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Arts venues celebrate access for deaf and hard of hearing audiences

Theatres, museums and galleries will open their doors to deaf and hard of hearing audiences next week as part of a campaign improve accessibility in the arts.

Captioning Awareness Week, which takes place from 11-17 November 2019, will see arts venues across the UK hold captioned and live subtitled events. People will be able to visit a range of events in London, Sheffield, Bolton, Watford and Hull, including the Westend hit shows Kinky Boots and Mama Mia, and talks by the actor Lindsay Duncan and children’s author Jacqueline Wilson.

The charity Stagetext, which coordinates the campaign, says the week is vital to promoting access to the arts and improving the experiences of the estimated 11 million British people who are deaf and hard of hearing. Despite one in six people being deaf, deafened and hard of hearing, only 1% understand British Sign Language.

The charity says Captioning Awareness Week is an opportunity to celebrate arts access by arts venues and to tell the stories of people who use access and how it affects their lives. However, it claims that the arts sector collectively needs to do much more to be inclusive to deaf and hard of hearing audiences.

The campaign follows the publication of a recent report on the state of theatre access, which found that only 19% of theatres list captioned performances on their websites, with 26% failing to share any access information whatsoever.

Speaking at the time of the publication of the report, Tarek Iskander, Artistic Director & CEO, Battersea Arts Centre, said:

Rather than asking ourselves ‘How much effort will it take for us for improve access?’ we need to ask ‘Why are we wasting so much money and time doing everything we can to exclude certain people?’. Starting from a completely different place will lead us very naturally to a much more welcoming and vibrant future.

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Image by Donmar Warehouse