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U.S. Seeks Operator of Media Center for Hearing, Vision Impaired Students

Recent developments in education policy and practice and advancements in technology have implications for supporting video description and captioning for a classroom setting.

The U.S. government is seeking proposals from organizations with experience managing educational media and video for hearing and vision impaired students to establish and operate—for several years—a facility providing closed captioned and multi-media services.

On May 4, 2011, the U.S. Department of Education (DoE) posted a Federal Register notice—Applications for New Awards; Technology and Media Services for Individuals With Disabilities-Captioned and Described Educational Media—inviting applications for the creation and management of an “Accessible Learning Center” (ACC). The deadline to file applications is June 20, 2011.

Recent developments in education policy and practice and advancements in technology have significant implications for supporting video description and captioning appropriate for a classroom setting, the Federal Register notice says. New and emerging technologies (such as video streaming, digital video recording, digital image processing, and other forms of multimedia) are becoming a more integral part of instructional practice and are replacing older, more expensive, and less adaptable media sources, such as compact discs and digital video discs, the notice says.

However, multimedia and other new and emerging technologies are usually not accessible to students who have hearing or vision impairments because only a small percentage of educational multimedia used in the classroom is captioned or described, the notice says. For example, a recent survey of the top 35 educational media producers, distributors in the United States revealed that only slightly more than 25 percent of educational media is captioned and less than five percent of educational media is described, the notice says. In addition, federal requirements for captioning and video description do not apply to many forms of educational media, even with the expansion of those requirements listed in the recently-enacted Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-260).

The ACC program is an effort to ensure that federally funded captioning and description services keep pace with advancements in new and emerging technologies so that instructional content is accessible to students, including English learners, who have hearing or vision impairments, the notice says.

In addition, the ACC will address the critical need to ensure that all students receive high-quality instruction in the academic subjects of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). STEM-related television programs, videos, and other materials must be accessible to students who have hearing or vision impairments if they are to participate in, and benefit from instruction in those areas.

Annual funding for the program is capped at $1.5 million per year and might be funded for up to five years, according to the DoE.

To be considered, applicants must meet programmatic and administrative requirements, and include in the application a logic model that depicts the goals, activities, outputs and outcomes of their project. In addition, the notice lists eligible applicants as state educational agencies; local educational agencies (LEAs) including public charter schools that are considered LEAs under state law; institutions of higher education; other public agencies; private nonprofit organizations; outlying areas; freely associated states; Indian tribes or tribal organizations; and for-profit organizations.

Interested parties can obtain an application package over the Internet, from the DoE’s Education Publications Center (ED Pubs), or from the program office. When requesting an application package, be sure to identify this competition using the identifier “CFDA number 84.327N.”

To obtain an application package over the Internet, use the following address:

To obtain a copy from ED Pubs, write, fax, or call the following: ED Pubs, U.S. Department of Education, P.O. Box 22207, Alexandria, VA 22304. The toll free telephone number is 1-877-433-7827. The FAX number is (703) 605-6794. Those who use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) can also call, toll free. That number is 1-877- 576-7734.

In addition, ED Pubs can be contacted at its website, or by its e-mail address:

For more information, contact Ernest Hairston at the U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW., room 4070, Potomac Center Plaza (PCP), Washington, D.C. 20202-2550. By telephone, call (202) 245-7366. Those who use a TDD can call the Federal Relay Service (FRS) toll free at 1-800-877-8339.