I am deaf and have had neurosensory hearing loss from birth. I was brought up with a vast theatrical background and as a child would attend many performances every year. My father designed sets and is a professor in performing arts, and my mother is a theatre photographer, so naturally I have a huge love of theatre and the arts.
At one time the only access facilities in the theatre that I was aware of were infra-red systems and British Sign Language interpretation. Firstly, I do not sign and, secondly, I often found that the infra-red system wasn’t always switched on or working properly. I would struggle to keep up with actors’ speech and found it difficult to follow even the simplest plots. In particular, I found it impossible to understand speech when there were blackouts or when someone was speaking offstage!
Whilst at university I attended a few plays but found it hard work rather than a social and enjoyable occasion. It was only in 2009, through word of mouth, that I discovered captioning. I was ecstatic to say the least! Now I don’t feel disabled or excluded anymore because I can follow everything thanks to the captions.
Now I only ever attend captioned performances. They have opened up my world, and I can go with my hearing friends and actually enjoy the magic and power of live theatre. My whole experience of theatre has changed. Although I loved the theatre before, I can now fully appreciate the passion that my family holds for it because I now hold it myself.
It dismayed me somewhat to discover that this facility had been available since November 2000! All those years I had missed out! Well, I’m certainly making up for them now!