Accessible paratext: actively engaging (with) D/deaf audiences

By: Pierre Alexis Mével


Volume: 06
Issue: 01:2020
ISSN: 2459-2943
DOI: 10.18680/hss.2020.0010
Pages: 203-219
Lic.: CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
sign language



This article examines the importance of paratext – theoretically and practically – in getting D/deaf audiences to engage with theatrical performances. Our notion of ‘accessible paratext’ necessarily involves multimodal forms of translation, and intersemiotic interactions, to provide a crucial point of access for D/deaf members of the public who often feel that theatrical performances are ‘not for them.’ The article focuses on intersemiotic multimedial translation in the form of creative captions for the theatre and, more specifically, for paratextual video material created as part of a project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (United Kingdom) to showcase integrated captions in live performances.

The widespread perception that the theatre is not for D/deaf audiences appears to be driven by several factors, including the fact that many members of the D/deaf community have neither heard of nor seen integrated theatre and because access to integrated performances is not forthcoming. Information about such performances, in the form of what we here define as paratext, either does not exist or is not communicated in a way that makes the accessible nature of the performances tangible to members of the D/deaf audience. We demonstrate the extent to which several semiotic systems (sign language, spoken words, and written captions) interacting on the stage or a screen can provide a much-needed gateway to theatrical performances, bringing marginalized audiences back to the theatre and improving the shows’ accessibility.


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