To Have Or Not To Have, This Is The Question

To Have Or Not To Have, This Is The Question
November 12, 2015 CSD
a man in an office setting looking at two computers

Often, when we attend a class, court, or conference, there is some effort to accommodate people with disabilities. Some deaf people are like me and rely on sign language interpreters, while others use Communication Real-Time Translation (CART). It is commonly known that people who ask for accommodations generally get one type of accommodation for effective communication. People do not realize they are able to request as many accommodations as they see fit. The main goal of accommodations is to provide equal access to the information.

For most, asking for two different accommodations is practically unheard of — and often challenged. Usually, financial burdens are the excuse. Sign language interpreters and CART services are two different fee-based services that provide effective communication for all.

When someone asks for both CART and an interpreter, event or program organizers often comply with only one request not two. They decide that the request for both is unreasonable. This is a barrier to effective communication.

What most people may not realize is this: each accommodation provides different outcomes. For example, sign language interpreters provide two-way communication. They often translate the messages on the fly. People who use sign language primarily benefit from using sign language interpreters. On the other hand, CART offers one-way communication for people who cannot hear. It becomes problematic when deaf audience members (who are not oral) want to ask questions or make comments during the program. This is a barrier to effective communication.

Often, I find that using both accommodations benefits me. I use a sign language interpreter to get information through my native language and CART to make sure I understand the context in English. With both, I am able to understand all of the information being presented equally. With an interpreter, when I ask a question or make a comment, the interpreter can voice my answer, while CART cannot. To CART’s advantage, we often find the general audience benefits from this service for a number of reasons. For example, if something is missed, an audience member can review the CART captioning to catch up.


Should we continue to keep this unspoken rule of limiting accommodations? Does this ensure effective communication for people with disabilities? Or is it high time for us to break down the barriers of restrictive communication regardless of cost and logistics?

For me, I would rather have both. I can be a much more productive and active member of society with both an interpreter and CART services. I believe you should be able to ask for all the accommodations you need to participate.

— Sean Gerlis
Account Executive