Five key captioning roles for specialist educators

Specialist education roles, such as Itinerant or Supporting Teachers of the Deaf, have a strategic and practical role in promoting the use of captions in school.

Smiling teacher standing in a classroom, holding a folder in her right hand

Five key roles you can play are:

1. Broadening the reach of access services to others

You should be an expert and school-based resource for your colleagues in everything to do with captions. This includes some basic understanding of how to caption short videos, as well as knowing how in-classroom live captioning works and how to organise it.  Beyond the practical, how-to issues, you should also understand the broad application of captions to a range of audiences, including students on the autism spectrum, students for whom English is an additional language or dialect, as well as Deaf and hearing impaired students.

2. Educating peers and decision makers

Not everybody in a school is thinking about access, so your role can ensure that key people, not just classroom teachers, are switched on about captions. Help your colleagues understand the importance of captioning as a school-wide service through resources such as the professional development presentation.

Technical staff also need to understand the basics of how to turn on captions on different devices such as electronic whiteboards, DVD players, school laptops, projectors in auditoriums and streaming of in-class captioning.

Parents should support the use of captions at home by watching television, DVDs, and video on demand services such as ABC iView or Netflix with the whole family with the captions turned on.

3. Planning texts and media that are accessible

Curricula typically are flexible in the range of choices of which texts and media can be studied and it is important to ensure that captioned options are chosen where available. This could be a DVD version of movie version of a text, or a digital captioned theatre performance. By talking to teachers early in the term planning stages you can direct them to some captioned options.

4. Walking the talk

You cannot expect others to use captions unless you do it yourself. Lead by example. So when you are showing any media to students, teachers or parents always ensure that captions are turned on.

5. Making captions part of the mainstream classroom

Everybody in the classroom should be watching with captions as up to a third of students may benefit from captions being switched on. If possible, this could be extended to any in-classroom captioning services by displaying the captions on a screen at the front of the classroom.

You can also go beyond the classroom and make captioning a basic part of everyday school activity, just like the award-winning Forest Hill College in Melbourne that provides captioned assemblies.

A word of advice for classroom teachers:

A key thing for a teacher to understand is that specialist educators are there to support you, not as a substitute for good every day, captioning practice. You need work with your specialist colleagues as a team, not just expect that they will anticipate your every need and deliver a fully-accessible classroom with no input from you.