Theatre & Cinema – Great Options for Hearing Impaired People
There are more than 10 million people in the UK with some form of hearing loss, a number estimated to rise to 14.5 million by 2031. In the 21st Century, we have many different choices of entertainment.
Cinema, Theatre, Art Galleries, TV, Sport, Youtube videos, blogs, vlogging, online conferences and exhibitions (expos), watching film through Lovefilm or Netflix, TED Talks. However, for deaf and hard of hearing people, accessing these things can be a minefield. Some deaf people are unaware of the different types of access they can get; whilst others are not sure of their rights when it comes to being denied access to a service. If you are not getting good service and can’t access something, you have every right to lodge a formal complaint against a company.
Options for enjoying the theatre
For theatre, Stagetext is the place to go for theatre captioning. They have information about West End shows, and caption performances around the UK. Many theatres also have in-house captioners, such as Chickenshed Theatre, The Unicorn, The Royal Shakespeare Company, The Old Vic – all Stagetext trained. Captioning is text and text sound effects that come up on a box next to or integrated into the set, so that deaf and hard of hearing patrons can access the performance. Captioners manually press a button in sync to each sentence on stage after prepping the script for the performance.
There are also sign-interpreted performances available. There are a variety of different ways that theatres use sign-interpreting. For example, there is the conventional method, where an interpreter is at the side of the stage, interpreting a performance. There is also integrated sign-language, where a performance may employ the use of sign into the show itself. For example, Deafinitely Theatre,Chickenshed Theatre, Graeae, Signdance Theatre, Def Motion and Handprint are all examples of companies that often use integrated BSL or SSE in their performances (aiming to be accessible to both hearing and deaf audiences). SPIT, Signed Performances in Theatre, works with theatres to advise and monitor the use of sign interpreting. They list sign-interpreted and captioned performances on their website. For those with hearing impairment, the innovations into hearing aid technology are astounding and having the right device can further enhance your cinema experience. If you take a look at the range from Hidden Hearing for example, you’ll see that there are various devices available including ITE, RITE and BTE hearing aids, many of which can’t be noticed when worn.
There are a few art galleries and museums in London that hold lipspeaking and BSL-interpreted tours and talks of their current and permanent exhibitions. Some museums, when asked, also provide transcripts of audio information provided to hearing people via headphones. There is a listings website that shows talks, tours and exhibitions from galleries and museums: Magic Deaf. It is always worth checking gallery and museum websites for access information too. The Royal Academy of Arts, for example, holds regular BSL interpreted, speech-to-text (similar to live subtitling) and lipspeaking talks and tours, and provides neckloops for their hard of hearing patrons.
At some festivals, BSL-interpreting is often available for talks, music performances and theatre, and you can often request that talks and performances are interpreted in advance, depending on the festival. For example, Glastonbury Festival has Deafzone, a BSL interpreting service. However, I would also urge people to raise awareness of other ways that deaf and hard of hearing people can access festivals, such as speech-to-text and lipspeaking – bringing this up with festival organisers. Particularly for literary festivals or festivals that include talks, it is important to stress the variety of ways that people can access these events. Festival Republic has a page that takes you to the access information for various festivals.
Cinema & Film…
For Cinema, the one stop information source for the UK is Yourlocalcinema.com, which has been up and running since the late 90s. It provides listings for subtitled and audio-described showings of films – at your local cinema, or at least one of the nearest cinemas. Cinemas have upped their showings of subtitled films in the last decade, although the service is far from perfect. For example, many showings are in working hours during the week, or on Sunday afternoons.
There is a lack of communication between staff at some cinemas, resulting in mistakes, such as a film being screened without subtitles. In these cases, it is always within your right, as a paying customer, to leave the screening and ask that they restart the film with subtitles. If they don’t or can’t restart the film, then you can ask for a refund or for free tickets for another subtitled showing. There are also new advances in technology, sadly stalled at the present time, such as subtitle glasses and rear-window captioning, both American inventions, which may revolutionise cinema for deaf and hard of hearing people.