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Free! Described and Captioned Media Program

In our excitement about using media of all sorts in our classrooms, we may not always think about how all our students access and process media.

I just received a news release from the Described and Captioned Media Program (administered by the National Association of the Deaf and funded by the US Department of Education).

The free-loan service provides captioned and audio described media–CD-ROM, DVD, streamed media–to K-12 teachers and school administrators who have one or more students who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind, visually impaired, or deaf-blind.  The program also offers free access to families.

The Media Library of DCMP’s expanding site currently offers access to 5000 captioned media titles and 300 titles with both captioning and audio description.  A flexible search allows you to filter for grade level, media format, English/Spanish, captioning/description.  Items can be shipped to school or home or viewed online.

Another site feature, especially important for those of us who create and upload media (ourselves and our students), is Caption it Yourself which points to a wealth of resources and guidelines for captioning.  

Why is this important?  The site offers a lengthy and compelling list of reasons:

  • Captions help children with word identification, meaning, acquisition, and retention.
  • Reading captions motivates viewers to read more and read more often.
  • Captions can help children establish a systematic link between the written word and the spoken word.
  • Pre-readers, by becoming familiar with captions, will have familiar signposts when they begin reading print-based material.
  • Captioning has been related to higher comprehension skills when compared to viewers watching the same media without captions.
  • Children who have a positive experience in reading will want to read; reading captions provides such an experience.
  • Reading is a skill that requires practice, and practice in reading captions is practice with authentic text.
  • Captions provide missing information for individuals who have difficulty processing speech and auditory components of the visual media (regardless of whether this difficulty is due to a hearing loss or a cognitive delay).
  • Students often need assistance in learning content-relevant vocabulary (in biology, history, literature, and other subjects), and with captions they see both the terminology (printed word) and the visual image.
  • Captioning is essential for children who are deaf and hard of hearing, can be very beneficial to those learning English as a second language, can help those with reading and literacy problems, and can help those who are learning to read.

In addition, captioning addresses a major media search issue.  Search engines are far more likely to discover, and accurately index, media with text captioning. Your own video will have greater reach.

A 12-minute video Equal Access in the Classroom, describes the DCMP program, explains the need for accessibility, and demonstrates the importance of captioning and descriptions by putting you in the position of learners who cannot see or hear the media we might play in our classrooms.

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


  1. Diane Chen says:

    Joyce, thank you for sharing this! I wish I’d known about this. I definitely need it myself. The one benefit I have of letting children know that I’m hard of hearing is that each child looks me in the eyes and speaks their name clearly because they know I read lips and struggle to hear them.

  2. Rena Harris says:

    Thank you, Joyce. This is an important resource. I will forward to everyone I know that has connections to deaf/blind education.

  3. Thom Lohman says:

    Thanks, Joyce, for helping to get the word out about the DCMP. If any of your readers have any questions about the DCMP, please have them e-mail me at tlohman (at) dcmp (dot) org.

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