Ideally, the caption unit(s) should be positioned so that it can be seen by everyone. If this is not possible, the position should be agreed before booking opens so that the most appropriate seating can be allocated for those wishing to use the captions. Early discussions with the theatre, production team and technical staff is helpful in this respect. Compromised access does not lead to a happy outcome.
The best position for the caption unit is one where the majority of people in the theatre can see it and at the same time take in the set and actors with minimal eye movement and certainly no head movement. A position at the back of the set above the heads of the actors, where the unit is not obscured for too long should the actors walk to the front of the stage, has been found to produce the most favourable comments from deaf audiences.
The height of the caption unit will depend upon the rake of the seating, the set and lighting design. Placing the caption unit at the actors’ head height may enable the deaf audience to use lipreading as well as captioning. It is important to bear in mind that any lights or moving scenery during the production should not obstruct the deaf audience’s view of the caption unit. Care should be taken not to place the caption unit in front of speakers or where it is likely to cast shadows on the set.
In large theatres, two caption units – one on either side of the stage – enables theatres to offer a wider choice of seating and reduces the ‘Wimbledon’ or ‘bouncing ball’ effect when switching from captions to actors. Two units also offer a more symmetrical appearance, although they still need to be as close to the action as possible.
When you book your first captioned performance with us, Olivia, our Theatre Programme Manager, will visit your theatre and talk about the caption unit position and the suitable seats to hold back for deaf, deafened and hard of hearing patrons.