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Computer-Assisted Notetaking (CAN) and Remote CAN

What is computer-assisted notetaking?

Computer-assisted notetaking (CAN) is a technique that can assist deaf and hard of hearing people participating in meetings and lectures with hearing people. A notetaker uses a computer equipped with word processing software to type summary notes of a meeting or lecture. The notes can be projected onto a screen or wall for large groups, or simply displayed on a computer monitor if fewer people are relying on the notes.

CAN can be an effective way of providing access for hard of hearing people and for deaf people who are without sign language interpreters. In a previous study, 98% of the 120 hard of hearing people using CAN during a meeting found the notes helpful. (Two percent did not answer that question.)

[CAN is sometimes confused with real-time writing although the technologies are quite different. In real-time, verbatim text is simultaneously created and transmitted by highly skilled court reporters using a stenotype system of shorthand notation. Special equipment immediately translates the codes into text form, which is displayed in real time. Stenographers can produce text at speeds of at least 225 words per minute.]

Typically, the notetaker is on-site at the meeting. Offices might have someone on staff who can take the notes or contract with an agency to provide the service. This project examines the feasibility of providing the transcription service from a remote location.

What is Remote CAN?

Remote CAN is a way of providing CAN service without having the notetaker in the room. Advantages include:

  • Quieter (no keyboard sounds)
  • More private
  • Possibly more convenient (if commercial services begin to provide Remote CAN)
  • Possibly better quality notes (if professionals provide the service)
  • Possibly more moderate cost (pay to service based on usage, not to cover travel time, etc.)

What is needed for Remote CAN?

To provide Remote CAN, both sites (for the users and the notetaker) need the following equipment:

  • one analog telephone line (or two telephone lines)
  • one analog speakerphone (or analog telephone/headset for the notetaker)
  • a voice/data modem (a regular modem if two telephone lines are used)
  • a 386 or faster computer with an available serial port
  • a VGA computer monitor
  • software

Software makes the communication connection easier. The Technology Assessment Program at Gallaudet University designed software specifically for this application. Remote CAN software lets the deaf or hard of hearing person control the display. It lets the user choose scroll speed, font style and size, and background color. The software displays text double-spaced, making it easier to read the notes. When a new person begins speaking, double chevrons (>>) used in television captioning indicate a change of speaker. The software also allows the user to interrupt the notetaker for immediate clarification of misunderstandings. Conversations can be saved for later use.


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