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.
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?