Access to Arts and Culture
There are many ways in which arts and cultural organisations can make their events accessible to Deaf people
Signed Culture represents the interests of Deaf people who choose to communicate in British Sign Language and the most common approaches to access include:
- Events that are made accessible by a British Sign Language interpreter. This can include theatre performances and talks in museums and galleries where the actor or lecturer is speaking in English and their words need to be interpreted into BSL in order to be understood by Deaf people who sign.
- Events that are delivered by Deaf presenters. This can include talks in museums and galleries where the speaker is a native BSL user and there is no voiceover for hearing people.
- Events where the British Sign Language is integrated. This includes theatre performances where some or all of the actors sign alongside using spoken word.
- Events which are made accessible through shadow interpreters. Some theatre companies integrate the interpreter into their production. The interpreter can 'shadow' the actors, wear a costume, be part of scenes as a character, move props, or be projected using multimedia technology. It is up to the director to collaborate with the interpreter to create something innovative. It is highly recommended to have a Deaf advisor or a Deaf actor on-board.
- Events which are created and conceived by Deaf people. This can include performances by companies like Deafinitely Theatre in which British Sign Language is the main mode of communication.
- Events that are delivered by Deaf presenters with no voiceover. This can include talks in museums and galleries where the speaker is a native BSL user and there is no voiceover provided for hearing people.
- Events that are delivered by Deaf presenters with voiceover. This can include talks in museums and galleries where the speaker is a native BSL user and there is a voiceover so that hearing people can participate too
Some Deaf people who use British Sign Language are also comfortable using English and so may also choose to access events which are captioned. If you are interested in knowing more about this form of access, we recommend you visit our friends at Stagetext.
Responsibility for provision of access in the arts and cultural sector
In the main, the availability of accessible arts events is dictated by the willingness of theatres, museums and galleries to schedule them.
There is a legal imperative – starting with the Disability Discrimination Act in 1995 and then the Equality Act in 2010. Arts organisations are considered to be suppliers with a duty to make “reasonable adjustments” to their services in order to make them accessible to deaf and disabled people – but, in reality, there have been no arts-based court cases to start defining what is meant by “reasonable”. You can find out more about the Equality Act here.
There is also a moral and social imperative – arts organisations are usually extremely keen that their events be open and accessible to all, but the fact remains that assisted events cost money and that can be difficult for organisations operating within tight budgets.
In order to win over more arts and cultural organisations, Signed Culture aims to demonstrate that there is an audience out there and create more ways in which arts and cultural organisations can reach out to BSL users.
This is the accepted and nationally recognised logo used to represent an interpreted event. Please use this in all marketing material, website pages, etc.
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