“Ends, owas untyen enee oweees.” This probably doesn’t make much sense to most of you reading this! I have a perceptive hearing loss and this is what I hear when an actor says “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.” It’s difficult to explain the isolation experienced by those of us who are deaf or hard of hearing. Going to the theatre was something I had given up - a huge blow to someone like me who has always loved the theatre. I stumbled across a Stagetext captioned performance some years ago and it was a complete revelation. I can now attend some theatre performances (sadly not as many as I would like) knowing that I will be able to follow the dialogue easily and enjoy the show without constantly having to ask my husband to ‘translate’ for me. In fact, I have sometimes booked a show or play simply because it’s captioned – this means that I have enjoyed many performances I would otherwise not have bothered with. It’s an unusual way to try new things but it’s worked well so far and I haven’t yet been disappointed.
Stagetext offers captioning services and can also help theatres with their own ‘in-house’ captioning, but many theatres and producers still refuse to take advantage of this and simply will not stage captioned performances. I have recently received schedules from two well-regarded theatres listing their offerings from April to December and neither of them is staging a single captioned performance this year (2012). Many theatres have ‘loop’ systems that may help hearing-aid users but this is of no use to people who are severely or profoundly deaf.
Sadly, it seems that the Government is not prepared to legislate to force producers and theatres to provide access for people with sensory disabilities. Given that hearing loss or deafness affects 1 in 6 of the population, it’s surprising that their needs can still be so comprehensively ignored. I hope that in time captioned performances will be offered at least once during every run of a show but I’m not hopeful. I fear it will be some time before those of us with ‘invisible’ disabilities are allowed to enjoy the entertainment facilities that are so easily accessed by the rest of the population.
In the meantime, thank goodness for Stagetext, and I hope they will continue with the good work they do and that I will be able to enjoy more and more theatre visits in the future!