The art of it: Providing mobile CART at the Art Institute of Chicago

Cathy Rajcan, RDR, CRR, CRC, understands the importance of access in all situations. One of her regular assignments is providing CART for lectures at the Art Institute of Chicago.

The Art Institute recently offered a tour to a group interested in accessibility and asked Rajcan to provide CART for the group. Since tours do not stay still, neither could Rajcan. The JCR talked to Rajcan about how she handled this mobile CART assignment.

How did you get the assignment to CART an art museum tour? How often have you done an assignment like this?

I have been providing CART for lectures at the Art Institute of Chicago for a few years. The lectures are offered to members and the general public. This was the first time I have provided mobile CART at the Art Institute, and it was a lot of fun. The event was organized in conjunction with the Chicago Cultural Accessibility Consortium, a nonprofit volunteer organization that has been facilitating various cultural venues in Chicago to create welcoming environments for people with disabilities. This particular event was focused on making visual art more accessible to people who are blind or have low vision, and participants were learning how to audio-describe the artwork they were observing. The Art Institute has WiFi throughout the building, which is very helpful in making communication access available to large groups.

Does the Art Institute offer CART regularly for tours and other events, or was this organized separately?

The Art Institute of Chicago has been providing ASL-interpreted tours for a couple years, and I have been discussing with their education department making the mobile CART available for the tours specifically for people who have hearing loss but do not use ASL. CART captioning has been made available particularly to mature audiences, who have a higher incidence of hearing loss.

Cathy Rajcan, on left, writes on her steno machine, which is strapped to her with a harness. At right, a tour guide talks about a piece of art for a museum guest.What is your setup for mobile CART?

For mobile CART, I loaded my CAT software onto my tablet and Bluetoothed my Diamonte to the tablet. From the tablet I sent my realtime stream to an Internet platform, and then provided the URL to the tour attendees so that additional people could view the CART stream from their handheld devices and smartphones. The setup with the mobile table is quite different ergonomically. I practiced on several occasions in advance prior to providing mobile CART to become comfortable writing while standing and getting my steno machine situated in the best way possible. I also told the docent in advance to please only speak while stopped rather than while walking, which would maintain a high degree of accuracy — I told them, “This is much more difficult than walking and chewing gum!” My steno machine was attached to the mobile table with a large commercial strength Velcro circle as well as a small stabilizing strap for extra peace of mind — it is, after all, a $5,000 piece of equipment!

What were some of the words and phrases you made sure you had in your dictionary for this assignment?

This was literally “thinking on my feet” as far as consciously recalling the unique dictionary entries I have created for art-related names and terms. I have approximately 200 specifically unique job dictionaries that I use according to the topic and setting. My Art Institute dictionary is approximately 400 entries; however, I always request in advance of a CART assignment prep materials for that particular day, and then I study those entries prior to the event. This tour was in the Modern Wing, which currently houses the Edlis/Neesen Contemporary Art collection, a gift from Stefan Edlis, a Chicago-based art collector and philanthropist, and his wife Gael Neesen. In addition to the donors’ names, I included in my dictionary the names of artists who created the pieces — e.g. Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, Katharina Fritsch, and Jasper Johns — and the names of some of the pieces, such as Liz # 3, Target, and Woman with Dog (Frau mit Hund).

Was this assignment related to your personal interests at all?

I have a true appreciation for visual, musical, and performing arts. Other than my unique skill as a court reporter and captioner and some domestic textile talents, I am not gifted in the arts. Although several years ago a friend of mine who is a master violinist explained to me that we all have various talents, and those with skills in the performing arts and fine arts are grateful for those of us who appreciate their talents and are audience members and enthusiasts. Having provided realtime captioning at performing arts events, I have gained a great appreciation for the abilities of performers to memorize and perform the dialogue and lyrics in plays and musicals. They are truly amazing!

Cathy Rajcan, RDR, CRR, CRC, is a CART captioner in Wheaton, Ill. She can be reached at efficiencyrptg@cs.com.