Assistance for Deaf, deafened and hard of hearing people

BSL Interpreted events

An interpreter makes an event accessible in British Sign Language for Deaf people.

In the theatre, the interpreter usually stands to one side of the stage interpreting the language used by all the performers. However, some theatres may integrate the interpreter into the production. In this case, the interpreter could ‘shadow’ the actors, be part of scenes as a character or be projected onto a screen, using multimedia technology. Occasionally, and this is more frequent in the USA and Australia, a team of interpreters will be employed, particularly if there is a large cast of characters.

Many museums and art galleries have specific events or talks led by Deaf presenters or lecturers using BSL.  Others use a BSL interpreter during their more regular events.

It is recommended that arts organisations use interpreters who are fully qualified and registered with the The National Registers of Communications Professionals working with Deaf and Deafblind People (NRCPD).   Interpreters should also have experience of working in the arts.

Captioned Events

Live captions transform the experience of Deaf and hard of hearing audiences by enabling their full participation in a variety of live arts events. Captioning is similar to subtitles on television, allowing Deaf, deafened and hard of hearing people to read every word the actors say or sing as well as identifying the characters, sounds and musical accompaniments to the performance.

In many theatres, the text is displayed on a screen placed on, or as near as possible to, the stage. The text is scrolled live by a trained captioner who cues the script so that the actors’ words appear on the screen at just the right time.   In an ideal world, the event will be relayed to two screens or on one screen situated centrally, so that the audience can both scan the words easily without missing out on the action.

Deaf, deafened and hard of hearing members of the audience should be seated in a part of the auditorium that gives them a comfortable view of both the caption units and the action on stage so it is important to talk to the box office when booking a seat.

Captions are also used at a variety of other types of arts events such as talks in museums and art galleries.  This is normally through live speech to text reporting using specialised equipment which allows the operator to keep up with the flow of speech.

Captioners undergo rigorous training in order to become qualified. Scripts for live shows are prepared in advance and will have been rehearsed extensively.

Many cinemas run special screenings with subtitles for Deaf or hard of hearing customers.

Loop Systems

There are two types of loop system. One is a personal headset which fits into your ears and increases the volume.  The other is a neck loop which allows you, if you have a hearing aid with a T-switch, to listen to the play enabling you to hear the sound from the stage, cinema or lecture direct to your hearing aid.