The play's the thing

28 November 2017

Making Shakespeare accessible for deaf and hearing impaired students.

Since 2015, the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) with Virgin Media’s support has broadcast 14 of Shakespeare’s plays live to schools across the UK. So far, more than 187,000 students and 2,804 schools have watched these free RSC Schools Broadcasts.

Now we’re working together to make the Bradcasts and Shakespeare’s work more accessible than ever before.

The RSC is committed to making everything they do accessible and relevant to their audiences by breaking down barriers and enabling participation by the widest range of people. There’s an obvious and clear fit here with our own “Digital for Good” promise and our national charity partnership with Scope, which is all about removing the barriers disabled people can face.

One of the ways we’re supporting the RSC in their aim is by funding British Sign Language (BSL) interpretations of each of their free Schools Broadcasts. These will be made available on the day of the broadcast for deaf and hearing impaired students.

Shakespeare’s plays sometimes contain unusual words, phrases or names that can’t currently be signed in BSL. BSL interpreters are now working with students in schools for the Deaf and units for deaf studients in mainsteam schools to create new signs that are then used nationally alongside the broadcasts.

The new signs are introduced to students before each play through an introductory video. These videos are then housed on the RSC’s YouTube page, to ensure that they can be accessed by all BSL users. This addition to BSL will open up a new world of learning possibilities for students  and BSL users more widely.

Supporting the RSC on this initiative complements our sustainability commitment to transform the lives of disabled people through digital technology. We’re proud to help bring the brilliance of Shakespeare to more people in new ways.

Below you can watch the BSL introduction to Julius Caesar:

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