Captions could be next step forward for access at music venues


newslatestMusic venues and festivals could soon be offering captions beside the stage so that deaf customers can follow a band’s lyrics as they are being sung and enjoy the banter between songs, according to a user-led charity.

Attitude is Everything (AiE) is hoping to persuade venues and festivals that stage live music to offer captioning as a way of making their events more accessible, particularly to those with hearing loss.

The charity, which this week launched its State of Access Report 2014 – looking at the “trends and issues” that Deaf and disabled people face when accessing gigs – said captioning would allow venues and festivals to expand their pool of potential customers.

Graham Griffiths, AiE’s business and operations manager, said: “The gold-standard venues will offer BSL-interpreted if requested in advance, but captioning isn’t something that exists [in live music].”

He said AiE hoped to start with festivals such as Glastonbury and Latitude, which offer spoken word performances as well as music.

He said: “There is a demand. We are working with people who have made those requests.

“If some of the big players took it on board it is the type of thing that will roll out across the industry.”

Captioning would particularly help those with hearing loss but for whom English – rather than British Sign Language – is their first language, and who do not use hearing aids and so cannot benefit from loop systems.

BSL interpretation is increasingly used at festivals such as Glastonbury and Latitude, but does not help most people with hearing loss.

One deaf music-lover told AiE: “I think the demand is probably hidden. I know captioning and know it’s incredibly useful for me, but have no expectation of seeing it at gigs.

“I avoid music events for two reasons: I find it very hard to communicate in a dark noisy environment, and I can’t access song lyrics at all. Captioned gigs would open up the music for me.”

The AiE report points out that captioning is frequently provided – successfully – in theatres.

Lissy Lovett, programme manager for Stagetext, a charity which provides captioning and live speech-to-text services in theatres and other arts and cultural venues, said any system would need to be able to offer both the lyrics and the chat between songs.

She said: “It’s not rocket science. We really hope that we will somehow find the time to organise some music gigs at some point.”

30 January 2014