Parents are a key ally in providing a supported captioning experience, according to Kate Kennedy from Parents of Deaf Children (PODC), the NSW-based parent organisation providing support, information and advocacy services to families of children with hearing loss.
While the focus of the organisation is on supporting families, it often works with schools and classroom teachers to ensure they are aware of the needs of deaf children in the classroom.
Kennedy describes captions as being “an essential tool in the teacher tool kit for ensuring all children, but particularly those who are Deaf or hard of hearing, get good access to what is being taught each day.
“Having content that is well captioned is crucial, especially as, increasingly, technology is the vehicle for the way the curriculum is delivered in most classrooms across Australia.”
In its work, PODC note that there is an increasing trend in NSW schools to open up classrooms and group larger numbers of students together in open learning environments. This can provide another barrier for Deaf and hard of hearing students due to the level of noise in that open classroom. Captions can assist to level the playing field in a noisy environment for deaf students, as well as provide a good learning model for other students, including Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) students.
PODC is a big supporter of the CAP THAT! awareness campaign, as it builds teacher and broader public awareness of the benefits of captions for all students in the class.
Kennedy explains, “We know that once teachers get the information and understand the role that captions can play in opening up the world of learning for students – all students - they too become caption champions.”
She also points out that captions are a relatively simple strategy for meeting the needs of students under the Disability Standards for Education 2005 [link is external]. This is where education providers must take reasonable steps to ensure that a student is able to participate in what is happening in the classroom and that the needs of all students are met by the teacher.
PODC also focuses on the home environment to build parent’s capacity to support their Deaf or hard of hearing child in their everyday life, and describes captions as a simple action or intervention that families can do that can have a big impact for their child. They actively encourage families to turn them on early – even if their children are still small (and pre-lingual) as they are a good reading tool and build lifelong skills for deaf children and their families.
The embedding of captions in some families becomes second nature.
“Many hearing parents report that they like to have the captions on, even when their deaf child is off to bed or not in the room – they become a part of the family viewing experience,” reports Kennedy.
“The main message for parents is: just do it – turn them on and start today to give your child a key skill in their life.”