This April Leeds Playhouse will trial revolutionary smart caption glasses transforming access to theatre for audiences with hearing impairments. Audience members attending performances of Around the World in 80 Days between 16 – 28 April will be able to use the caption glasses in the Pop-Up theatre.

Leeds Beckett University Professor Andrew Lambourne collaborated with the National Theatre and Accenture, their Partner for Innovation, on the development of a pioneering system to transmit captions to these innovative glasses automatically. The smart caption glasses respond to the voices of the performers and display the text as it is spoken or sung on stage including descriptions of music and sound effects.

Accenture and the National Theatre developed the service using glasses designed and manufactured by Epson, which stood out as the best on the market for the smart caption service.

Leeds Playhouse Executive Director Robin Hawkes said“It is brilliant to be the first theatre to work in partnership with the National Theatre on trialling these ground-breaking glasses with our audiences here in the Leeds City Region. We are really proud key technology was researched and developed by a staffer at Leeds Beckett University. At Leeds Playhouse we are continually exploring innovative ways to make theatre and performance more accessible. I look forward to seeing the impact these glasses will have.”

Leeds Beckett University Professor Andrew Lambourne said: “The great thing about this system is that it can follow what the actors are saying and automatically put the caption out in time with the dialogue, which means it’s feasible to offer access to every performance. And because users can look through the glasses at whatever piece of the action they like and still see captions floating in space in front of them, it’s a far more immersive experience than looking at a screen to the side of the stage.”

National Theatre Executive Director Lisa Burger said: “The development of the smart caption glasses is an important step towards giving people a better service, with the freedom and choice around when and how they come to the theatre. Since we launched the smart caption glasses inOctober 2018 we’ve seen over 300 people use them so far and over 10% of these visitors hadn’t previously been to the National Theatre. It is wonderful to now be able to trail these glasses in other theatres, as it was always our aim for as many audience members as possible to benefit from this revolutionary new service.”  

Leeds Playhouse has an award-winning access programme, supported for a decade by the theatre’s Access Partner, Irwin Mitchell. This includes the pioneering development of Relaxed and Dementia Friendly performances which are now nationally recognised. The theatre building is currently being redeveloped to vastly improve access throughout. Due to reopen in Autumn 2019, the regenerated building will have more level access in the auditoriums, improved lifts to navigate throughout the building and more central locations within all the theatres for wheelchair users.

To find out more about trialling the caption glasses contact Leeds Playhouse on 0113 213 7700 or visit our Box Office, located at 19 Eastgate.

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