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November 4, 2002

'Real-time' notes aid hearing-impaired students

From: The Tennessean, TN
Nov. 4, 2002

Staff Writer

GALLATIN — It's a pop quiz. Robbie Chanin has his pencil and paper ready.

''Number 1,'' teacher Mark Williams says: ''What is the process in which a cell physically pinches in to create two different cells?''

Though he can't hear what the teacher is saying, Robbie scrawls his answer and waits for the next question.

He doesn't worry about trying to write and read lips at the same time. It doesn't matter if he can't see the teacher's face.

With the help of a former court reporter, the Gallatin High School sophomore doesn't miss a word of his honors biology class.

Cindi Resha's fingers fly over the keys of her stenograph, a machine that translates phonetic shorthand into words. Robbie watches a laptop screen on his desk, where those words appear just moments after the teacher says them.

It's called ''real-time'' captioning, and it's a process similar to what you'd see on a live, closed-captioned TV broadcast.

Also known as Communication Access Realtime Translation, or CART, the captioning uses the equipment and skills of a court reporter to transcribe live conversations into text for the hearing-impaired.

The technology has been around for awhile but has only recently begun creeping into Tennessee schools, said Beth Frazier of the Tennessee Court Reporters Association, which occasionally receives requests for CART providers.

''No one knows about it,'' Resha said. ''Students need to request it, because it is a service that should be provided to them, and a lot of special-ed coordinators just aren't aware of it.''

Services for students with hearing impairment are typically coordinated through the school system's special-education department. Specialists consider each individual's needs and performance to determine what services the system should provide.

Karen Dockrey's daughter was the first student in Sumner County — and, to her knowledge, in the Midstate — to use CART in a public school last year. A senior at Beech High, she was smart and had worked hard in school, but she was missing a lot of information. Dockrey learned about CART through an e-mail discussion group for parents of children with hearing impairment. After one year with Resha and court reporter Lise Matthews providing real-time captioning, her daughter graduated sixth in her class. She now attends a college that provides the service.

''It opened the door of learning. I would give anything to have started it in the ninth grade,'' Dockrey said. ''It was the modification that leveled the playing field.''

Because the service requires highly specialized skills, it can cost $60-$90 an hour, Frazier said. Even with the low demand in Tennessee, there's a shortage of CART providers. The Tennessee Court Reporters Association has only 11 in its state database.

For Robbie, who has a schedule loaded with honors and Advanced Placement classes, the service has meant better grades and better understanding of schoolwork, said his mom, Cindy Chanin.

''This has just been an answered prayer for us. I know he missed a lot lip reading.''

Last year, he had a note taker who summarized each lecture and gave him the notes after class, but that didn't help him participate in what was going on.

''If the teacher says, 'Give me an example of one of the three whatever,' and two other people said something but I didn't hear what they said, I won't raise my hand because I don't want to repeat what they already said,'' Robbie said. ''This system is the only system I've had where I had a better advantage than my hearing peers.

''I understand a lot more. Class is actually more fun now that I understand the discussions more because it's not all just lectures and note taking. It's nice to get the inside jokes when people are laughing.''

Tamela Clifton estimates her son Kyle, also a sophomore at Gallatin High, missed 30%-40% of what was happening in class before he started using CART this year.

''The greatest difference I see is he was in the class last year. This year he's part of the class.''

To learn more

To learn more about Communication Access Realtime Translation, visit the Tennessee Court Reporters Association's Web site at or the National Court Reporters Association's site at

© Copyright 2002 The Tennessean