At an assistive technology conference I recently attended, I visited the booth for the Described and Captioned Media Program. I was excited to meet the people behind the project and learn all about how their program helps to support students in the classroom by giving them access to accessible media. My first thought after meeting them was “where was this when I was in school?”
Today, I will be sharing my Described and Captioned Media Program review and why every teacher with a vision or hearing impaired student should sign up for this service.
What is the Described and Captioned Media Program?
The Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP) is a collaboration between the National Association of the Deaf and the United States Department of Education that gives educators access to a wealth of free-loan media that is made accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing with captioning and to the blind and vision impaired with audio description. Captions and audio description are available in English and some titles also have Spanish captions and audio description available.
There are videos for a variety of topics and subjects including science, literature, history, mathematics, geography, health, disability, and many more. Videos are available for all grade levels, including preschool/kindergarten, grades 1-3, grades 4-6, grades 7-8, grades 9-12, and adults/educators. Users can access DCMP online through their website, and videos can be played on any device.
In addition to the streaming service, many of the media I explored could also be requested in DVD format, which would be delivered by mail. This is great for schools that do not have reliable internet access.
What is audio description?
Audio description, sometimes referred to as descriptive audio or described video, is an additional narrator track that provides visual information for people who otherwise would not be able to see it. Unlike captioning, audio description does not involve precise translation and cannot be automatically generated, so availability of audio description is very limited, especially in educational media. Audio description is provided during natural pauses in dialogue so it does not distract from the video. Users do not need any additional equipment to play audio description for DCMP videos.
- Fast facts about audio description
- How I watch movies with audio description
- Create your own audio description on YouTube
How to apply for DCMP access
To apply for free access to the DCMP full media library, start by creating a free account and including your name and email. In addition, users will need to add a username and password to their profile. Once this is completed, users are taken to a screen to see if they qualify for receiving services, and the following message is displayed:
“The Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP) library provides on-demand captioned and described educational video and interactive content to benefit K-12 students who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind, visually impaired, or deaf-blind. Teachers/interpreters (including those still in training), other professionals, and family members whose use benefits these students can apply to have access to all DCMP media and training.”
If this statement describes you, go ahead and click the box that says this describes you, and fill out the information on the next screen. If this doesn’t describe you, don’t panic, as you can still access some items in the media library.
I registered for my account using my college email and was approved within a few hours, though the amount of time it takes to get approved varies.
The DCMP website is easy to access. Once you’re logged in, users can browse videos by topic or search for specific keywords. When clicking on categories, users are presented with the option to explore sub-categories. Once a category or sub-category is selected, users can browse videos in a horizontal list format, much like YouTube.
Additional search filters include:
- Grade level
- Accessibility settings (captioned or described)
- Content format
Once a video is opened, users can configure the video by clicking the language/accessibility settings at the bottom of the video. From there, users can select whether they want to display captions or play audio description. Users can also download a transcript so that students can follow along and read information.
At this time, it appears that captions and audio description cannot be played simultaneously.
- How to make primary source media accessible for vision impairment
- How to check videos for flashing lights
Examples of videos
Some examples of video titles on the Described and Captioned Media Program website include:
- Bill Nye the Science Guy
- Curiosity Quest: Rock Climbing
- Career Connections
- Algebra: The Basics
- Lassie’s Great Adventure
- Baking Basics
- The White House
- Plate Tectonics in Action
Media response form
To ensure that media is used responsibly, account holders are required to complete a media response form which describes the demographics of the audience and asks questions about quality control. It only took me a few seconds to fill out this form, and it helps the developers tremendously.
Some potential uses for DCMP videos include:
- Watching a video in science class
- Exploring potential careers for transition aged youth
- Listening to a documentary on your favorite author
- Watching a history documentary
- Learning more about disability, especially vision and hearing impairment
- Alternatives to traditional classroom materials
Teachers can choose to have audio description or captioning played for everyone, or have the student who needs accommodations use their own device to watch the video.
Why should I use the Described and Captioned Media Program?
I was extremely excited when I discovered the existence of the DCMP, because I know it would have been a tremendous help for me in middle school. Many of my teachers used videos in the classroom and would give quizzes on the materials presented, and I would frequently score lower than expected because I had trouble seeing what was on the screen. I know that if I had known how to request audio description, my grades would have been much higher and I would have had the opportunity to show my teachers what I had learned.
I highly recommend that teachers sign up for the Described and Captioned Media Program, as having access to great quality captions and audio description can tremendously help with developing lifelong learners.