Joseph Fagan, 60, is a partially deaf theatre fan who uses hearing aids and lipreading to communicate. He has been attending captioned performances (where text is displayed during performances on a screen) for twelve years.
Joseph finds it difficult to use the phone, so when he recently emailed a theatre company to ask whether an upcoming production would be captioned, he was pleased to receive a reply from a member of staff a few minutes later.
Except it wasn’t the reply he was expecting.
The email was just three words long and read simply: “Another deaf bugger…”
Joseph recognised straight away that the email was intended for another member of staff. After he complained, the theatre group’s Exectutive Director and Operations Manager met him to apologise.
The individual concerned is now facing disciplinary action and will be attending a deaf awareness course. The company, meanwhile, have offered Joseph “red carpet treatment” at a future captioned performance.
While theatres have made massive inroads into access provision in the last decade, what’s worrying in this case is not only the original comment, but that the individual believed a colleague would be receptive to it.
Aside from not insulting their deaf customers, we asked Joseph what steps theatres should take to improve deaf access.“More needs to be done within the theatre arena,” he said. “More provision of captions, loop systems, deaf awareness and access to bookings.”
Tabitha Allum, Chief Executive of STAGETEXT, said “Deaf, deafened and hard of hearing people need to continue to contact theatres to request good access for the shows they want to see. Provision of services like captioning and BSL interpretation will only increase if theatres can see that there are lots of people out there who want to make use of them and who cannot attend their productions without that additional support.”
The Limping Chicken has seen the email Joseph received and his letter of apology from the venue, however we have decided not to identify them because the matter has been resolved.