Have you been considering using remote CART services in an academic setting? Communication Access Realtime Translation* (CART) can be provided by a stenographer sitting in the classroom with a student who is deaf or hard of hearing. However, there are cost advantages to remote CART. There is no cost for travel time because the audio signal is sent to a stenographer in a remote location. This is typically accomplished using a microphone and laptop computer in the classroom. The stenographer types what is spoken into a document or web site that the student and stenographer can view simultaneously. The student can see, in real time, what is being said in the classroom.
We have attempted to provide this service at Purdue-West Lafayette several times over the past two years. Often, the internet connection would work well initially, but would drop after about 10 minutes. This happened whether it was a wired or a wireless connection. It was frustrating to students, faculty and us, yet there were so many variables beyond our control. It was a very difficult situation to problem-solve.
As luck would have it, my colleague David and I met a consultant at a national conference. When we met with him on our campus, he described some of the hurdles that must be overcome to use remote CART successfully. He explained that using an older laptop can lead to buffering of the audio signal. When the buffer fills up after about 10 minutes, it will cause the laptop to drop the internet connection. That situation sounded very familiar. So, David and I set out to test whether our previous issues had been caused by buffering problems.
We planned two experiments of increasing technical complexity. We began with the most reliable components; our first test was designed to give us the greatest chance of success. We selected a one year old laptop running Windows 7 with a 2.53 GHz processor and 4 GB of RAM. In addition, we used a wired internet connection. To further improve reliability, we hired a company to provide the remote CART services. If we encountered any problems, we believed their experience would be beneficial in resolving those issues.
The first test was a complete success. We established and maintained an internet connection for the duration of the test (about one hour). There were no drops, lags or interruptions. The second test used a wireless connection in a larger classroom with more wireless traffic. This test was also successful. Again, the internet connection had no drops or lags for the duration, roughly 90 minutes.
Providing remote CART was challenging when we first attempted it. Now, we believe we have identified the source of our difficulties, and have a system that is working well. What experiences have you had with remote CART?
*Note: I discovered in researching this article that the acronym CART no longer means “computer-aided real-time transcription”. According to the National Association of the Deaf, CART now stands for “Communication Access Realtime Translation”.
Image credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture
Writer: Dean Brusnighan, ITaP Assistive Technology Specialist