that they would be “making fun of me” I just ignored it and carried on with my day. It was here that I realized I was becoming more antisocial, compared to when I was in high school. Because of my hearing loss, I couldn’t understand some soft spoken people. I couldn’t follow a conversation of more than two people. I would sometimes forget to turn in the homework – not because I didn’t remember but  because it was assigned verbally and not written on the board.

Sometimes, if I couldn’t hear what the teachers were saying I would daydreamed. Anytime I wasn’t able to understand what someone in a group of people were saying, I daydreamed. I also remember crying before having to present my thesis. I stressed out over the fact that it would be very difficult for me to hear the questions being asked.  Luckily, I was able to hear the questions just fine, and I ended up passing my thesis.

It was at that point that I felt ready to confront the problem, but unfortunately I was not able to afford fixing it, yet. It’s been five years since I left school, and I thought it would be easy from then on. But it’s quite the contrary.  In school you can ignore one of your peers, and they might think you are rude; you can forget the homework, and end up with a bad grade.  In real life things are different.  You just can’t ignore your boss.

I decided to go back to school again, but with that, all of my fears about school came back. I questioned whether it was a good investment, if I was only going to be able to hear about fifty percent of what was being told. So, I decided that it was the perfect time to get hearing aids. I have worn hearing aids for five months now– two different brands. I’m getting used to them.   Previously, I remember thinking that hearing aids would fix absolutely everything, but I was wrong. Hearing aids help a great deal, but they don’t correct my hearing to a “normal” level.

When I went to my class and found out that my hearing wasn’t as good as expected, I decided to look for more help.  Somebody out there must have the same problem as I do.  I found the help I needed. I got in contact with the beautiful people of the SayWhatClub, and I discovered many people who were like me, who understand the struggle I go everyday. They helped me find ways to cope better with my hearing loss. Somebody told me to look for assistive listening devices or FM systems.  Others suggested a Communication Access Real-time Translation (CART) system for the classroom. I had no idea these things existed.

a transcriber types what she hears onto a laptop so Crystal can read along

One day I went to the disabled student center of my community college. I actually had very little confidence going in. I was surprised when they lent me an FM system that consisted of a microphone that the teacher wore, and a receiver for me, which I could use with earphones or with my hearing aids. When I saw how positive the response was, I asked if they would allow me to use CART. They gave me a thumbs up. I couldn’t believe it was that easy, and I cried of happiness that day.  How many times had I missed information in class? I couldn’t believe that I would not have any problem hearing now.

But I also had mixed emotions.

In the beginning, I felt a little bit weird, because everybody would know that I can’t hear. After, I saw the results and how much it helped me,  I no longer felt embarrassed.

So, here is how it worked. The disabled student center contacted this company of captioners who would send somebody to type everything that was said in class. Just like subtitles at the movies! Isn’t that amazing? I sit wherever I want and have my laptop, iPad or the tablet provided by the captioner.

I need to have good internet connection, so I go to my email inbox and open a new email with a link to get access to a meeting room, and check the picture. It is possible to make changes to the font size and color of the screen. When the class is over, the captioner sends me a detailed report of everything that was said in class in less than 24 hours.  This is much better than taking notes in class! I love to read it after class, so I can study it. During class I try to understand as much as I can, and I read from the tablet every time that any of my peers speak. I totally feel more involved in class, and I’m happy to know that now I really understand what’s going on in class.

Obviously there are still some issues with the CART. For example we couldn’t set it up entirely a couple of times due to slow internet. Another time, I tried an app which let me see the same screen as my captioner, but there was a five second delay, or so. Even with normal Internet, there’s a little delay since my captioner would hear, and type.

laptop depicting CART

I don’t feel left out of class anymore. As I can follow better what’s going on in class, I can participate more, and feel more involved. I’m really looking forward to attaining my masters degree, and also helping other people just like me, who do not know about all the ways we can get the extra help for coping with hearing loss. I wish every kid in school could know about CART.  If your school doesn’t offer CART for now, let other people know about it. Think about this, maybe in the future someone else can benefit from CART just like I am right now.

What’s It Like… to experience CART/Live Event Captioning for the very first time?

This article originally appeared in the SayWhatClub Newsletter,  Online Voices, in January of 2011

Michele Linder
Copyright 2011

Like a Virgin: CART for the very first time

 

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When Pearl asked me to do an interview with Lauren Storck, of CCAC (Collaborative for Communication Access via Captioning), for Online Voices, I felt a bit inadequate and lacking in both experience with, and knowledge of, certain aspects of the subject, but since I’m on the “Do-it-Anyway” Tour–I’ve purposed to think less and do more with regard to volunteering my time in 2011–I immediately responded, “Sure!”

I’m no expert on subject of captioning, though it is not completely foreign to me. I’ve used closed captioning, exclusively, on my television for well over a decade now.  I’ve also dabbled with relay service. I own and use a CapTel 800i telephone and occasionally access CapTel via my mobile phone. I have benefited from any and all speech-to-text technology that is mainstream–cell phone text, instant messaging, and email. On the other hand, I’ve had very limited experience with Communication Access Real-time Translation (CART), also referred to as real-time captioning) and my knowledge of it is very basic.

I mentioned my feelings of inadequacy to Pearl, saying “I’m a hearing loss virgin in many areas.”  She assured me we all have to lose our virginity sometime. I don’t wear hearing aids or cochlear implants, I don’t know or use any version of sign language (though my deaf grandmother did teach my sister and me how to finger-spell).  I’ve not had much success with assistive listening devices.  At the time I joined the SayWhatClub, in 2008, I was mostly in the dark about all of the technology and services that were available for the deaf and hard of hearing.

Granted, I’ve learned a lot about living and thriving with hearing loss.  In the last three years with SWC I’ve learned more than in all 48 of the previous years combined! But I consider that I have a lot more to learn and experience. I’m looking forward to many “first times”!

I lost my virginity on August 28th, 2010 when I attended a medical meeting on Mayo Clinic’s Downtown Campus, in Rochester, Minnesota. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that after over forty years with hearing loss, I had never experienced CART. Like most people, I have no trouble recalling the details of my “first time” or the feeling of excitement I had in anticipation of that “someday”. I  remember wondering if it was possible for the experience to be all I had built it up to be in my mind? I hoped that it would be.  But was keenly aware of the possibility that reality would fall short of the dream.  So many things in life are that way.

Recalling that day still brings chills. It’s a day I’ll never forget.  CART was everything I’d ever dreamed it could be, and more. Afterwards, I found myself asking the same questions Rachel McAdams’ character in a scene from the movie, The Notebook, asked. “You got to be kidding me? All this time that’s what I’d been missing?”

This is my story…

On a bright and sunny August morning, I drove the last hundred miles through gently rolling farmland on my way to Rochester, Minnesota. I was headed there to attend a cochlear implant informational meeting at the Mayo Clinic. I’d noted in the registration information CART would be available for the presentation.  I found it hard to contain my excitement that my “someday” was finally here. I daydreamed as the warm breeze from the open window blew its hot breath across my face. The caress heightened the sweet anticipation I felt.

Alert and a little nervous, I walked into the auditorium scanning for the best seat in order to easily lipread. Since childhood, I’ve known that the best place to see speech could mean the difference between being clued-in or clueless. Therefore, I subconsciously seek out every single element that will give me the best chance at success in any given situation. With hearing loss, no detail is too small, and the less left to chance, the better.

Still searching for the lipreading sweet spot, my eyes fell upon the giant screen to the left of the podium.  I relaxed a little, realizing I wouldn’t have to be as strategic in choosing where to sit. I could read everything that was said. Continuing down the aisle, I paused at the end of a row of empty seats, my gaze still fixed on the enormous screen. I was entranced! It was huge!

Lowering myself into an empty seat, I heard a voice. In an effort to find the direction the voice was coming from, I looked away, ever alert that someone might be speaking to me and I wouldn’t hear them. To my right, I spied the owner of the voice, a woman two seats over. She was commenting to her friend on the large size of the text that was being projected onto the screen. “That will really make it easy to read,” she said. Taking the opportunity to introduce myself to the two women, I mentioned that this was my first experience with CART. Excitedly, they both assured me I would love it. I asked the woman one of the women about her comment regarding the size of the text, and she said. “Oh yes, size matters!”

The lights were dimmed.  As the first speaker began outlining the day’s schedule, I felt unsure of myself.  I didn’t know whether to look at the speaker or at the scrolling text on the screen. For a while, I alternated between the two.  By the time the first Mayo Clinic doctor was introduced I had settled into a rhythm of watching the speaker and glancing over at the text. The deeper the speaker plunged into the topic of his lecture, the more automatic the process of alternating between what he was saying and reading the text became.

Before long I reached a marked shift in focus.  My pulse quickened with the awareness that I was looking less at the speaker and more at the giant screen. I was elated that I was getting every single word that was spoken.  Amazed at the seamlessness from spoken word to text.  The lag-time was barely discernible.

Feeling more confident, I was ready to add another element to the mix.  I took out my pen and paper and began taking notes.  I planned to share all I learned about cochlear implants with others in the SayWhatClub. Again, I found myself nervous and unsure. Would I really be able to watch the speaker, read the text, and write down all of the important points of the lecture that I wanted to remember? My hand became damp with perspiration, making it difficult to hold the pen.

Before I knew it, it was over.  The auditorium lights went from dim to bright, and people began rising to their feet to leave. However, I remained seated, wanting to draw out the moment and to make the experience last. Not only had I gotten every single word of each and every presentation, but I also was able to take notes. I hadn’t had the ability to take clear and complete notes during a lecture since my early years of high school!

As the crowd in the aisle thinned, I began to entertain thoughts of joining the others.  I made my way upstairs to where lunch was being served.  But my attempts were thwarted by the utter exhaustion I felt. The anxiety of the unknown, coupled with the excitement of my “first time” left me feeling spent. I also noted a feeling of euphoria I’d never felt before. This exhaustion was different, nothing like the usual bone-tiredness I felt after a day of intensive concentration at trying to hear and understand in a noisy world that moves too fast, speaks too unclearly, and fails to accommodate me to the extent that I need it to.

Losing patience, the women I had introduced myself to brushed past me and stepped into the aisle.  But before putting any distance between themselves and me, one of them turned, politely asking: “How did you like CART? Was it good for you?” Still unable to move or speak, I smiled and nodded in affirmation.  Inside I was saying, “YES! YES! YES!!”

Why Not? by Michele Linder

The question on the Collaborative for Communication Access via Captioning (CCAC) blog is, “Do You Ask?  For Captioning or CART of course?”, and “If not, why not?”

Ask for CART or other accommodations whenever you need themFor me, the answer to “Why not?” is more because I’m not in the habit of it. My daughter graduated from nursing school last year and I intended to ask for CART, but time passed and I didn’t think of it again until I arrived at the graduation.  That’s when I wasn’t going to be able to hear. It was a real “duh” moment.  I scrambled to get a seat close enough to the podium to read lips.

I need to work on putting my need to hear and understand first and make it a habit. It’s the same with using the CapTel or CaptionCall phone, I’ve not been able to use the phone for decades, so I’m out of the habit.  I forget that I can use the phone again, though these phones are not always great. It’s the same with going to the movies. The last movie I went to and understood without captions was probably 20 years ago. I just don’t think of going to movies anymore. Sigh…

Many of us with hearing loss start out being diffident and self-effacing. We put everyone else above ourselves and focus our attention on how our hearing loss might inconvenience others. So, we don’t ask. I’m guilty of this myself, but I’m happy to say I got over it many years ago. When I realized I was being a bit arrogant by pretending to know what would inconvenience others, I decided to live a life with more honesty. It is possible to be TOO nice.

Think of it this way– when you don’t have CART or captioning, you can’t participate. Therefore, you can’t contribute. Often, that means you can’t compete with others who have no barriers. Should we stop participating out of consideration for others? I don’t think so, because I know I have a lot to offer. I don’t want my deafness to exclude me from things that I enjoy and am interested in. Besides, there is no harm in asking.

When we ask for accommodation, hopefully we aren’t coming across as if we think we are owed something.  There is nothing wrong with asking.   Moreover, there is nothing wrong with asking for a reason if the response to our request is “No”. Many times in my advocacy for captioning I’m told that ‘cost’ is an overriding factor, and that bothers me. I realize accommodation isn’t free, but there’s always a way to fund accessibility. I consider it short-sighted for someone to say “We can’t provide captions because it costs too much, and we don’t have the funds.” Look beyond the cost, because if you assess what you’re getting for your money, then captioning is a true bargain.

We need to focus on the humanity of the issue. I can guarantee you that any hearing person of today who wakes up tomorrow to find themselves deaf would want more than anything to be able to continue in their independence and vitality in life. In my opinion, the focus on ‘cost’ is all wrong.  So, I’ve decided that when I advocate for what I need, I should be focusing on the benefits of investing in CART or captions as way to counter those arguing against accessibility, due to a silly little thing such as money.

In a recent advocacy effort I stated: “Quality captioning enables millions to remain independent and vital in a world that too easily justifies excluding them by placing more value on the monetary aspect of what a thing costs, rather than on what providing it accomplishes.”

What is your ability to contribute, compete, and participate worth?