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Assistive tech in theaters

Mary Beth

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Using assistive tech in theaters....


We spent some time in NYC and saw several Broadway shows.  I tested out various assistive tech while we were there.  I’m sharing my experiences in case it helps anyone.





Looped theater...

I have used my CIs on MT or T in looped theaters many times.  It sure is easy to use.  Just use the Fine Tuner and set processors to MT or T.  When the loop system is working well, it is fabulous for understanding speech.  If the loop system is not working well, it is useless.  I experienced both.  I do not like using telecoil for live music though because it does not deliver the full instrumental experience.  Telecoil in looped theaters works great for speech (plays, comedians, etc).


Assistive listening device provided by the theater....

Many theaters offer assistive listening devices that we can use for free by checking them out and leaving our driver’s license behind.  They vary in design.  Some are infrared systems.  Some are large area FM systems.  Many times they come with the choice of headphones or neckloop.  I have had mixed results with these assistive listening devices.  Unfortunately there seems to be no way to check that the unit you receive is actually working prior to the start of the show.  I prefer to stay on M in theaters so I feel connected to the general audience.  MT allows us to hear both, the general audience and the assistive listening sound when using neckloops.  I have received assistive listening devices that were not working and had to swap them out during intermission.  But when they are working, it sure can make it easier to understand the show.  (Especially if performers have accents.) I really enjoyed using CozyPhone flat speakers plugged into a large area FM System for a play recently.  Worked so well.  I just plugged them in the headphone jack and stayed on M.  The device had a volume control so I could adjust the volume anyway I preferred.  Heard perfectly with my Rondos.




Handheld personal captioning devices/services....

Broadway has two handheld personal captioning systems in place at the moment for various shows.  I tested both of them at the same show to see which one I prefer.


I-Caption is a device that we check out from the theater for free by leaving our drivers license behind.  It is a small device that is designed to be held by one hand.  The captions appear on screen when the show begins and it displays which character is speaking.  If there are two different lines of music happening simultaneously, the screen is split and displays both parts.  It worked very well.  There were about three times that the screen froze for a moment but then jumped ahead and was in sync again.  For a few minutes the captions were actually ahead of the performers.  That was odd but it only lasted a few minutes.  It is tough on your neck.  Looking down and then at the stage repeatedly.  But that is true for any handheld captioning device unless you use a selfie stick to position it better without bothering other audience members.  I-Caption is my preferred handheld captioning option.


GalaPro is an app that you download on your phone.  Then at select shows you connect to the theater’s WiFi and captioning appears on your phone.  It is not comfortable holding a cell phone for so long.  The display was not as easy to read as I-Caption and it drains our cell phone batteries.  Given the choice between I-Caption and Gala Pro, I choose I-Caption.  Some shows offer both options.  Some shows only offer one type.

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Info on a large area FM assistive listening receiver.  This was the brand and model I used, but the version I used was older.

I plugged CozyPhones into the headphone jack.  



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Excellent info about using handheld captioning devices in NYC theaters by Tina Childress (audiologist and bilateral CI user)



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