CONGRESSIONAL RECORD - SENATE
SEPTEMBER 7, 1961
PRODUCTION AND DISTRIBUTION OF EDUCATIONAL AND TRAINING FILMS FOR THE DEAF
Mr. MUSKIE. Mr. President, the distinguished junior Senator from Rhode Island [Mr. PELL] and I introduce, for appropriate reference, a bill to provide for the production and distribution of educational and training films for use by deaf persons. This legislation amends Public Law 85-905 (72 Stat. 1742) which established the captioned films for the deaf program. The amendment expands that program to include research in the use of educational and training films for the deaf, the production and distribution of such films, and the training of persons in the use of films for the deaf. I believe this modest proposal could have a major impact on our educational efforts on behalf of handicapped persons.
The VICE PRESIDENT. The bill will be received and appropriately referred; and, without objection, the bill will be printed in the RECORD.
The bill (S. 2511) to provide for the production and distribution of educational and training films for use by deaf persons and for other purposes, introduced by Mr. MUSKIE (for himself and Mr. PELL), was received, read twice by its title, referred to the Committee on Labor and Public Welfare, and ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:
[Bill text omitted]
Mr. MUSKIE. Mr. President, the captioned films program involves new techniques in communication and education of the quarter of a million citizens who suffer the isolating handicap of deafness. The film service for the deaf, inaugurated in 1958 under Public Law 85-905, is presently limited to the circulation of a few older Hollywood moving pictures.
After slightly more than a year of operation as Government distributor of films, captioned films for the deaf have had more than 80,000 viewers. Some 600 groups of deaf persons are registered for loans of roughly 40 film titles now available. Forty-five additional titles are in preparation and are scheduled for completion early this fall. Despite the fact that schools are the largest users of captioned films, no educational films have been offered to date. Now, negotiations are in process to add a dozen educational films in the area of science. Many schools are presently using a film a week, and the demand is even greater. It is obvious that until we make substantial improvements in the program, particularly in the field of education, we shall be doing a very limited job for those who need our help.
The present limitations of the program result in part from financial restrictions. The authorization under the existing act is $250,000, but the appropriation for fiscal year 1961 was only $185,000. The appropriations bill for 1962, as enacted by the House, provided an appropriation of $185,000. The Senate increased that amount to $250,000.
It is my hope that the full amount will be provided in the conference report. But even if we are successful in expanding the funds available for the program, it is obvious that the great gap will still exist in the educational field.
Knowledgeable people, working with the deaf, see the captioned film service as a powerful, but underdeveloped tool that could help break through the communication barriers that surround the deaf. To do so would require considerable research and the development of the program as an educational medium rather than a limited form of entertainment.
Helen Keller, recognizing the unusual severity of deafness as an educational handicap, says that if she had her life to live over she would devote more attention to assisting those who are deaf. I believe that this is an area in which we could move most effectively in providing a needed service for an all but forgotten group in our society.
During the past several years I have been interested in the potential of modern educational techniques. Because of this interest, I have consulted with experts in the field of audiovisual aids and other teaching devices. The more I have studied this field, the more I have been convinced of the tremendous possibilities in revolutionary improvements in educational programs, especially in such specialized fields as the training of the deaf.
The bill which Senator PELL and I have introduced would enable us to expand and improve the existing program of captioned films in the area where the need is greatest.
As U.S. Commissioner of Education Sterling M. McMurrin wrote to me earlier this year, with reference to the captioned film program:
We believe that this program offers great potential. Its contribution could be greater yet if careful research could be undertaken on the extremely complex problems involved in using films for educational purposes with deaf children. In addition, there is need for research in the area of films for adult education and training, for teacher training, for social workers, vocational rehabilitation officers, psychologists, and audiologists who work with deaf children and adults.
These are virtually unexplored areas.
Since the deaf constitute a fairly small part of the total population, it is not commercially feasible to produce those specialized films which would be of use only to the deaf. Included in this category would be films on such matters as auditory training, speech reading, special languages systems, and other special problems. The present act does not permit use of funds for the actual production of films, but if the research to which I have referred above is to yield practical results, some means, either private or governmental, should be found to sponsor the production of specialized films.
Mr. President, the bill which Senator PELL and I have introduced would meet the basic objectives which Commissioner McMurrin has outlined. The bill retains the basic program, as it now exists, and adds provisions for research in the use of educational and training films for the deaf, production and distribution of educational and training films, and training for persons using films for the deaf. The bill authorizes the appropriation of such funds as may be necessary to carry out the objectives of the act. We have not specified a set amount for the program, because we do not have sufficient experience to set an exact figure. We believe a modest increase in existing appropriations should provide a beginning. We should point out that in fiscal year 1961 the expenditure for books for the blind through the Library of Congress was $1,700,000. A doubling of the amount now authorized for captioned films for the deaf would represent less than a third of the funds being spent for books for the blind at the present time.
It is my hope, Mr. President, that the necessary preliminary action can be taken this fall to enable us to enact this legislation early in the 2d session of the 87th Congress. As I have indicated, this is a modest request, but it is an essential one for those who suffer from the handicap of deafness.