Every word counts

Live subtitles for museums, galleries and literary festivals

Museums and galleries

'Live subtitles are a superb initiative. They lend themselves to so many audiences – amongst them deaf and partially hearing audiences, and young as well as older visitors. So far the feedback has been unequivocally positive.'
Access and Equality Manager, British Museum

Stagetext works with museums, galleries and other cultural venues to make their talks and lectures accessible through live subtitles, also known as speech-to-text transcription (STT).

A speech-to-text reporter (STTR) transcribes every word a speaker says using a special electronic shorthand keyboard which allows them to type phonetically (how words sound rather than how they are spelt). The words are then immediately converted back into English text by a computer software program, enabling the STTR to keep up with the speed of spoken English.

Accessible talks and tours have taken place at the Royal Academy of Arts, British Library, British Museum, Camden Arts Centre, Dulwich Picture Gallery, JW3, Museum of London, National Gallery, The Royal Collection, Royal Society, RSA, Wallace Collection, Wellcome Collection, the Hunterian Museum and Archives (Royal College of Surgeons), V&A, and the Whitworth in Manchester.

'Thank you for arranging this talk and others like it!  It's great that the Gallery can offer this option to visitors.  We hadn't really thought about the part of the audience who 'would not necessarily declare themselves as hard of hearing just yet' - who might just need that little 'boost' from the text every now and again - and how this could be a very comfortable way for them to just relax and enjoy the event without having to be concerned about what they might be missing.' National Gallery

Literary Festivals

For the last three years Stagetext has also provided live subtitles for events at Literary Festivals such as the annual Jewish Book Week, The Soho Literary Festival (pictured left), run in association with The Oldie magazine, the London Literature Festival and the Hay Festival. These have proved extremely popular and we are planning to expand this programme over the coming year.

Remote live subtitles

Some venues only provide guided tours, so we have been exploring the use of portable technology to meet the demands of wider, and younger, audiences. We have already trialled the service in London for tours at the Wellcome Collection, the Hunterian Museum, the British Library and the Supreme Court, using remote live subtitles on hand-held tablets.

As the tour guide speaks, a speech-to-text reporter, working from home, listens to what’s being said via a mobile phone on loudspeaker and sends a verbatim transcription to a web browser. This is then delivered as text to the handheld devices.

Feedback has been extremely positive and we hope to be able to offer this service in other venues.

'It was really fantastic to have this service on a tour. I loved it.' (deaf visitor)

'Very informative and interesting. Remote speech-to-text with tablets is brilliant. This was the first tour I could fully follow.' (hard of hearing visitor)

'This was one of the best Stagetext walkabouts I have ever attended. Thank you, everyone.' (deaf visitor)

Deaf visitor's experience of museum tour with remote live subtitles

Richard Turner, who became deaf very suddenly three years ago, describes his first experience of a guided tour of the British Library's Propaganda and Power exhibition, which was made accessible through live subtitles provided remotely via hand-held tablets (see photo, left).

Read his wonderful blog here.

'Subtitled talks reduce the stress of trying to lipread'
by Ginny Kanka

'For decades, art galleries had FREE lunchtime talks - something I've always wanted to go but didn't as the talks would have fallen on my deaf ears.  Ecstatic joy when such talks supported by speech-to-text, transcribed onto the screen, came on the scene.  It is brilliant!  The Stagetext speech-to-text reporters are consistently first-class, though the speakers at such events are not always so, and the hearing public sometimes have to put up with that.

I’ve been to a fair number of talks supported by live speech-to-text (STT) and I always come away still feeling human and unstressed.  Having the support of STT on the screen means there's no added stress of trying to lipread and hear what I can from my hearing aid (cochlear implant).

The STT talks have been held in wonderful places, such as Buckingham Palace, the Wellcome Collection, the Royal Academy of Arts, at theatres when there are talks before or after the show, like the Julie Walters in Conversation at the National Theatre where she talked about her acting career and her role in The Last of the Haussmans.

Where humour is used, the speaker is not used to having his/her talk transcribed on screen and is certainly shaken by having delayed laughter from the deaf, deafened and hard of hearing visitors. Watching the speakers has always fascinated me; they either quickly adapt their delivery to the right tempo, or don't!

After a long time of being excluded from the hearing world at such events, that is now history.  However, although there's still a limited choice nationally of supported talks for deaf and hard of hearing folks, it’s much better than nothing.  Stagetext and speech-to-text transcription has brought me much satisfaction.'


Other feedback

Live subtitles at the British Library'It’s been really interesting to see that STT isn’t only helpful for deaf, deafened and hard of hearing people. Hearing visitors and people with an academic interest in art and cultural activities have also found the text helpful,” says Deepa.  Statistics gathered after the talks bear this out. At a recent talk, 57% of visitors found the speech-to-text extremely useful, despite only 15% of the audience having declared themselves as having a hearing loss and needing the service at the time of booking.'

One deafened visitor told us: 'The talk gave me a fascinating and invaluable lesson about art.   It was the first time I’d seen live speech-to-text in action and it was great.  There were about six lines so you could look at the picture and not lose your place. This is the way forward in access to museums and galleries for deaf, deafened and hard of hearing people.'

Further information

For more information on the service, please contact Deepa Shastri, Talks Programme Manager.
To receive our monthly e-news of live subtitled talks, tours and literary events, please email enquiries.

Details of future talks with live subtitles can be found in the What's On pages of this website.

The Arts Council
The Arts Council
The Arts Council