Captions can help address disability education funding crisis

Friday, 27 March 2015 10:16am

New data has been released showing that Australian schools are struggling to fund the educational support needs of students with a disability. For schools looking for low-cost ways to support learning, especially for students with a hearing impairment, using captions on classroom videos offers essential access to the curriculum.

Teacher and students in a primary school classroom

Recent research conducted by the Australian Education Union (AEU) through the State of Our Schools Survey questioned 3,300 teachers and principals about funding for students with disability.

According to the AEU, the survey found that a high percentage of public school principals surveyed—79 per cent—stated that they did not have enough funding for the needs of children with disability at their school.

84 per cent of public school principals surveyed stated that they have previously had to divert funds from other parts of school budgets to provide the required resources for students with disability.

The survey also finds that public schools have a relatively high number of students with a disability in the classroom—39 per cent of principals said that more than 10 per cent of students at their schools had a disability which required assistance in the classroom. Sixteen per cent of principals said that the number was more than 20 per cent of students.

The results, which have been contested by the federal education minister, paint a picture of a great number of schools across the country struggling to secure the resources required to provide access to education for students with a disability.

However, there are measures that teachers can take to help improve access for students with a disability that are cost next to nothing and can be implemented in classrooms immediately.

When audiovisual curriculum content is presented in class, simply turning on captions—the text transcription of all spoken dialogue in a video—can help improve students’ ability to access what is being taught in classrooms in a number of ways. 

The use of captions in schools is essential for those students who are Deaf or have hearing impairment as captions create an additional medium or method for these students to understand and engage with lesson support materials.

The use of captions is also of great benefit for other students, particularly diverse learners, as it assists in improving learning outcomes by supporting information acquisition and reading skills.

For students with learning difficulties, the combination of visual, auditory and text as captions can assist learning. Captioned video content provides another means of understanding information and another point of access for students.

And outside of disability, captions are also a great way to help students with English as an additional language or dialect (EAL/D) as well as visual learners, and can help in improving student literacy.

You can see Media Access Australia’s story for the ABC’s Splash about the five reasons you should turn captions on.

Another important point is that captions are also more widely available than you might think.

Captions can now be found on television programs, subscription TV services, online videos, some cinema and theatre performances, and about 55 per cent of new release DVDs.

All programs aired on ABC, SBS, Seven, Nine, Ten and regional channels between 6am and midnight include captions, as do all news programs.

Online, ABC's iview player, and increasingly video content offered on sites like YouTube, also include captions. On-demand video services, in particular Netflix, also feature captioned content.

Each year since 2011, Media Access Australia has run CAP THAT!—an awareness campaign which aims to increase the use of captions in classrooms across Australia and promote the benefits of captions for all students, especially those who are Deaf or hearing impaired. The CAP THAT! website is loaded with resources to support teachers to turn on captions on video content, including quick links to captioned videos and lesson plans.

This year’s CAP THAT! campaign will launch in May 2015.


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