Report from America on a world leading education initiative

Error message

Deprecated function: Array and string offset access syntax with curly braces is deprecated in include_once() (line 14 of /home/mediacc/public_html/themes/engines/phptemplate/phptemplate.engine).
Thursday, 13 October 2011 15:48pm

The Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP) is a US initiative run by the Department of Education and the National Association of the Deaf. Its aim is to provide equal access to communication and education to students who are Deaf, hearing impaired, blind, vision impaired or deaf-blind. Media Access Australia CEO, Alex Varley, recently visited the DCMP headquarters in South Carolina and was impressed with the developments and new focus that it is taking.

Following the announcement of continued government funding, the DCMP offers a range of services promoting inclusion for children with disabilities. Importantly, these services are adapted to meet changing needs.

“A newer area of captioning in the USA is Spanish captions to service the large Hispanic population.  The DCMP is going to devote around 25% of its resources towards Spanish language services,” said Varley.

The move to online delivery of video material has accelerated and now around 85% of DCMP’s media content streamed online, with the remainder sent through the post on DVD.  This big change in the distribution needs has led to a closure of its Oklahoma distribution centre.  The drop in means that any DVD requirements can be burned as needed and sent from South Carolina.

Although Video Description, called Audio Description in Australia, is a much newer service, the DCMP is moving quickly to anticipate key issues and problems and look for solutions now.  For example, in the area of quality standards and guides for how description is produced for education materials, the DCMP is working with teachers and academics. 

“Description is much more subjective than captioning and a major issue is the language of description.  Whilst most children have a spoken vocabulary that is well advanced of their written vocabulary, there are many descriptive words that they won’t understand.  So DCMP is working with teachers to create lists of age-appropriate words that can be used in education media description.  This will take up to five years, but will be a very valuable resource for everybody,” said Varley.

Another issue with description is that most education media is created in a documentary style with a large amount of narration. This means that there aren’t many gaps in the soundtrack where description can be inserted.  Couple this with the fact that some of the content will contain diagrams, animations and tables that need extensive description, and there are issues around making the description effective in education. 

DCMP’s new director, Jason Stark (founder Bill Stark is stepping down to take on a more strategic focus), has a strong IT background and is exploring the flexibility of new media technologies in providing extra layers of description that a student can “drill down” into. 

After eight years the Read Captions Across America event, which inspired Media Access Australia’s CAP THAT! campaign, grows steadily each year. The event focuses on the simple message “turn on captions in the classroom,” thus promoting captions as both a literacy and access tool.

Top of page