How do you make a Theatre show accessible for deaf people

Making shows accessible offers many opportunities for Theatres.  It not only builds a new audience but can also make shows MORE accessible to current audiences.  This article will illustrate how you can make a theatre show accessible to deaf people.

One Theatre put a card on every set after a captioned performance asking, ‘What did you think of the captions?’ They found that 33% of the audience actually uses captioning.  This is compared to the 3% who had booked on the premise that it was a captioned performance!
It can also offer improved customer care.  Improved customer relationships, and local community links, build your team, increase audience size and demographic, and offer a richer theatrical experience.

In order to successfully make a theatre show accessible for deaf people, it is key that the following is considered:

If you are providing a Signed Performance

– Ensure that the professional you are using is of high quality, has completed theatre work before and is registered as RSLI with NRCPD
– The interpreter does not always have to be downstage right; consider the most suitable position based on the requirements of the performance and talk to the creative team about how the interpreter can be integrated
– This sounds obvious, but make sure that the interpreter is visible and well-lit
– If you have an all-male show, book a male interpreter – this will enhance the performance
– Ensure that your interpreter is well-prepared; allow them to go and see the show or have access to a DVD recording, ask questions about the delivery of the text and particular lines and introduce them to the actors as they will be sharing the space with the interpreter

If you are providing a captioned performance;

– Consider the position of the captioning box and the right place for the audience to be seated  for the best access 
– In the captioning, always make the most of the opportunity to enable access by adding music and sound cues – not just relying on the script
 Stagetext offer a training programme that will teach you how to make use of the captioning facility fully 

For both

Book some Deaf Awareness Training or send your staff on a basic BSL course – this will not only make the performance accessible but also enhance the whole theatre-going experience.  We can help you with this here at terptree; get in touch at
You could have a ‘welcomer’ who can communicate in basic BSL to make Deaf people feel welcomed.
Advertise, advertise, advertise!  In providing such a service, you want to ensure that it is being used. There are various places that you can advertise, such as Signed Performances in Theatre (SPIT), add your event to relevant e-groups such as deaf-uk-events, and, of course, advertise on terptree’s public events calendar by emailing us at

Take a team approach.  Ensure that all members of the team, from production to the front of the house, are aware of the needs of the new audience that you wish to attract.

For more information:

Theatrical Management Association (TMA) is a leading trade association representing the interests of and providing professional support for the performing arts in the UK.  Their members include theatres, multi-purpose venues and arts centres, concert halls, commercial producers, touring theatre opera and ballet companies, sole traders and suppliers to the performing arts.
Signed Performances in Theatre (SPIT) is the leading national body for promoting BSL-interpreted performances of mainstream theatre.  SPIT aims to provide a link between arts organisations and the Deaf community and to ensure that the high standard of British theatre is accessible to Deaf and hard-of-hearing people.

is a registered charity which provides captioning and lives speech-to-text services in theatres and other arts and cultural venues

BSL Tickets is the UK’s biggest British Sign Language Interpreted performance listing.  For some venues, you can even book tickets right there.

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