Audio description allows blind or partially sighted audiences to experience the performing arts; it is a live verbal commentary providing information on the visual elements of a production as it unfolds. It describes action that is essential to the understanding of the story, as well as other visual information such as the style and design, sets, costumes, facial expressions and visual jokes that might otherwise be missed. The description is delivered around the dialogue of a performance and patrons listen to it through a discreet headset.
Captioning is similar to subtitling and gives deaf, deafened and hard of hearing people access to the performing arts. At a captioned performance the words are displayed on a screen (or screens), placed near the stage or in the set and can be seen at the same time as they are spoken or sung. Speakers' names, sound effects and offstage noises are also shown. A trained captioner prepares the script in advance to mirror the rhythm and flow of the performance and the captions are delivered live as the action happens on stage. Captioning is also helpful for people whose first language is not English, anyone who has difficulty following strong accents and students who are studying the text of a play.
British Sign Language interpreted performances
For deaf, deafened and hard of hearing audience members who use British Sign Language, an interpreter will stand in a clearly visible position and interpret the spoken and heard elements of a performance.
Relaxed performances are designed to provide an opportunity for people with autism spectrum conditions, learning disabilities or other sensory and communication disorders to access the performing arts in a relaxed environment. The performances are adapted in a number of ways to reduce anxiety and create a supportive atmosphere, including adjusting light and sound levels, providing 'chill-out' areas and demonstrating an embracing attitude towards audience noise and movement.