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KDES Seventh Grader Testifies on Captioning Legislation Before FCC

Image: Tai Jensen testifies before FCC panel on closed captioning.

Tai Jensen testifies before FCC panel on closed captioning.

Tai Jensen at age 14 wrote her own contribution to history when she became the first student to testify before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). A student at Kendall Demonstration Elementary School (KDES), Jensen joined a panel of expert witnesses on February 20 to present her views on the vital role of quality closed captioning for television and video has had on her life.

View the testimony here at 53:30

Jensen, who was born in China, learned both American Sign Language and English when she was adopted at age 7 and moved to the United States. In her remarks during the FCC open meeting, she said, "When I came to America, my parents encouraged me to watch closed captioned television shows and this helped me to learn English. Now one of my favorite activities is reading." 

She also shared that one of her favorite TV programs is "Lab Rats" on the Disney channel. "I love this program because their mission is to save the world. The show has many situations that require problem-solving skills; this helps me become more creative and imaginative. ... If 'Lab Rats' and other programs did not have good captions, it would be hard for me to understand and to follow their adventures or talk to my friends about what happens on the shows."

TaiJensen FCC Meeting Room

Before testifying, Jensen also had the opportunity to meet with FCC staffers, including FCC chairman Tom Wheeler and Greg Hlibok, who is deaf and chief of the Disability Rights Office. "It was fun being with so many prominent figures. I did not realize that I was the first student to ever testify. It was a very humbling experience to be representing deaf youth," said Jensen.

Her parents and older sister, Kaya, who is a sophomore at the Model Secondary School for the Deaf, couldn't be more proud. "While we watched her on the live stream of the proceedings, we were very impressed how calm and articulate she was presenting before the committee. It is an honor that she was chosen," said Tai's mother, Kathleen Jensen. "We appreciate all that KDES has done to promote not only Tai's educational growth but her personal growth as well."

TaiJensen FCC Panel

As a result of the hearing, the FCC will be reviewing the current standards for quality captioning. FCC commissioner Ajit Pai in his remarks commended Jensen on her testimony. "You at 14 are far more poised and articulate than I was at your age; your life is full of potential. You are an example of how accessibility has the potential to unlock the full benefits of the American dream. I want to thank you and your fellow "Lab Ratters" for your advocacy," he said.