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Media Accessibility Information, Guidelines and Research

Youth and Captioned Media

By Jennifer DiLorenzo

Research shows that approximately 90 percent of all children who are deaf have hearing parents. Many of these children are at a true disadvantage when it comes to obtaining information, due to communication barriers. They must rely on additional resources to gain a knowledge base that most hearing children learn by listening.

Drawing of a smiling mouse wearing a dress and leaping through a field of flowers and grass.

One such useful and important resource when working with children who are deaf is captioned media. It provides a concise and clear way for children to acquire key and necessary information in a variety of areas. The Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP), funded through the U.S. Department of Education, continues to build their user-friendly library to incorporate more and more titles that assist educators and parents to teach school subjects and life skills to children who are deaf.

As a school psychologist at St. Mary's School for the Deaf in Buffalo, New York, I encounter numerous challenges when trying to help my students learn about social norms and pressures, such as conflict resolution, drinking, drugs, relationships, and communication skills. I am faced with searching for highly visual and comprehensive ways to explain serious and in-depth topics. I also must look for multiple resources that cover similar subject matter to further reinforce known ideas.

The Described and Captioned Media Program offers me this flexibility. I have been working with the DCMP by suggesting new titles for the collection and evaluating titles received for captioning consideration. This contribution has allowed me to further commit myself to the accurate and widespread distribution of knowledge for children who are deaf.

The use of captioned media materials has been productive for me with both younger and older students. Using videos and DVDs with younger students can be difficult at times because their language and reading levels tend to be delayed. Therefore, their ability to read the captions is not always possible. While this is a challenge, I have used it as an opportunity to further enrich the development of the children I work with. I still use the media but break frequently to discuss certain segments and ensure comprehension. At times, I also interpret the captioned media to help with understanding. And I always follow each showing with questions and activities to engrain the relevant information.

I continue to use media as a stepping stone for learning as students get older. At this level, I do many of the same techniques used with the younger students. My goal is to meet each child at their level of learning. The use of media allows me to build on that level in a visual and realistic perspective that otherwise would not be possible.

While I have been lucky enough to see many positive moments produced from students learning through captioned media materials, one particular class stands out in my mind. It was a group of juniors and seniors, between 17 and 20 years old. Our topic was focused on the impacts of drinking alcohol. When we began, most of the students stated that they had "heard it all before" and understood the dangers of drinking, as well as the concepts of alcohol.

Prior to starting this lesson, I searched through the DCMP titles and checked out a few that pertained to my overall objectives. After previewing them, I picked one that was perfect for my "very in the know" students. I asked them to take note of any information presented that they were not previously aware of. As I sat and observed them watching this video, I could not help but smile.

It was clear to me that much of the information being shown was uncharted territory for most of them. When the video was complete, I asked them their thoughts. Most of them could not contain themselves, and the dialogue began to flow. They were shocked at how much they had not known and how well they could relate to the young adults in the video. That particular video sparked a discussion that continued for two additional class sessions. I could never have generated that kind of enthusiasm or thirst for more knowledge if I had tried to present that same information in a lecture format. Integrating captioned media into my lessons allows me to constantly present up-to-date and precise information that otherwise children who are deaf might miss.

It is imperative that we continue working hard to guarantee that children who are deaf do not lose the opportunity to learn simply because the learning materials are not accessible. We have to show them where the educational resources are and how they can be obtained. The DCMP is one such valuable resource that continues to grow, broadening and enriching the lives of our youth by providing educational captioned media that otherwise would not be accessible. I plan to continue my collaboration with the DCMP and help provide the "wow factor" in children's lives.

I have included the titles of some of the DCMP videos that I have used, which I found made a real impact on students I have worked with. They are as follows:

About the Author

Jennifer DiLorenzo is a 1999 alumna of Gallaudet University's School of Psychology graduate program. She currently works at St. Mary's School for the Deaf in Buffalo, New York, as a school psychologist. Jennifer works with students in the Deaf Infant Program through age 21. She welcomes any questions or collaborations about her work. Jennifer can be reached via e-mail at or by phone at (716) 834-7200 ext. 184 (V/TTY).

Tags: educators

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