terptree: How do I make a theatre show accessible for Deaf people?

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Monday, 28 May 2012

How do I make a theatre show accessible for Deaf people?

To keep up the momentum of Deaf Awareness Week, we will be focusing our attention on Deaf peoples access to various services.  So over the next few weeks, we will be covering a range of services such as Theatres, Museums, Galleries, Churches and Educational Services.

This week our focus is on accessible Theatre.

Making shows accessible offers many opportunities for theatres.  It not only builds new audiences, but can also make shows MORE accessible for current audiences.  One theatre put a card on every seat after a captioned performance asking 'What did you think of the captions?' and they found that 33% of the audience actually used the captioning compared to the 3% who had booked on the premise that it was a captioned performance!

It can also offer improved customer care, improved customer relationships, local community links, build your team, increase audience size and demographic and also offer a richer theatrical experience.

In order to make an accessible performance a success it is key that the following is considered:

If you are providing a Signed Performance; 

- Ensure that the professional you are using is of a high quality, has completed theatre work before and is registered as RSLI with NRCPD

- The interpreter does not always have to be downstage right, consider the most suitable position based on the requirements of the performance and talk to the creative team about how the interpreter can be integrated

- This sounds obvious, but make sure that the interpreter is visible and well-lit

- If you have an all male show, book a male interpreter - this will enhance the performance

- Ensure that your interpreter is well-prepared; allow them to go and see the show or have access to a DVD recording, ask questions about delivery of the text and particular lines and introduce them to the actors as they will be sharing the space with the interpreter

If you are providing a captioned performance;

- Consider the position of the captioning box and the right place for the audience to be seated  for best access 

- In the captioning, always make the most of the opportunity for enabling access by adding music and sound cues - not just relying on the script

- Stagetext offer a training programme that will teach you how to fully make use of the captioning facility 


Book some Deaf Awareness Training or send your staff on a basic BSL course - this will not only make the performance accessible, but also enhance the whole theatre-going experience.  Contact terptree at interpreting@terptree.co.uk for a helpful tip sheet on communicating with Deaf people.

You could have a 'welcomer' who can communicate in basic BSL to make Deaf people feel welcomed.

Advertise advertise advertise!  On providing such a service, you want to ensure that it is being used. There are various places that you can advertise such as: Signed Performances in Theatre (SPIT), add your event to relevant e-groups such as deaf-uk-events and of course advertise on terptree's public events calendar by emailing us at news@terptree.co.uk

Take a team approach.  Ensure that all members of the team from production to front of house are aware of the needs of the new audience that you are wishing to attract

For more information:

Please see terptree's public events calendar for a range of events that are accessible for Deaf people. terptree also provide a whole range of sign language training courses, including Deaf Awareness Training and basic BSL – so if you have no knowledge of sign language or would like to improve your signing skills, terptree are the place to go!

if you are an interpreter that is interested in working as a theatre interpreter; contact terptree at training@terptree.co.uk to find out about the upcoming interpreter theatre training workshop!

Theatrical Management Association (TMA) is a leading trade association representing the interests of and providing professional support for the performing arts in the UK.  Their members include theatres, multi-purpose venues and arts centres, concert halls, commercial producers, touring theatre opera and ballet companies, sole traders and suppliers to the performing arts.

Signed Performances in Theatre (SPIT) is the leading national body for promoting BSL interpreted performances of mainstream theatre.  SPIT aims to provide a link between arts organisations and the Deaf community and to ensure that the high standard of British theatre is accessible to Deaf and hard of hearing people.

StageText is a registered charity which provides captioning and live speech-to-text services in theatres and other arts and cultural venues

BSL Tickets the biggest British Sign Language Interpreted performance listing in the UK.  For some venues you can even book tickets right there.

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