Perpetual student: The joys of CART captioning in higher ed

Two women stand side by side, one in a graduation cap and gown

Ellen Heckle, on left, with her newly graduated student

Ellen L. Heckle, RPR, CRR, CRC, of Archer City, Texas, recently reached a milestone in her career: “After years of working with hard-of-hearing students, I experienced the culmination of seeing a hard-of-hearing student through her higher-education learning to receiving her double majors including a Bachelor of Science in dental hygiene and a Bachelor of Arts in sociology,” she said. She says that she is very excited for the graduate, who plans to obtain a Master of Education degree.

Heckle, who has been a court reporter for 28 years, has worked seven years as a CART captioner for higher-learning institutions. In that time, she has worked with seven students over three locations: South Plains College, Levelland, Texas; Vernon College, Vernon, Texas; and Midwestern State University, Wichita Falls, Texas. “As an added benefit, I work with some amazing people, both peers and mentors, who keep me motivated and constantly wanting to learn and hone my skills.”

Ellen Heckle's CART captioning setup for a nursing class

Ellen Heckle’s CART captioning setup for a nursing class

As much as she loves providing CART captioning, the job has its challenges. She is currently captioning for a nursing student, and one of the classes is pharmacology. “One challenge has been, of course, the technical terminology,” Heckle says. “Students are required to be familiar with the longer generic designations for drug names rather than the more common trademark or brand names. Though it has taken much homework on my part in prep time, I resolved this issue by defining drug prefixes and suffixes and spending many, many hours inputting drug names.”

Heckle emphasizes the perks of CART captioning at the college level. “It is just fun to be with the students and to be in the college setting for the second time around,” Heckle says. “I don’t remember it being this much fun when I attended college.” Heckle earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration in 1985. “It is rewarding to be on a student’s journey for a future goal. Really nothing compares to helping someone reach their dreams,” she says.

“There is no substitute for how rewarding it is to caption for the hard-of-hearing students in higher education. I wish more court reporters would take the challenge to become realtime ready for the future of our profession,” Heckle says. “I believe it is the solution to the longevity and future of our profession.”

NCRA member earns award for service to the disability community

Karla Martin poses with Mayor Mark Mitchell after receiving her award

Karla Martin poses with Mayor Mark Mitchell after receiving her award

On April 25, Karla Martin, RPR, was presented with the Business Leadership Award at the 29th Annual Mayor’s Disability Awards in Tempe, Ariz. She was recognized for her work in CART captioning, including covering deaf and hard-of-hearing events and for her volunteer work with the emergency responder interpreter credentialing pilot program. Martin answered a few questions for the JCR Weekly about her background in CART captioning and what the award means to her.

Tell me about what kind of work you do and who some of your clients are.

I provide CART captioning services for several state agencies in Arizona, and I have provided services on-site and remotely for Arizona State University (ASU) and most of the community colleges in the Phoenix metro area. I also work with the Arizona Superior Court providing CART captioning for parties in civil and criminal cases. One of my most fun gigs is captioning live theater on cruise ships. I know it sounds so fun, but it can be challenging showing up and not knowing exactly what the setup and demands of the job will be.

Even though my focus is on CART captioning, I still take medical malpractice depositions that comprise possibly 10 to 20 percent of my total business. It’s true that real life can be so much more interesting than fiction, and I love what I learn every day on the job. I think it’s ironic that I have learned so much about working in court as a CART captioner. I worked as a freelance reporter taking depositions prior to transitioning to CART captioning.

How were you nominated for the Business Leadership Award?

I was nominated for the Community Service Award by Michele Michaels, who is the hard-of-hearing specialist for the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing. I have been providing CART services for several of the local Hearing Loss Association of America groups for a number of years, and I believe that is one of the reasons Michele nominated me. When the decision was made, I was awarded the Business Leadership Award. I feel like I do fit in both categories.

The mission statement of the awards event is: “Since 1988 Tempe has proudly presented the Mayor’s Disability Awards honoring excellence in individuals with disabilities, employers, and others who have shown dedication to the equality, inclusion, and commitment to improving the quality of life for all Tempe residents. The goal of this annual event is to encourage everyone to work towards a fully inclusive and accessible Tempe.”

I live in Tempe, and I have played flute and piccolo in Tempe Symphony since 1990. This is a community symphony, and all of the players are volunteers. My first CART work was at ASU, also located in Tempe. I am also an advocate for animals, and I have served on boards of animal welfare organizations.

What does it mean to have been recognized for your work within the community?

I’m honored to be recognized by the City of Tempe. I’ve been committed to providing services for the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community for over 20 years. I took four semesters of American Sign Language so I could better communicate with clients and colleagues who were Deaf. One of my favorite things about CART work is the appreciation expressed by clients. It’s so rewarding when someone randomly thanks you for the service they received.

Did you have any idea you were being considered?

Yes, I knew that I was being nominated. Michele requested information from me to assist her in the nomination process. I had attended the event a few times in the past, and I had secretly hoped one day I would receive an award.

Why is providing CART to those with hearing loss so important to you?

There are many reasons providing CART is important. It’s an accommodation for a protected class of individuals under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Our services provide communication access for our consumers’ safety, health, education, training, legal matters, and entertainment. Some days the importance is to raise the awareness of our services to administrators and disability resource managers of high schools, colleges, and hospitals. Other days it’s demonstrating to consumers what is possible with CART captioning technology to enhance their lives by receiving equal access to communication at their workplace.

How long have you been a CART captioner? Were you a freelancer or official court reporter prior? How long have you provided CART services?

I started providing CART for ASU in 1995. At the time I was working as a freelance deposition reporter. I started with some evening classes because I didn’t want to turn down depo work. After that it was a transition process. In 2005, I took a part-time staff position at ASU for a few years.

How did you enter the profession? How long have you been in the profession?

My first job as a reporter was at a freelance agency in Rochester, N.Y., in January of 1979. At that time I had been out of school for four months and passed part of my Illinois CSR. I was working as a legal secretary in Decatur, Ill. I moved to New York for the opportunity to work immediately since they didn’t require certification. It was a really busy firm, and I started taking medical malpractice depos six months after starting work as a freelancer. I had a great mentor reporter there. The firm was one of the first to embrace computer-assisted translation, as it was called then. After two years, I moved to Arizona for warmer weather.

Where did you go to school?

I decided to pick up court reporting as a “minor” while I was pursuing a bachelor’s degree in applied music at Southern Illinois University – Carbondale. Between the flute and my machine, I spent the majority of my last two years of college in a practice room. I didn’t know what court reporting was until I had two roommates at college one summer who were finishing their internship and told me when they got out of school, they were going to “make a lot of money.”

What has been the most rewarding part of your career?

It’s rewarding for me when I work with someone who is going to school, and then later after they graduate and are working in their chosen field, we end up working together or see each other at disability-related events. It’s always rewarding when clients graduate from their programs of study, especially when I attend or work their graduation ceremonies. I like to believe I contributed to their success.

Please add any additional information you feel would be helpful to include.

Several government agencies in Arizona partnered in 2016 to create the Arizona Emergency Response Interpreter Training for ASL interpreters and CART captioners. The agencies are the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing, Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs, Department of Forestry and Fire Management, and Maricopa County. I am one of three CART captioners in Arizona who were selected, trained, and received the emergency response interpreter credential. The program is a pilot, and the sponsoring agencies are hopeful other states will follow Arizona’s lead and create emergency response training programs for interpreters and CART captioners in their states.

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.

CART provider sheds light on work in the classroom on local radio show

On Feb. 17, Norma Rease, a CART provider from Stockton, Calif., was interviewed on the Ryan and Repoman radio show on station KWDC during Court Reporting & Captioning Week about her job providing CART to students at San Joaquin Delta College. The interview was forwarded to NCRA by member Sharece Atkins, RPR, a freelance reporter also from Stockton who also works as a radio show producer and DJ. The audio was posted by Humphreys College, where Rease graduated.

Listen to the interview.

Understanding the diversity of CART clients

An article that appeared in the fall 2014 issue of The Transcript, the membership newsletter of the New York State Court Reporters Association, addresses the differences between deaf, hearing impaired, late deafened, and hearing loss, as well as the reasons why CART captioners should understand each term. Authored by NCRA member Mirabai Knight, RDR, CRR, CBC, CCP, owner of StenoKnight CART Services in New York, N.Y., the article encourages all CART providers to research hearing loss in all forms to ensure they provide the best possible services to clients.

Read more.