Charity Stagetext is calling on venues and performers to ensure that online performances during lockdown are accessible to the Deaf community and people who live with hearing loss.

Stagetext provides captioning and live subtitling in theatres and cultural venues, and have reported a large increase in demand for their services in online settings during the UK lockdown. In April, the charity worked on a live performance of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1986 musical Phantom of the Opera, during which almost 20% of the 12.8 million people watching the performance were using Stagetext’s subtitles.

The push to ensure accessibility coincides with the sixth annual Captioning Awareness Week, a campaign which sells to highlight how important it is that cultural venues – museums, theatres, galleries and the like – are accessible for d/Deaf people, and people who live with hearing loss.

Captioning Awareness Week will see Stagetext provide live subtitles for a performance of Olivier Award-winning play Emilia, and will provide live captions for a series of lectures and discussions from the British Library, the British Academy and the Royal Society.

Chief executive of Stagetext Melanie Sharpe said: “We are fortunate enough in the UK to have some of the best theatres, museums and galleries in the world.

“We take for granted that most of us are able to enjoy incredible performances and exhibitions, even during a lockdown.

“For the 12 million in the UK who are hard of hearing, it’s not so easy, and we’ve got to do all we can to include them during these challenging times.

“People who are Deaf or with hearing loss are more likely to experience loneliness than non-disabled people, and access to the arts has been proven to improve mental wellbeing.”

Stagetext live captioning user Ann Jillings said that live captioning has allowed her family to enjoy online shows and events together during the lockdown.

“My son Daniel is deaf and we have really appreciated the captioning of shows streamed online during the pandemic,” Ann said. “During what is already a challenging time for so many of us, it’s really important we can come together as a family during lockdown to watch some of the great performances and exhibitions on offer.”

For more information on Captioning Awareness Week, visit Stagetext’s website.

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