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Media Accessibility Information, Guidelines and Research

Focus on Learning

By Dr. Marcia Kolvitz, Ph.D.



It's All About Learning

There are numerous ways that educational programs demonstrate their commitment to student success, including ensuring that educational media is accessible to all students. For many years, the Described and Captioned Media Program has provided thousands of hours annually of accessible educational media. Feedback we get from users has been overwhelmingly positive, and it’s powerful to see the impact accessible media has had on students as they progress through their educational programs.

There’s an old proverb that goes something like this:

If you give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day. If you teach a man to fish, he’ll eat for a lifetime.

As educators and parents, we recognize the importance of having students actively engage in the learning process and apply what they’ve learned to develop a foundation for the future. But the same concept applies to us as we consider our own professional or personal development. In recent years, DCMP has been looking at ways of ensuring that its users have a good understanding of not only what described and captioned media is available but also why and how it is used.

Sharing Information about DCMP

Conference Participation

Since the current project cycle began in 2016, DCMP representatives have participated in more than 30 national, regional, and state conferences attended by educators, parents, or other interested groups. Meeting constituents in the conference exhibit area provides conference participants the opportunity to learn more about DCMP’s resources and services, as well as have specific questions or issues addressed. Because these conferences attract participants who have a variety of roles and responsibilities, DCMP is able to address questions from direct users as well as from program administrators, thus increasing the depth and breadth of our contact list.

In recent years, DCMP’s conference involvement expanded to include offering informational presentations in which using described and captioned media could be discussed more in depth with participants. In an effort to support why and how accessible media is used, several presentations have been developed and offered at different conferences. More than 25 presentations have been given to over 500 participants, covering topics that include:

  • DCMP: An Overview of Services
  • Using Accessible Media With Students Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, Blind or Visually Impaired, or Deaf-blind
  • Creating Accessible Videos
  • Transition Planning for Students Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing: An Online Curriculum

The immediate feedback provided by participants after each presentation has been extremely positive. Almost all participants (99%) indicated that the information shared was relevant to their work, and almost all of them (98%) indicated that the content would be useful in their work. Additional follow-up contacts were made with participants at least three months after the conference to find out if the information "stuck." Again, the responses were very positive, with participants indicating that the information shared was of high quality (97%), relevant (94%), and useful (88%).

DCMP’s Learning Center

Traveling to conferences isn’t always possible for many of DCMP’s users. To provide support to educators and parents as they utilize accessible media, DCMP established an online Learning Center that offers information related to education, accessibility, deafness, blindness, and other related topics. Users can learn more about captioning, description, assistive technology, the laws pertaining to accessibility, and many other subjects. The information is available whenever the user desires it.

Online Training

Access to a catalog full of information may be sufficient for some individuals. However, others may be interested in online training modules, which offer an interactive learning experience in a fairly short amount of time. DCMP currently offers three modules to provide information and resources related to accessibility for students in educational settings:

Each of these modules typically requires about an hour to complete. These modules (as well as others designed for student use) can be found on our eLearning Resources page, and they are free of charge.

As of February 2020, over 200 people have completed at least one of these three modules. Feedback surveys conducted after completion of the modules indicated very strong, positive results. Almost all of the people responding (99%) indicated that the material was relevant to their needs and the needs of their organization. Almost all of them (99.5%) also indicated that the modules improved their understanding of the topic (99.5%) and that they were likely to use the information (98.5%) presented in their professional work or life.

Digging Deeper

Some individuals seek opportunities to not only review the content, but also discuss it with colleagues. DCMP provides QuickClasses, which are short, asynchronous, online classes for professionals. These three-week courses focus on using accessible media in the classroom with students who are deaf or hard of hearing or students who are blind or visually impaired. Each course explores the benefits of using media in the classroom and explains the importance of accessible media for students with sensory impairments as well as students with and without disabilities. Participants learn to evaluate the quality of accessibility features and various techniques for utilizing media to enhance classroom instruction.

Why is This Important?

Offering a variety of strategies for educators and parents to learn about accessibility also supports DCMP’s goal of improving learner outcomes. Parents and educators who are well-informed about the benefits of using accessible media and the strategies for providing it can serve as stronger advocates. They can share information with others in educational programs and ensure that the students with whom they work have equal access to all aspects of their educational program.

What Have We Learned?

From February 2019 through November 2019, 94 people enrolled in DCMP’s QuickClasses. The classes generally require several hours of work (readings, online discussions, assignments) per week over the three-week course schedule. Since their inception, 62 participants met all the requirements and successfully completed their class. Because QuickClasses not only provide content but also offer the opportunity for students to discuss their experiences, the instructor added an assignment that was relevant to their own work settings. One of the course assignments was to develop a Plan for Change, addressing these questions:

  • Overall Outcome - What one thing would you like to see changed or improved in deaf or blind educational programs as a result of what you’ve learned in this class?
  • Action Plan - Within the next three months, what one or two things will you do to facilitate this change?
  • Evaluation - How will you know you’re successful? How will you measure the effectiveness of your actions?

DCMP’s QuickClasses have been very well-received; post-class feedback from almost all participants indicated that they consider the classes to be of high quality, relevance, and usefulness. What did participants think were the most significant things they learned in the class? Here are some of their responses:

  • DCMP videos can enhance learning
  • Setting up student accounts and access quality educational videos
  • Using described and captioned media to support instruction
  • How to access the DCMP website and its value
  • Range of resources available from DCMP
  • Laws governing accessible media
  • Guidelines for captioning
  • Description Key
  • What quality descriptive videos are like and resources to find them
  • How to have students access videos for pleasure
  • Importance of using video as an educational tool
  • The difference between quality captioning and mediocre or poor captioning
  • Just having words on the screen does not make the captioning accessible
  • How to evaluate captioning better to match student needs
  • Using video in a "flipped classroom" strategy
  • Everything!

Several months after each course ended, course participants received a follow-up email to assess the effectiveness of their plans. They were asked to respond to the questions listed below:

  • Were you able to follow your action plan? If not, why not?
  • Did you make any changes to your action plan? If so, please describe them.
  • Was your action plan successful? Did you see the results you’d wanted? Please describe what changes you see now in educational programming.
  • What additional actions will you take in the future to support access to media for students with disabilities?

We’re still collecting the post-QuickClass results, but these three responses are good examples of the information we’ve received to date. Not every action plan goes as expected, but QuickClass participants can use their plan as a starting point in reaching out to colleagues to support a more accessible learning environment for students.

Teacher of Students Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing (Georgia)

Initial Plan

Overall Outcome: One thing I'd like to see change, especially in my county, is for students to know better how to advocate for themselves and know what resources they have available to them to have equal access in the educational arena (in high school and then in college and beyond). One challenge is that videos continue to be inaccessible for many of them.

Action Plan: I am going to create log-ins for all of my high school students and put them in a classroom. I will share videos and examples of good quality captions so they see models of what provides them with equal access to content shared in their class.

Evaluation: I will be successful if all my students are able to access the videos on their student accounts. They will also give me one statement about how they learned about the level of captions of the videos

Follow-Up

Were you able to follow your action plan? I have shown many of my students DCMP, but I have not yet made them individual accounts.

Did you make any changes to your action plan? I will keep the action plan as is. I had forgotten exactly what my action plan was, so now that I remember, I believe I can complete it.

What additional actions will you take in the future to support access to media for students with disabilities? I have shared the link with several general educators who work with our DHH students so they are familiar with where they can get quality captioned videos. It is a struggle for me to get the teachers to use it because they have their favorite videos that they don’t want to substitute. But I am going to keep trying!


Educational Interpreter (Tennessee)

Initial Plan

Overall Outcome: The one thing (though there are many) I would like to see change is that teachers would begin to make their class more accessible to their deaf and hard of hearing mainstreamed students.

Action Plan: To facilitate this change: When I introduce myself as the interpreter to the teacher, I will include some specifics on how to make their class more accessible, including how to work with me by giving me preparatory materials and informing them of the accessible captioning products available from DCMP. I will explain about my experience with video use with captioning in the past and how often those captions are subpar at best, but I can refer them to a valuable resource in DCMP.

Evaluation: Naturally, I will know of my success when videos are shown in the classroom. And should they forget and use a low quality video, I can peruse DCMP, find a video with similar content, and show them the quality video. Also I was asked by my SPED supervisor to share any resources I find helpful; thus, I'll be sharing with her to pass along. In fact, that's why my last activity for this class will be more like an advertisement in PowerPoint. I figure that might make it simple to share.

Follow-Up

I have been able to share with teachers I work with about the need for quality captioning when they use a video. Surprisingly, most of them have actually paid more attention to the captioning and trying to provide it for the student. Unfortunately, many of the videos they have used are so very specific that they are not offered through DCMP, nor is there anything closely comparable. But I feel I have at least made them more aware and they have seen for themselves the poor quality of many videos. A few times they have even decided against using a certain video because of the poor quality.


Teacher of Students Who are Blind or Visually Impaired (Kentucky)

Initial Plan

Overall Outcome: One thing I would like to see changed or improved would be for teachers (general education) to realize the many difficulties that students with low vision have and create their lessons accordingly. For students with low vision, it is often perceived that they can see most things, because they "get around just fine," which is not always the case. I would like more teachers to plan with all disabilities in mind (Universal Design) and take advantage of the many useful tools out there like DCMP. The overall outcome of this would be lessons that wouldn't have to be changed specifically for my VI students, because they would already be accessible.

Action Plan: I will give as much information about useful tools to my general education teachers as I can and work with them on developing lessons that can easily be accessible for all students. Another thing I will do is to research other useful tools to help my students be successful and access the general education curriculum.

Evaluation: I will know I am successful when my VI students can access the regular curriculum with as little modification as possible. If the accommodations are built into the lessons, modifications won't be needed. However, I can only be successful in this endeavor if the teachers are willing to give me lesson materials early, such as things that need to be brailled, so that modifications aren't necessary.

Follow-Up

Were you able to follow your action plan? I was able to implement my action plan with some of the general education teachers. With others, it was difficult to get lessons beforehand with enough time to make accommodations.

Was your action plan successful? Did you see the results you’d wanted? With some of my students, my action plan was successful. I had some trouble with teachers following the suggested accommodations when I wasn't in the classroom. However, I am working with my students so that they can use technology independently, and working on self-advocacy so that they get the accommodations they need even when I am not collaborating at the time.

What additional actions will you take in the future to support access to media for students with disabilities? I will use all known available technology and devices in order to give my students the greatest opportunities for access and independence, and to figure out what things work best for what student.


DCMP is committed to improving learner outcomes, and we’re proud to share information and resources that are of high quality, relevance, and usefulness. Through the expansion of the Learning Center during this project cycle, we’ve learned that educators, parents, and other interested people want and value the opportunity to learn more about accessible media and how it can be used in their settings. As a result, we believe they are in a better position to make informed decisions about student programming and serve as more effective advocates for students.

About the Author

Dr. Marcia Kolvitz is the project evaluator for DCMP during the 2016-2021 grant cycle.


Tags: description, captioning, dcmp, educators, research

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