Developing Deaf Audiences

The term Deaf is used here to describe people whose first language is British Sign Language (BSL) – people who are part of the Deaf community.

There is a strong cultural identity within the Deaf community.

Deaf people will come to see Deaf performers (comedians, actors, signed-song artists etc). This is very different to simply getting sign language interpreters for an event with hearing actors, speakers or workshop leaders.

The key to building Deaf audiences is to work in partnership with a local or national Deaf peoples’ organisation or group. The partner organisation will be able to advise on performers, access, interpreters and marketing. The involvement of a Deaf-led partner organisation will do much to encourage attendance.

Action Points

Partner organisation or group:

  • Identify partners well in advance
  • Look for a Deaf-led organisation such as Deaf Association Wales


  • You may need to book interpreters when meeting with Deaf people in the planning stages.
  • Check exactly how many interpreters will be necessary for the event, and clarify what they will need to do, e.g. Interpret from voice to BSL, Interpret from BSL to voice (voice-over), Interpret on stage, backstage, workshop, front of house, social times

Type of artist

  • Make sure you are booking the right kind of act for the target audience
  • Deaf performers who use sign language will appeal to the Deaf community (sign language users)

Booking & pre-event queries

Publicise options for contacting your organisation:

  • Email
  • Fax
  • Text messages (to a designated mobile number)
  • Minicom
  • Post
  • Call in to office

Front of house

  • Arrange for at least one person at FOH who is fluent in BSL*. If none of your staff are fluent BSL users, book an interpreter to be present at front of house. *BSL first language OR at least Level 3 BSL

Further information

Deaf Association Wales, British Sign Language Cultural Centre, 47 Newport Road, Cardiff, CF24 0AD. Email: [email protected], Videophone IP:, Textphone: 0845 1302853, Telephone: 0845 1302851, Fax: 0845 1302852

British Deaf Association’s website

Royal Association for Deaf People’s website

Deaf and Creative’s website Click on case studies to learn more about deaf artists

Shape’s website

What about deafened and hard-of hearing audiences?

Deafened and hard-of hearing people may attend a group or club, but are less likely to do so than Deaf sign language users. The culture of deafened and hard-of-hearing people is more likely to be similar to that of hearing people.

A Hard of Hearing performer who uses their voice may appeal to some hard-of-hearing & deafened audiences, but the main focus should be on access issues.

If deafened and hard-of-hearing people are likely to be attending the event, you may need:

  • speech-to-text (sometimes called palantype)
  • hearing induction loop
  • lip-speakers (depends upon type of event)
  • captioned performances
  • synopsis of show
  • speakers notes in advance

Further Information

National Association of Deafened People’s website

Hearing Concern’s website

Wales Council for Deaf People’s website

Wales Council for Deaf People (communication support). Tel: 01443 485 687 Email: [email protected]

RNID Communication Services Cymru. Tel: 01792 324477, Textphone: 01792 324455, Fax: 01792 324422, Email: [email protected]

Association of Sign Language Interpreters’ website

Signature’s website

British Deaf Association’s website

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