Accessing the arts

Terrapin Puppet Theatre's recent captioned performance, 'Sleeping Horses Lie'

Terrapin Puppet Theatre’s recent captioned performance, ‘Sleeping Horses Lie’

Performing arts can inspire, excite and move people. Regardless of backgrounds, age groups and cultures, people in Tasmania have always enjoyed connecting with others through artistic experiences.

But what if you can’t access performing arts because of a disability, such as a hearing loss?



Many of us take the arts for granted. We go to the theatre or a concert with family and friends – many of us will go a few times a year, others just on special occasions.

When we go to these performances and events, we usually feel welcomed and are catered for. We can telephone the theatre and book our tickets, when we arrive at the venue we can hear announcements and follow instructions from ushers to be guided to our seats, and most importantly we can listen to the actors and understand the performance.

But what if you have a hearing loss? What would make it easier for you to participate as an audience member and feel welcomed enough to purchase a ticket to see the performing arts?

The barriers for people with hearing loss

Access to the performing arts for Tasmanians with hearing loss has for many years remained extremely limited. The costs associated with installing hearing loop systems that are accessible for those people with modern hearing aids as well as a reluctance to include open captioning via surtitles on stage for artistic reasons, has meant that many arts organisations and venues have not made their services accessible to Deaf and hard of hearing audiences.

1 in every 6 Tasmanians lives with a form of hearing loss. This alarming statistic indicates just how many people miss out on enjoying performing arts events due to a lack of facilities at venues to cater to their needs.

Improving access to the arts… on the agenda in Tasmania

Hearing Link Tasmania has for many years worked with public arts and entertainment venues to increase access for patrons with hearing loss. And we’re starting to see the results. Most notably, there has been a slow but important shift in the approach taken by arts organisations as they realise that there is a potentially huge audience base of hard of hearing Tasmanians (approximately 80,000) who aren’t attending arts events due to inadequate facilities. Arts organisations are starting to sit up and take notice.

Recently working in collaboration with the Tasmanian Deaf Society, Arts Tasmania and The Captioning Studio, the organisation has brought open captioning to theatres around Tasmania as part of the 2012 Theatre Captioning Pilot Project. In June, performances of the Terrapin Puppet Theatre’s ‘Sleeping Horses Lie’ were captioned in Hobart, Burnie and Launceston. Captions were also organised for a performance of ‘Boy Girl Wall’ in August and ‘Rhinestone Rex and Miss Monica’ in October and both of these were staged at the Theatre Royal in Hobart.

More captioned theatre performances coming in 2013!

Hearing Link Tasmania is excited to announce that there will be more captioned theatre shows held across Tasmania in early 2013. The shows and dates are yet to be confirmed… watch this space!

The upcoming captioned theatre shows will see Arts Tasmania, Tasdeaf and Hearing Link Tasmania continue their collaboration on the statewide trial of theatre captioning in Tasmania. The project utilises technology to increase access to the performing arts, particularly for Deaf and hard of hearing audiences.

Working with The Captioning Studio, based in Canberra, the project delivers open captions to theatre shows using their patented technology on plasma or LCD screens for caption display. The GoTheatrical! ™ technology is the only theatre captioning technology used by Australian theatre venues, including the Sydney Opera House and the Arts Centre in Melbourne.

If you would like more information about the upcoming captioned shows, please contact us today and we’ll put your name on our mailing list to receive the information as soon as it’s available!