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  1. ITV Report

Arts charity calls for theatres to do more for deaf audience members

An arts charity is calling for theatres to do more to help deaf people enjoy performances.

London venues, including the National Theatre and the British Library, are taking part in Captioning Awareness Week, set up charity Stagetext to promote the concept of digitally captioned shows. This uses an LED display near the stage to show text of what the actors are saying, in the same way an on-screen performance might be subtitled.

According to the charity Action on Hearing loss around 11 million members of the UK population are deaf or hard of hearing.

Matthew Johnston, who has been deaf since birth, is a disability champion at software consultancy ThoughtWorks. He says popular productions only provide around 20 captioned performances a year.

You feel left out and you’re not engaged with the conversation.

Really I should be able to attend (the theatre) at any time of day. I may have to take the day off to go there and I’d have to book at least six months in advance.

– Matthew Johnston

Melanie Sharp, the Chief Executive Officer of Stagetext, says she hopes theatres will try harder to make their performances accessible to deaf audiences

“It’s about making them aware that we’re not there to overshadow what’s going on on stage. We are there to add more people to their audience.”