About this site

Welcome to A Guide to Theatre Access!

This website aims to give you a step by step guide to working on captioned, audio described and British Sign Language (BSL) interpreted performances at your venue.

So, what are captioned, audio described and BSL interpreted performances?

Captions are a bit like subtitles on television, allowing deaf, deafened and hard of hearing people to read every word the actors say or sing.

Audio described shows are for blind and visually impaired people, enabling them to hear live description of everything that can be seen on stage during pauses in dialogue.

BSL interpreted performances are for Deaf BSL (British Sign Language) users, enabling them to understand the play through the signs of a BSL interpreter, who stands on the stage.

Captioned, audio described and BSL interpreted performances are often grouped together and referred to as accessible or assisted performances.

Providing accessible performances in your venue means that your shows can reach everyone. Getting it right requires enthusiasm and support from every part of your organisation, from box office and production, to front of house and marketing – not forgetting the artistic team and your performers.

There’s so much to learn about working on captioned, audio described and BSL interpreted shows that we’ve developed this online toolkit to guide you through the process. Whether you’re new to access or an old hand who could do with a refresher, this site has tips for everyone.

So, to begin, select your department and start your journey to great access!

More information about this site

You are welcome to reproduce parts of this site, but please do credit us with a link.

Parts of this resource were created by the See a Voice project, which was funded by Round 8 of HM Treasury’s Invest to Save programme and Arts Council England’s Grants for the arts.  New material was created with Arts Council support in response to its Disability Equality Scheme.

The See a Voice project was set up by the charities Stagetext and VocalEyes, who provide captioning and audio description respectively.  The project, which ran from 2006 to 2010, led to a huge increase in the number of venues across the UK providing captioned and audio described performances.  For more information, please contact Stagetext on the following email address: and VocalEyes:

Nothing in this document should be taken as legal advice or opinion. It remains the duty of individual organisations to ensure that their work and practice are within the law. Stagetext and VocalEyes assume no liability for direct or indirect loss or damage arising from use or application of these materials.


The captioning, audio description and British Sign Language sections of the Access Co-ordinators toolkit were written by deaf journalist and scriptwriter Charlie Swinbourne. Find out more about his work at:

Signed Culture, previously known as  Signed Performance in Theatre, have also contributed to the BSL Interpreted information on this site. Their website is

The Senior Managers section and advocacy section for Access Co-ordinators were written by Michèle Taylor. Find out more about her work at:

The audience development and research consultant Heather Maitland worked closely on the marketing sections.  Find out more about her work at

Ken Bennett-Hunter, Ben Steinitz, Senior Audio Engineer at the National Theatre and Tom Lane, Project Manager at Ampetronic contributed to the technical section of this site.