The National Theatre’s introduction of Smart Caption Glasses is a momentous change in the world of theatre; performances are now accessible to a much wider audience than ever before. The National Theatre claims that users can experience performances from any seat in any production for the first time due to the introduction of these Smart Caption Glasses.
The obstacle of not hearing the dialogue of the show has been erased; those who are deaf or hard of hearing can now join their families and friends in enjoying a variety of performances without missing out on the overall experience. The wearers of these glasses will see a transcript of the dialogue and other descriptions about the performance on the lens. The Smart Caption Glasses are designed to fit over your own pair of glasses and can be ordered when purchasing your tickets. They can be collected from the Box Office upon your arrival. These steps in improving accessibility have led to the theatre being user-friendly to anyone who is deaf or has a hearing impairment.
This revolutionary piece of equipment is the result of a four-year collaboration between the National Theatre and speech and language specialists. This improved level of access joins many schemes the National Theatre already has in place, such as captioned and audio-described performances. Touch tours are also offered to those who are blind or visually impaired in order for them to familiarise themselves with the set before the performance begins. Unlike these other elements of the National Theatre’s accessibility, the Smart Caption Glasses enable users to be sat in any seat and still have all-inclusive user experience.
The National Theatre are also leading the way in improving their facilities for all types of disabilities, including those with learning disabilities or those on the autistic spectrum. Noisy and crowded venues are found to be overwhelming, so steps have been taken to improve how user friendly their venue is. ‘Relaxed performances’ are being offered; chill out areas are provided if you need a break from the performance, strobe lights are removed and the audience is allowed to make noise during the performance.
Hopefully now that the prestigious National Theatre has taken further initiatives to improve their level of accessibility, other theatres across the country will follow in their footsteps and provide Smart Caption Glasses and begin other initiatives to help improve audience experience.