Northern Irish scheme to boost deaf access to live shows

Michael Quinn

A scheme to increase access to live performances for the deaf and hearing-impaired has been launched in Northern Ireland by development agency Audiences NI.

Although theatre venues in the province regularly programme signed performances for the 219,000 people registered as deaf or hard of hearing in the region, which represents one in seven of the total population, the new initiative, In the Loop, will look at how those events are marketed to their target audiences.

Funded by Awards for All and developed in partnership with national and local deaf representative groups, a pilot scheme has been launched by Belfast’s Grand Opera House, which reopens on October 22 after a £10.2 million refurbishment and building project, and the city’s annual month-long international arts festival beginning three days earlier. Among the first productions to benefit will be the National Theatre’s critically acclaimed production of Alan Bennett’s The History Boys.

“We have nine British Sign Language performances of a variety of shows planned as well as captioned and audio-described performances,” revealed Opera House director John Botteley. “We also have induction loop and infra-red systems in both the main auditorium and new Baby Grand Theatre, so hopefully we will welcome even more deaf and hard of hearing customers through our doors when we reopen at the end of the month.”

Welcoming the news, Avril Crawford, director of the Arts and Disability Forum, applauded it as being “a positive step in the right direction that works towards the standards of the [national] Arts and Disability Equality Charter.”

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