Interview with Kate Kennedy, winner of the Roma Wood OAM Award at the 2014 Captioning Awards

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Monday, 17 November 2014 16:29pm

Kate Kennedy is the Coordinator, Information and Advocacy for Parents of Deaf Children (PODC).

Kate Kennedy holding the Roma Wood OAM Community Award for captioning. Left to right: David Brady, Roma Wood, Kate Kennedy, Andrew Stewart, Alex Varley

Kate is a parent of three school teenagers, two of whom have a hearing loss. She was a PODC Committee Member for three years prior to taking the role of Information and Advocacy Co-ordinator. Kate feels strongly about the need for unbiased information and support for parents of Deaf children so that they can make informed choices about their child's future. Kate, through her work with and support from Parents of Deaf Children (PODC) has demonstrated an unflagging passion, personal commitment, and voice for the needs of children who are Deaf or have hearing impairment and their access to education, information, and inclusion via captioned media.

What motivates you as an advocate, for the use of captions at home and school?

I meet with families most days as part of my work as coordinator at Parents of Deaf Children. As a parent myself, including two children who are Deaf, I am passionate about parents and carers connecting to each other to share information and support.  Turning on the captions is a simple intervention that can make a world of difference to a child’s access to the world and to a family life, but most families do not know about captioning or how to turn them on. Once they are made aware of the impact and benefits, they become keen caption users. Our family have used captions since our Deaf children could read – we turn the captions on when we can. I suppose I have always wanted my children to feel that we as a family can all sit down and have the same access to a movie or program as each other. Now my husband and I (both hearing) watch captions even when the kids are not around! So I am motivated in my job to share this information with other families.

Schools need to understand the benefits of captioning for all students too –like parents, many classroom teachers are not aware of captions and the impact for Deaf students if they are not turned on, and more to the point, the benefits to all students if they are turned on.  There is more and more media content being used in the classroom but without captioning, Deaf students are restricted in their ability to learn and are often shut out of the discussions that take place once a video or downloaded media is viewed. Captioning is just a simple adjustment but it makes such a difference to how our children feel about learning and school and about what they learn in the classroom.

What is your role at Parents of Deaf Children and how long have you been in it?

I have been the Coordinator at Parents of Deaf Children for 6 years but I have been involved as a volunteer parent for over 10 years now. It is run ‘by parents for parents’ and so has a parent focus. We work to build parent’s capacity and skills with information and support to help them to make good choices for their child. We know that children’s outcomes will be better when their parents are well supported and well informed. This drives my role and our organisation.  

What attracted you to the role initially?

I had been involved in PODC for a number of years on the committee, so I knew the work it did, when an opportunity came up to work there, I jumped at a chance to work with families of Deaf children.

Parents supporting parents is a unique support and I know first-hand the impact of finding another parent to share your experiences with and to learn from. Most families of Deaf children are hearing and there is so much to get your head around, especially in the early days.  I wanted to pass on my experience and skills to assist parents coming through. I get to meet amazing families and by linking them to information and support, hopefully make their journey a little easier.

Where do you think the gaps are in parents’ and teachers’ knowledge of captions?

I think there is still a lot of work to do the area of educating parents and teachers about the importance of turning of the captions, not just for Deaf students but all students. Many families may initially say that they do not like captions but in fact the key message is to look at the bigger picture of access for their Deaf child. Once they understand that, they are happy to have a go at turning them on and keeping them on. I do think more community awareness about captioning and how to access them would be helpful for families. Media Access Australia is doing a fantastic job with building awareness in schools with cap that and our organisation is passionate about teaching parents the value of captions for their child as a pre reading tool and as a lifelong skill for their Deaf child.

What’s the PODC Roadshow and how does the use of captions fit in with this initiative?

PODC went on the road this year to share the unique connections of parent to parent support and bring a range of information to regional families who may miss out on both parent networking and information. Building their awareness of the benefits of putting on the captions for their child is an important message that we share. Media Access Australia has provided us with a large amount of materials to help parents understand this importance and we have shared this with parents all over NSW this year. Let’s hope this can go some way to bridging the gap and to help to build a community of life long users of captions.

A non-profit organisation, supporting families with babies, children and teenagers with hearing loss in NSW, Parents of Deaf Children (PODC), formerly Parent Council for Deaf Education, offers a range of information, support and advocacy services for parents and carers, respecting the method or methods of communication that the family has chosen for their child.

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