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Captioned Media Suggestions for Accessible Classrooms

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), signed into law in 1990, protects disabled persons from discrimination through barriers to communication. The use of captioned media breaks down these barriers and equalizes communication access.As part of Universal Design on Instruction, the use of captioned media provides many benefits to diverse populations.

Who Benefits?

  • Persons who are Deaf or hard of hearing must have captioned media in order to access the auditory and visual media from one location.
  • Persons with learning disabilities, AD/HD, or other cognitive impairments also benefit from the open captions supplementing the audio.
  • Persons on this diverse campus where English is their second language benefit from the captions
  • Persons globally who see Bergen Community College media productions will benefit from the captions.
  • Persons without disabilities have stated that captioning helps in taking notes and improves understanding and recall.
  • Anyone in the audience when variations of sound quality or surrounding noise creates distractions. 

What about the distraction complaint?

A common comment on showing captioned media when only a few persons in the classroom/auditorium/room have a disability is that the open captions are a distraction to the rest of the audience or the open captions interfere with the visual aspect of the media. Most persons adapt very easily to the captions and find that they use the captions to supplement the audio when they miss some dialogue due to poor sound quality/acoustics or due to environmental noises. Additionally, research shows that, contrary to the supposition that captions are distracting and interfere with learning, there is no significant difference in test scores between hearing groups who viewed captioned and those who viewed non-captioned media.

What can the college do?

All videos/media that are purchased or developed by the college or by a department should be open or closed-captioned. The open-captioned format is recommended as the captions on open-captioned media are always displayed and no special equipment or setting is needed. Closed-captioned media require special equipment or menu setting to display the captions. Please indicate the need for a captioned version on all video/media orders.

Captioned Media Guidelines

The following guidelines are intended to help ascertain whether your existing media is already captioned and what steps can be taken to caption existing media that is not captioned. Determining if existing media is captioned:

  • DVD's typically have a caption or subtitle option. Please select that option when showing the DVD in class.
  • Most recent videos (within the last 5 years) are closed-captioned:
    • In the older classrooms on campus, a caption-decoder (in addition to the VCR) must be used to display the captions. Please contact Media Services at 201-447-7132.
    • In the newer classrooms that are electronically equipped, the remote control for the TV or for the VCR must be used to "turn-on" the captions. Please try this out on this equipment prior to showing it in class to ensure the proper working of the equipment and that you understand how to display the captions.
    • In the auditoriums with AV Technicians, the Technician can turn on the captions from the equipment in their booth.
  • Video clips taped from TV will be closed-captioned if the TV show was closed-captioned. To display these captions, refer to #2 above
  • Older videos may not be closed-captioned. Please look on the box for the CC symbol to determine if it is captioned or not.

Closed Caption Video OR Closed Caption

Steps to take if the media is not captioned:

  • Check with the Captioned Media Program, a free-loan open-captioned media program - to see if they have your exact title or a video of similar content for you to borrow. The CMP provides over 4,000 open-captioned titles of videos, CD-Rom's, and DVD's and several hundred titles are streamed on the CMP Web site. There are no rental, registration, or postage fees.
  • Captioning Service Vendors: contract with an outside vendor to provide open-captions on your existing video. The costs and turn-around time vary depending upon equipment and process and length of tape. The CMP Web site provides listings of approved captioning service vendors who have successfully completed an evaluation by the NAD and are approved by the U.S. Department of Education, as well as a larger list of captioning service vendors who have not completed this evaluation.
  • Asking for OPEN-CAPTIONS allows the media to be shown without special captioning decoder equipment.