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Media Accessibility Information, Guidelines and Research

Captioned Films for the Deaf Curriculum Workshops

By Doin Hicks

Ball State University
Muncie Indiana
1964 – 1968


The Captioned Films for the Deaf law was passed in the fall of 1958 and assigned to the Department of Education for its administration. A very capable and creative educator of the deaf, Dr. John Gough, was selected to direct the fledging program. The law was designed to enhance the social and recreational life of deaf persons by making entertainment films accessible to deaf and hard-of-hearing persons through the captioning of the films' soundtracks. Dr. Gough quickly realized that this program, if expanded to include educational films and other visual media, could also become a bonanza to schools and programs involved in the education of deaf and hard-of-hearing children and adults.

Doin Hicks
Doin Hicks

The program expansion, as Dr. Gough envisioned, was based on logical assumptions regarding current educational movement. Public policy regarding both general and special education was evolving in significant ways. In the 1950s the consolidation of school districts and the expansion of their programs had been of exponential proportions. An exciting post-World War II evolution of our educational system was in process. Increasing numbers of schools developed local programs for education of disabled students. Special schools for disabled students were experiencing the pressure to serve in new and better ways, especially the provision of programs for severely disabled persons. The Junior College movement was in full swing. State university systems were enlarging both undergraduate and graduate programs. The G.I. Bill and other support programs had greatly enlarged and enhanced the higher education populace, and the general public was demonstrating increasing interest and support for improving the quality of educational programs for all citizens, including the disabled, as well as those who might otherwise be disenfranchised.

Dr. Gough's vision for the expansion of the Captioned Films program was soon realized. Additional legislation was passed in subsequent years (1963 and 1965) to give the program greatly expanded authority in the areas of materials development, training, and research, along with significantly increased appropriations. Details of this and other historical antecedents of the Captioned Films legislation and its program growth will be detailed in other sections of this manuscript. The movement to increase and improve the original purpose of the program — to caption entertainment films and their distribution — continued to move forward with accelerated film acquisition, improvements in captioning technology, establishment of a smooth distribution system, and overall growth in quality and quantity.

Move Toward Implementation of New Initiatives

Soon after authorization for program expansion Dr. Gough sought out projects to move new elements into operation. Among the first was that of embellishment of the curricular offerings of schools and programs through improved visual support. At the same time, improved quality of content as well as presentation skills could be achieved by instructional personnel through their participation in intensive interactive workshops of a training and development nature. Such activities could be patterned somewhat after the existing National Defense Education Workshops that currently were underway in a number of locations around the country but which were not directly relevant to the particular needs of teachers of deaf and hard-of-hearing children. A major project of this nature was envisioned by Dr. Gough as a beginning and one which, potentially, would become a seminal project providing the seed to spawn numerous future efforts to enhance curricular offerings to deaf and hard-of-hearing students.

A project of five-year duration was envisioned. Each summer a group of experienced teachers, 25 to 30 in number, would be selected based on demonstrated teaching skills and knowledge in particular subject areas. The participants would convene for a six-week period of intense activity to include receiving instruction in media-related topics and applying that knowledge and skill to the production of curricular outlines. These study guides would utilize textbooks and other print material currently in use and, in addition, provide suggestions and guides for use of visual media. To complete this task, workshop participants would be given access to a wide array of commercial media and materials.

Workshop Organization

Dr. Gough chose Ball State University (then Ball State Teachers College) as the site for this first major enterprise. Ball State was his alma mater, and he was familiar with personnel and facilities at this institution and could move quickly to get the project implemented. Ball State agreed to provide facilities for such an endeavor as was envisioned. The college had just occupied a new Student Union building which would have a variety of work spaces not in use during the summer when students were away on summer vacation. Also, the residence hall, dining facilities and other needed space was readily available on campus for workshop participants and staff. The college would provide a faculty member to be liaison and facilitator for the workshops.

The immediate need was to identify and hire an experienced educator of the deaf with administrative skills to organize the various elements of the proposed project. These tasks would include developing criteria and process for selection of participants, identifying needs for space and negotiating with the college for work space and participant lodging facilities, and rental of various pieces of electronic equipment needed by participants. Another major concern was that of arranging for loan and shipping by commercial companies of large amounts of media and other materials for review by the workshop participants. This concern, however, was soon overcome when suppliers realized that materials reviewed in the workshop might be recommended for use and subsequently purchased by schools.

Dr. Gilbert Delgado, an experienced teacher and currently Principal of the California School for the Deaf in Berkley, was selected to organize and to supervise the series of workshops. Dr. Delgado came highly recommended by his administrative supervisors and others with whom he had studied and worked. In his early activities relative to workshop preparation, Dr. Delgado received supportive assistance from Ball State School of Education staff. Dr. Alan Huckleberry, the school director, was his "go to" liaison, and a Professor of Special Education, Mr. Igleheart, was also very supportive of those early efforts. A major concern of Dr. Delgado was that of locating and hiring a person to supervise the selection and acquisition of the large amounts of media materials which were needed for workshop participants to review. Once acquired, the task of making it easily available to participants must also be addressed. A deaf teacher and librarian at the Ohio School for the Deaf, Ben Schowe, who had extensive experience in curriculum design and use of visual media, was recommended to Dr. Delgado as the best person to help in putting the manifold pieces together. Dr. Schowe was an outstanding educator and displayed superior organizational skills. As expected, he provided a major contribution to success of the workshops.

Once the pieces were all in place, the workshop was advertised nationally. Science and math courses were selected for the first workshop year and teachers in those areas were invited to apply. Participants would receive a stipend and could opt to stay in a college residence hall. Also those who wished could take the workshop for three semester hours of credit. The Ball State faculty representative would be responsible for reviewing and approving work and grade reports.

The first workshop advertisement resulted in more than an adequate number of highly qualified applicants. A committee of administrators and experienced teachers met, discussed, and agreed upon guidelines for selection. Applications were then reviewed and selections made. Participants represented a cross section of schools and programs as well as other diversity representations. Clearly a great deal of interest and expectation among schools and programs for deaf persons had been generated by the law expanding Captioned Films' authorizations and news of this particular initiative was welcome. The number and caliber of applications was indicative of the interest and need.

The first week of each workshop was given to orientation and instructional activities. College personnel provided information on facilities, services and other aspects of the college community. Persons from the community gave participants information on local points of interest and local social and recreation outlets. The procedural processes and desired final products were identified, explained and discussed to ensure that all participants understood expectations. Workshop staff, as well as a number of visiting lecturers and instructional material experts, provided information and training sessions. The participants were then divided into teams of two or three to work on specific courses or areas of curricular content. A professional editor was on hand to assist the teams daily with any concerns they might have in expressing or organizing their materials. It was expected that each team would have a finished product ready for final editing and reproduction by the end of the six-week workshop.

The first workshop successfully achieved the goal of producing curriculum guideline manuals in basic science and math courses. The manuals were concentrated on basic courses most frequently offered in middle school and lower division high school levels. The manuals included content outlines, suggestions for activities and skill sets which students should be able to demonstrate. Related visual media and materials were identified and, where appropriate, options for presentation were suggested. The manuals were primarily for teacher use and were not intended to replace texts and other materials provided by school systems. Public supported schools generally provided, without cost to students, district- or state-adopted textbooks for most courses. Schools and programs for deaf and hard-of-hearing students generally had access to these free textbook programs, but were flexible in permitting teachers to utilize their own teacher-made materials or supplementing text materials as they saw fit. Many teachers of the deaf spent significant amounts of personal time adapting and/or designing visually oriented materials for their students.

Most schools for the deaf were beginning to take advantage of recent advances in material production technologies. Also many schools were expanding their library and resource staffs to include persons recently trained in current and emerging media technology production and utilization techniques. These included the use of heat, light and dry ink particle technologies to produce permanent paper copies, transparencies and laminated materials. A small company which called itself "Xerox" in Rochester, NY had developed the process of xerographic reproduction to the point of making it practical and inexpensive as well as producing copies which did not fade out over time. (As an aside: In 1966 the writer of this section of manuscript, Dr. Doin Hicks, was author of the first doctoral dissertation which was accepted in Xerox copy format by the library of the University of Arkansas. Previously only original copies of manuscripts were accepted.)

The legislation expanding the Captioned Films authorization and associated increase in appropriation required significant additional work on the part of headquarters staff in Washington. Dr. Delgado's effective organization of the Ball State project and administration of the initial workshop was instrumental in his being asked to join the headquarters staff in Washington as administrator of the newly expanded Captioned Films initiatives. In his new role Dr. Delgado continued as an oversight officer responsible for the Ball State workshop project. He selected a participant of the initial workshop, Dr. Doin Hicks, to replace him in the on-site summer workshop coordinator role. Dr. Hicks had experience as a successful classroom teacher and as a principal in schools for the deaf. He had recently completed a two-year residency as a doctoral candidate at the University of Arkansas and had accepted a position as Director of a private school for the deaf in Dallas, Texas.

At this point, also, Ball State had appointed School of Education professor, Dr. Donald Ferguson, as liaison and facilitator to the workshop project. Dr. Ferguson had been associated with the first workshop as a lecturer and had developed a deep personal interest in the project, volunteering much of his time to assisting the participants. He proved to be an outstanding asset to the project as he had extensive knowledge of curriculum as well as classroom strategies and techniques of presentation. Additionally, his skill in navigating the college bureaucracy to achieve supportive services for the workshop was very useful and time saving. Dr. Ferguson, as well as Dr. Hicks, continued in their leadership roles throughout the remaining workshops in the series. Each remaining workshop was successful in completing assigned developmental and production goals. Curriculum guideline manuals were produced for approximately 30 courses. One workshop was devoted primarily to pre-vocational and vocational curricula. In addition to vocational technical high schools, schools for the deaf, as well as some general high schools, continued to provide a significant amount of vocational training.

Utilization and Impact

Enthusiasm among school faculties for access to Ball State workshop materials developed quickly. Materials from the workshops were produced and distributed under direction of the Washington Office of Captioned Films. Public and private schools for the deaf, as well as those public schools known to have programs for deaf students, were given a copy of each manual. Schools generally placed the materials in a central library or teacher work room. Schools which had xerographic or other copy equipment were free to copy and distribute the materials as desired. The education of the deaf community, as well as the general deaf community, had rather well-developed networking and communication strategies well before the current social media technologies came into wide use.

Applications for selection to the workshops had continued to be more than adequate to ensure highly qualified participants. Interestingly, well before the end of the last workshop, an informal Ball State alumni group had formed and was having social activities in connection with conferences of education of the deaf professional associations. This relationship continued for a number of years and was indicative of the pride in workshop products and the value placed on the enduring friendships developed during the workshops. Participants, totaling about 150 for all workshops, were good ambassadors for encouraging use of the materials among colleagues. Although only generalized information was available, it was evident from word of mouth reports that faculties and administrators were reacting positively to the goal of improved and expanded use of visual media.

Captioned Films, through its four regional Media Centers, continued the program's extensive efforts to influence improvements in the instruction of deaf and hard-of-hearing students through the improved and expanded use of visual media. Some of these efforts used and built upon the Ball State materials. One specific example of this was a series of summer teacher training workshops held at the Southwest Center at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. At that point Dr. Donald Ferguson, who was the faculty representative to the Ball State workshops, had moved to New Mexico State as Associate Dean of the School of Education and had administrative responsibility for the Captioned Films Media Center located there. Dr. Ferguson assisted with guidance in many of the training activities and continued throughout his career to be a valuable spokesperson and supporter of efforts to improve educational opportunities for deaf and hard-of-hearing students.

Since the Ball State workshops occurred some 50 years ago, much detail is gone, both from resource and from memory. A few examples of impact might be best illustrated from the experience of this writer, Doin Hicks, and perhaps best expressed in first person.

Writer's Personal Reflections

My experience at Ball State left a deep and positive impression on me and for the next 35 years continued to influence my career as an administrator in schools and programs and as an educator and consultant preparing teachers and administrators to serve within the profession.

Following the Ball State experience, Captioned Films funded a proposal I submitted on behalf of Callier Center in Dallas, Texas and the Pilot School Division for which I served as Director. The proposal was for support of a project to develop an individualized instruction system for deaf students with heavy emphasis on the use of visual media as proposed within the Ball State guide recommendations. As a component of the project, a multimedia delivery system was devised including a special desk which put controls for film, filmstrip, and overhead projector at each teachers' fingertips. Of course multimedia is useful only with training and commitment on the part of the teacher. The project also called for curriculum development on a continuum basis rather than specifically being expressed in levels devoted to grade or year. The project had other components including research demonstration, parent participation and dissemination. I moved to another location in 1970, after two years, but the project continued on successfully under a new administrator.

My new position was an administrator at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., with responsibility for implementing a new Federal Law, The Model Secondary School for the Deaf Act: P.L. 89-694, which provided for the design, construction and staffing of the school to be built on the university campus with plans to serve primarily the District of Columbia and the surrounding five-state region.

The lessons I learned at Ball State and Dallas guided much of my action in this project which was soon followed by a similar Federal law authorizing the redeveloping of the Kendall Elementary School on campus into a national demonstration elementary school serving a local population. The design, construction and staffing of these two schools utilized all of the known and available relevant principles of spatial design, media utilization and training of staff in individualized instruction methodology. Prior to my arrival, the Kendall School had been funded by Captioned Films for an experimental project utilizing computer technology. Utilizing old converted teletypes as computer terminals and a direct telephone hookup to the main frame computer at Stanford University of California, students were provided a modest program which provided practice in learning basic arithmetic computation. This, of course, was several years before desktop computers were available for general use in classrooms. This and other early demonstration projects clearly indicate the leadership role played by Captioned Films in its quest to open new doors to deaf and hard-of-hearing students in their pursuit of learning.

New Frontiers and New Challenges

As with all enterprises in a democratic society, education is guided by public policy. The strong influence of public policy on education of the deaf has meant a major shift in ways in which this function has been managed and delivered. Before and immediately following World War II, special education was primarily provided in centralized residential schools which were funded and managed at the state level or else by religious organizations. Only a few of the larger local districts provided for special students within their programs. In the 1950s more than 70 percent of deaf students attended special schools and only a few of these schools were locally funded and managed. The same is generally true for other areas of special education. The movement to mainstream special education students gained momentum, and by the 1980s, the trend in special education placement had been essentially reversed: from a 70–30 special school majority to a 70–30 public school majority. Regardless of one's feelings about the pros and cons of mainstreaming, it was a public decision prerogative and local schools must face and resolve the myriad issues and challenging responsibility this policy required. Likewise, for those attempting to provide assistance at state and national levels to small and scattered populations such as those with deafness, their resources were stretched. This could be viewed as a "happy" problem as, indeed, local districts and state departments were stepping up to the plate in response to the desires of their constituencies: the general population, which determined the overall agenda. Captioned Films and other education support agencies responded by extending their services to the larger and more diverse population which now was involved in special education.

As the 1990s came into view, the more than 20-year history of the Ball State and other early projects still lingered in the minds of many. Some continued to make use of those early products and, in particular, some of the techniques and skills gained through project experiences. Residential schools were dealing with declining enrollments, budget reduction issues, too large and aging physical plants, and meeting the educational needs of some newer and more challenging populations of students with severe and multiple disabilities. The administration and faculties of these schools deserve to be applauded, however, as the majority have responded positively to those new challenges. There continues to be a great need for these schools as they fill a need which many local communities and families cannot address. The public policy response of the special schools for the deaf to this change was studied and analyzed by a doctoral student at Gallaudet University, Carol Beckman. The technology used was borrowed from researchers who had studied the response of hospitals a few years earlier when a major oversupply of bed capacity occasioned the need for administrators to make adjustments in policy and practice. For administrators there was no necessarily wrong response, except that of doing nothing. For administrators of special schools for the deaf, responses to their dilemma regarding public policy changes on school placement and program administration generally were along a continuum characterized by one of three approaches: 1) concentrating on serving a particular segment of the population and doing that exceptionally well, 2) following the trends and hoping to provide a satisfactory level service, or 3) moving ahead of the group and providing leadership within new developments. Dr. Beckman and her advisor, Doin Hicks, presented their findings at a national conference of administrators of schools and programs. Although responses on the part of administrators to this survey involved potentially controversial viewpoints, 100 percent of the 70 or so chief school administrators voluntarily responded—a rarity in any research project. This does speak well, however, to the intense loyalty to the profession and dedication to service on the part of these individuals.

Even without significant empirical data, it is a logical assumption that the early efforts of Captioned Films to promote improvements in services to deaf students through such projects as the Ball State workshops did, over time, yield more than just the low-hanging fruit. Increased interest in deafness by state level special educators and their national organization, the National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE), became increasingly evident as the 90s approached. As the mainstreaming movement was in full swing, NASDSE was seeking ways to ease the burden on public schools engaged in the task of designing and implementing programs for special populations which they had not previously served. The NASDSE headquarters staff in Arlington, VA was made aware by a number of constituencies of the need for local schools to have access to guidance in specific program needs of deaf students and how appropriate programs might be designed and implemented. NASDSE sought out sources and applied for financial support to address these needs, primarily through grant applications to the Office of Education's Division of Special Education. Assistance to the NASDSE staff in developing grant proposal documents was provided by Dr. Doin Hicks.

NASDSE Initiatives and Further Impact

The National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE) launched two projects aimed at improving education outcomes for students who are deaf and hard of hearing. The "Deaf Initiative Project," conducted by NASDSE in collaboration with the Conference of Educational Administrators serving the Deaf (CEASD) and the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), took a broad-based approach to achieving excellence in education for students who are deaf and hard of hearing. The "Model Training Grant," funded by the Education Department's Office of Special Education Programs, aimed to improve educational outcomes for students who are deaf and hard of hearing by using a consensus-building model. Both initiatives were directed by Dr. Gaylen Pugh, an experienced special educator with a Doctorate in Special Education Administration from Gallaudet University.

Initially, the Deaf Initiative Project was funded by the Northern Illinois University Research and Training Center on Traditionally Underserved Deaf Persons. The project, launched in 1991, identified six general areas of concern: program standards, personnel qualifications, partnerships and collaborative efforts, resources, knowledge and understanding of deafness, and advocacy and networking. The Deaf Children's Bill of Rights, adopted by the Council of Organizational Representatives (COR) served as one of the frameworks on which the chapters were developed. Representatives from organizations involved with educational outcomes for students who are deaf and hard of hearing served as a steering committee and convened in monthly meetings to develop model guidelines for programs and competencies for persons serving this population. Dr. Doin Hicks served as project consultant to the NASDSE projects including acting as chair of the steering committee whose members drafted the chapters for the guidelines document. The guideline development process included the following:

  • Chapters were reviewed internally by all steering committee members.
  • Final drafts were reviewed by over 72 individuals nationwide who volunteered to serve as reviewers in two rounds of review and comments on the draft. The names of the reviewers were listed on the reviewers list in the final document along with the names of the steering committee members.
  • The guidelines, designed to be modified and improved as "best practices" emerged by its application within the states, was intended to be considered a "living document" which would continue to grow and expand according to the needs within each state.
  • Reviewers' comments were discussed. The guidelines document was finalized, distributed nationwide to state directors of special education, and sold to many individuals and organizations throughout the United States and some foreign countries.

Following the publication of the Educational Service Guidelines, the project developed a consensus-building model for use by state and local education agencies to address needs of students with hearing loss. Participants at the seminars included, but were not limited to, special education teachers from schools for the deaf, local education agencies, state education agencies, parents, adults who are deaf, representatives from specialized sectors of the education community such as early intervention specialists, migrant programs, Native American programs and representatives from state and community service agencies such as social and mental health. Nine regional seminars were conducted over a three-year period. Representatives from ten states attended the very first seminar in Overland Park, Kansas. Additional seminars occurred in Mid-Atlantic States, New England, the Southeast and the Southwest.

Dr. Pugh, as Project Director, was invited to present at numerous state and local education agencies, special interest organizations for persons who are deaf and hard of hearing, as well as the International Conference on Education of the Deaf in Tel Aviv, Israel. Numerous articles about the guidelines development and the Action Seminars appeared in various publications, such as the A.G. Bell School Caucus publications; the American Speech, Language, and Hearing Association publications; the Council for Exceptional Children publications; the American Society for Deaf Children publications; and the Advance Healthcare Network, a nationwide publication for health providers throughout the country.

Following the projects related to education of deaf and hard-of-hearing students, NASDSE was successful in acquiring funding support to continue similar projects on behalf of blind and deaf-blind persons. These projects were directed by Dr. Pugh as well, and they were well received by the profession at large. Positive achievements influenced by NASDSE projects on behalf of special populations continue to be clearly evident.


In a democratic society, public policy trends frequently are slow to reach resultant fruition in practice. In this regard, our society's attitude and practice toward and treatment of handicapped citizens have evolved positively and steadily over recent decades. Our population of deaf and hard-of-hearing persons has benefited significantly in this regard. Federal and state supported initiatives have provided important pathways for evolving public policy to be implemented. Projects such as those by NASDSE as described herein have added significant support to earlier initiatives, particularly those supported by the Captioned Films network. These and numerous other projects and programs, several of which are illustrated in the chapters of this manuscript, have helped state- and school district-level programs to design, develop, and deliver much improved services to their special population students.

Biography of the Author:

Doin Hicks
November 11, 1932 - June 9, 2023

Doin Hicks grew up in rural south Missouri on a small dairy and truck farm. He attended local public schools, then Lyon College in Batesville, Arkansas. Following receipt of a liberal arts degree, he received a Ford Foundation fellowship to study education of the deaf and followed that with graduate work in secondary education at the University of Arkansas.

His professional career began as a classroom teacher and football coach at the Missouri School for the Deaf. Six years as a classroom teacher was followed by four years as principal at the Arkansas School for the Deaf. He then received a two-year fellowship from the Southern Education Foundation for graduate study culminating in the receipt of a doctorate in education. Following graduate school was a position as Director of the Pilot School for the Deaf in Dallas, Texas. The school was a division of the Callier Hearing and Speech Center. During his tenure there he also directed a major Federal grant program for regional services to deaf-blind children as well as a grant from Captioned Films for the Deaf to individualize instruction through various strategies including creative ways to use visual media.

In 1970 he was selected to manage the implementation of Federal Law 89-694 as the founding Director of the Model Secondary School for the Deaf, to be located on the Gallaudet University campus. During his 21 years at Gallaudet he held other positions including the Vice Presidency for Research and later as Vice President for Institutional Research and Planning. He also was a tenured full professor in the Department of Educational Administration and Supervision, where he taught a course each semester and directed doctoral student research. Following an early retirement from Gallaudet, he maintained a modest private, non-incorporated consulting business for the next twelve years working primarily with state education departments doing school and program evaluations, workshops for administrators in planning and decision making processes, and assisting private, nonprofit professional associations with standards of professional practice and certification programs.

Public service throughout his career was largely that of volunteer work with professional associations in the field of education of the deaf. He served on numerous boards, committees and task forces as well as terms as officer, including the presidency of two national associations. He also chaired for many years the Committee on Professional Preparation and Certification of the Council on Education of the Deaf, supervising teacher certifications and the evaluation of participating collegiate teacher preparation programs.

His publications include referred journal articles on a variety of topics, including administration, public policy and professional practice. He also authored and served as editor on a number of book chapters and monograph reports and the Gallaudet sponsored journal "Directions." He gave more than 100 papers at conventions, seminars and workshops, including at a number of national and international conferences.

His awards include numerous commendations, an honorary doctorate, a distinguished alumnus award and designation by the Gallaudet University Board as an Emeritus Professor. He retired from professional life in 2004 following the death of his wife of 49 years, Wanda McClung Hicks. She was a specialist in the education of deaf and deaf-blind persons and a collaborator both in family and professional activities, having shared authorship of publications and made joint presentations with him both here and abroad to families of deaf and deaf-blind students.

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