deaf access

Convener(s): Zia trench A.D/writer of Zeitgeist Theatre Company (based at King’s Head Theatre, Islington)

Participants: sophie, Jackie, others

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:


How do you provide access to disabled people when you’re income/funds are too small to go the normal route?

Do deaf people/visually impaired feel they’re getting enough access already or not?

Zeitgeist does regular (every two months) performances of topical, social issues themed new writing at the Kings Head in islington – is this something the disabled community want access to?

How do you contact the deaf/disabled community if you get access going?


Deaf people say there’s no point using untrained/voluntary signers. If someone’s not very good/fluent, it’s not worth it.

Deaf people say most of them would prefer a captioned performance to a signed as many of them aren’t fluent in BSL.

Captioned performance can be provided quite cheaply; by using a powerpoint presentation and a projector screen. This is the cheapest way to provide access.

Captioned performances must be at eye level and not be too small text. About three lines at a time. The main difficulty is TIMING  - the captions have to come up at the right time for the audience to enjoy the performance.

Deaf people are getting quite good access; but not on the fringe. While Soho and Hampstead and Oval House do provide good access to new writing, this isn’t grass-root fringe theatre.

Grassroot fringe theatre doesn’t provide stagetext/bsl etc because it can barely survive anyway, let alone take on these extra costs for the sake of selling six or so tickets.

The grant/funding structure in place is not helping very small theatre companies provide access. They want evidence of audience/financially stable books etc before they’ll award funds. These 1/can’t be given if you haven’t provided the access and 2/if you aren’t making much income. Furthermore, one to one funding meetings, pages of grant application forms and supporting evidence takes TIME to do. At worse, you then fail to get funding and at best you get the funding, but no compensation cash for your time spent getting the grant/fund. So no incentive to do this!

It appears you have to somehow provide access anyway, then try to get funding/grants afterwards if there’s an audience for it.

Deaf people say they’d LOVE access to regular, topical new writing. 


Powerpoint and projector seems the cheapest way of providing access.

Graeae theatre company, shapearts and deafinately theatre can all help/advise.

Stagetext is expensive but might advise.

Arts Council does have a disability theatre person – Jenny Robert’s someone who is here but she didn’t come to this session. She might help/advise.

Marketing – the deaf community is close-knit and network a lot through bebo,myspace,facebook. You have to get in with a few deaf people, then the word will spread.

Disability Now is the main paper to try to advertise through/get a feature in about events.

Oxford touring theatre company are doing interesting access work; using a deaf actor and signing in a creative way. Might help advise.