Mobile CART

CART, Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art: Mobile CART at the Met

by Ruth D. Bernstein

I’m a volunteer  for the  Access Programs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met), (on Facebook and here.) It’s a job I really enjoy, that is why I was pleased to take a walk into the future in the spring of 2011 when I took part  in the first demonstration of a mobile CART system at the Met presented by Ms. Mirabai Knight. I attended this very special gallery tour with Rebecca McGinnis, the Met’s Access Coordinator and Deepa Shastri,  Live Events Programme Officer of London’s STAGETEXT.

Computer Assisted Real Time Transcription (CART), allows people who have a hearing loss to see what is being said when they go to theater, the movies, attend a lecture or watch TV. The audience is seated and reads the words on a screen, typed by a seated CART provider.

Mobile CART was developed by Ms. Knight, a certified CART provider. The system allows the provider to walk through museum galleries or other venues with a steno machine, typing the words being said by the docent/guide and transmitting them wirelessly to multiple tablets or smart phones. For detailed information about how this system works, click here.

STAGETEXT is a not for profit organization based in London that has been providing theater captioning for the last ten years. They recently received funding to develop captioning/CART access for public talks/lectures or tours in museums and galleries.

Ms. Shastri, who found Ms. Knight’s service on the web with  the help of Tabitha Allum, Chief Executive of STAGETEXT, made the initial contact with the Met through me. She then worked with Ms. Knight, Ms. McGInnis and Christena Gunther to set up the demonstration. She visited Washington D.C. and New York  “to see new or similar captioning initiatives within the museum context for deaf, deafened and hard of hearing visitors who may need captioning to supplement their hearing devices because they have difficulty following  talks with assistive listening devices alone.”

Here’s Ms. Shastri’s description of what happened at the demonstration:

“Mirabai’s mobile CART was an excellent way to access the live talk. We were able to enjoy the speaker along with the hearing visitors. The Samsung Tablet, although heavy after carrying it for long periods (Ruth, you shared the load with me too), provided the perfect font size to read at a comfortable speed. There were seven lines, allowing time to look at the images before going back to read the text missed while looking at the images the docent was referring to. During CART museum talks, docents need to make minor adjustments when referring to the images by pointing longer and clarifying when they are talking about a different image. Ms. Knight was well prepared. She preprogrammed key words into her directory so there were very few mistakes. Mirabai’s presence also meant she could hear the questions asked by the participants and type them out. It was a great opportunity for me to see whether it is worth pursuing this in UK and I have to say YES definitely!“

I really enjoyed this captioned presentation and agree with Ms. Shastri’s assessment that mobile CART/Art can expand access opportunities at museums and other venues for people with hearing loss. It is an exciting and welcome step forward for everyone, one the Met staff hopes to be able to repeat in the near future.

Ruth D. Bernstein has been advocating for people with hearing loss for over 25 years. She is a member of the Manhattan Chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America, was Co Coordinator of the advocates for better communication , an advocacy group allied with the Center for Hearing and Communication and was a member of the Museum Access Consortium Advisory Committee (MAC).