Searching For Open Captions On The Road

I recently read an article stating that NYC is the most accessible city in the United States for people with hearing loss, and that may be true, but every time I travel to London, I am blown away by the level of hearing access. Whether it is the ubiquitous looped taxis, the hearing loops at every museum counter and information booth or the variety of open captioned performances available, I see hearing loss access everywhere I go. Even my London Walks guide asked if anyone had trouble hearing him to please move to the front of the group or wave a hand at him to let him know. I did so with pleasure.

Living With Hearing Loss

During my most recent visit to London, I was lucky to attend two open captioned performances — in the same week! One was at the National Theater  (Sunset at the Villa Thalia) and one at Shakespeare’s Globe Theater (The Taming of the Shrew). Both would have been a non-starter for me without the captions given the actors’ accents and the complexity of the productions. The accommodation helped me to thoroughly enjoy both shows.

Coming from the U.S., I was not sure I would be eligible for the hearing access / open captions program in the U.K., but it was not an issue. I easily found the access form online (each theater had a different one), filled it out and emailed it in. Once the theater confirmed receipt, I was able to call to book and pay for my tickets in the open captioned area. I had wonderful seats with a clear view of the stage and the captions — and the tickets were even discounted!

The National Theater also emailed me a detailed synopsis of the show the day before the performance. I didn’t read it because I wanted to be surprised by the story, but it was useful afterwards to fill in any small details I might have missed.

Interestingly, when I asked the concierge at my hotel if he was aware of any open captioned performances available for the week I was visiting, he didn’t know what I was asking. This is a shame since I imagine many visitors to the hotel could have benefited from these types of performances. It goes to show how much education about hearing loss is still required everywhere.

If you plan to visit London, follow this link to find a list of upcoming open captioned performances. In New York City, check out Theater Development Fund’s TAP program to find open captioned performances. I recently attended two such performances on Broadway and enjoyed them both.

Readers, do you seek out open captioned performances when you travel?

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21 thoughts on “Searching For Open Captions On The Road

  1. We are going to Spain the end of the month. Have no idea what is available there. We will be on an escorted tour. I asked about accommodations from the tour operator and they said they have individual headsets for the tours. Have never used them before so I’m not sure how that will work out.


    • Individual headsets should mean that the tour guide uses an FM system. The tour guide will have a bodypack transmitter which will send a wireless signal to your personal receiver that the tour company will provide you with. This receiver will come with headphones for your to wear. If this is the case, you will “hear” better than anyone else in the group NOT using the system.

      Also, if your hearing aids have a manual T-Coil and you have your own person neckloop; bring the neckloop with you as you may find that you can plug the neckloop into the receiver the tour company provides you with.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks – didn’t think to bring my neckloop. I’ll definitely do that.
        Not sure what you mean by the first paragraph. My hearing loss is too severe to use a headset without my aids. And sometimes you get feedback from using headphones with hearing aids.


    • I find that personal neckloops don’t work for me – something about the orientation or strength of my T-coils.

      1) There are similar devices called silhouettes that plug into the receiver’s earphone jack, and fit over your ear to bring the sound field closer to your T-coils.

      2) A gentleman at one of my HAT presentations showed me a great pair of full, over-the-ear headphones that he takes on his travels. Apparently they cover so well there’s no feedback.

      3) Personally, I use a streamer from phonak that lets me use a patch cord, (a double-ended cord — plugs on both ends.) I plug one end into the receiver’s jack and the other end into my streamer, which delivers the sound wirelessly through my HAs with the equalization I need.

      4) My advice is to try these different things at home or around town well before your journey. That way you’ll know what works for you before you go.

      Bon voyage!


      • My original reply was in 2016 so I’ve already been on the trip.
        I think you’re referring to a Compilot. That is what I have and I took that with me and plugged that into their receiver. But it was difficult to make the connection. Sometimes it made the connection, but other times it took a lot of moving around of the cord to make it work. When it worked, it was heaven because I heard everything loud and clear. There seemed to be a sweet spot that you needed to find for the connection to work.
        Thanks for the suggestions.

        Liked by 1 person

    • There are actually new devices in the NYC theaters. There is a device called I-Caption that I used this week. It’s provided by Sound Associates who do the sound for a lot of NYC productions. You need to reserve it ahead of time – here is a link explaining how it works.
      But there is also another assisted device that I used this week – my smartphone. There is an app called Galapro that you download from Apple or Google. You sign into the WiFi network in the theater, and pick the show. The captions appear right there on your smartphone. No need to reserve anything ahead of time. I used an induction loop this week plus the captioning devices – for the first time in a long time, I knew what was going on on the stage. Pretty amazing stuff….

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Just returned from trip to Cape Cod. Arranged in advance for Holiday Inn Hyannis to provide smoke detector, vibrating alarm clock and door knocker for my room. Our tour guide for 4 days always made an effort to face me when talking. JFKennedy Museum provided print transcript of their video and Cape Cod Canal Museum put their captioned video on at my request.
    We need to ask wherever we go to make places aware of the need for these services.


  3. When traveling in foreign countries, it’s nice to have subtitles. And even in England, we can appreciate the translation, whether the captions are in English or in American….LOL.


  4. I had a tour guide who used an FM mic. But when she was done, there was a short video. She turned off the mic, because she was finished speaking. The video was captioned, but I like to read and hear – it’s easier and more enjoyable. So I had to fumble to quickly switch over from streamer to my BTEs. Afterward, as I was thanking my guide, I suggested that in the future she leave the mic on and place it near the TV speaker. She thanked me and 2 weeks later emailed me to say that subsequent guests have really enjoyed that. So we can help our guides to help us better.


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