Equity has launched a guide to good practice for using British Sign Language in the performing arts.
The guide has been created by actor and interpreter Alim Jayda and artistic director of Deafinitely Theatre Paula Garfield, working with members of Equity’s D/deaf and Disabled Committee.
It covers good practice in terms of casting a D/deaf actor, casting a hearing actor whose character uses BSL, and working with a D/deaf actor and an interpreter.
Additionally, the Guide to Good Practice with BSL in the Arts also lists resources to find D/deaf actors, as many may not be on Spotlight, and outlines acceptable terminology when referring to D/deaf actors. It will continue to be updated in response to feedback.
Some of the key recommendations in the guide include:
• Ensuring there is a native speaker on the panel when casting for any role that uses British Sign Language.
• For hearing roles that use BSL, only ever cast those who already have an acquired level of the language as it cannot be learned during a short rehearsal period.
• Getting audition breakdowns translated into BSL.
• Booking a qualified interpreter two to three weeks in advance of the audition and incorporating funds into the budget for this.
• Aiming to send the material to the D/deaf actors in advance to allow translation time.
Jayda said: "Sign language has been an oppressed language for years and it has taken D/deaf people a long time to finally gain ownership of it.
"This is one of the reasons why representation is so important, and why it has to be of a high standard."
Jayda added: "This guide aims to give the reader an understanding of how to work with D/deaf people and those that use BSL.
"It aims to address questions and offers some useful tips for those who wish to implement it into their creative processes, which will hopefully, in turn, help contribute to a better representation of the language itself within the arts."