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Broadway captioning and other gifts to cherish in 2018

Sound Advice by Ruth D. Bernstein (with CHC’s Terrence Williams)

Ruth Bernstein, Consumer Advocate

There is nothing I like better than getting an unusual gift I can share with a lot of people. I received two such special gifts when I attended the Broadway Accessibility Summit: Community Event, at New World Stages at West 50th Street on Tuesday, November 24, 2017.

The Summit was convened to demonstrate the GalaPro app to people with hearing loss and other disabilities. The app provides captions on hand-held devices for live theater performances. This exciting gift comes from Schubert Theaters, the Broadway League, Sound Associates and TDF/TAP.

The speakers at the presentation, all of whom played a role in bringing this important technology to theaters, included Bob Wankel, Chairman of the Broadway League, John Waldo, attorney and looping advocate, Lewis Merkin, deaf actor, and Jerry Bergman, President of HLAA NY State. The advisory committee assisting the app developers included Jerry Bergman, Toni Iacolucci, and Holly Cohen, HLAA-NYC Chapter members.

GalaPro was developed by Gala Prompter, an Israeli company whose mission is “to make all theater accessible for everyone in the language of their choice.” The app works with smartphones, tablets and lap tops. There will also be I-Caption: portable devices available in theaters courtesy of Sound Associates.

Terrence Williams, Assistant Director of CHC’s Berelson Hearing Technology Center, also attended the Summit and shares this information about how GalaPro works:

After you install the free app on your smartphone or tablet, you will be able to download content from any Broadway show (once the roll-out is complete). A show’s full script is available to view once the performance starts, and it will be synced with the performers onstage. This means that even if the show’s tempo changes, the words will appear on the screen in real time. This represents a major improvement over prior technology. In fact, the app developers and the Schubert Theaters report that timing should be synced about 95% of the time. Of course ad-libbing and last minute script changes may not be available.

When using the app on your smartphone, you’ll be able to swipe up or down to adjust brightness. Should you have concerns about regulating your phone’s brightness so that it isn’t a distraction for others, you can alternatively use I-Caption. I-Caption is a hand-held device (available in theaters) with low and directed light screens designed to maximize readability and minimize unnecessary brightness. While using GalaPro in the theater, you will be connected to a closed WiFi signal within the theater. It’s possible you might also pick up an outside signal, so it’s advisable that you turn off your ringer and notification before the performance starts.

The technology, currently offered in all Schubert-owned theaters, is expected to be available in all commercial and nonprofit Broadway theaters by June, 2018. The app is typically available for participating Broadway shows beginning three weeks after the opening of a show and is good for any seat in the theater. Check this link for show accessibility information:

As you can tell from Mr. Williams’s detailed description, GalaPro is a gift for those who like to read captions on hand-held devices. The second gift I received was the realization that the advocacy of many of my CHC and HLAA friends at the Summit, who have been advocating for CART for many years, is successful!  The work began in the late 1990s when Arlene Romoff, CHC Board member, suggested to Lisa Carling of TDF that CART come to Broadway. Here is an edited version of the story Lisa told in 2003.

Arlene Romoff, Joe Gordon, HLAA NYC Board Member, Ellen Semel, HLAA NYC member, and I have all been part of the ongoing effort to make theater hearing accessible. All of us are grateful for the unstinting, dedicated work of Lisa Carling, Don De Pew, and the C2 captioners. When I look back at what we accomplished and what continues to be accomplished, I am grateful for the gifts of GalaPro, the passion and caring of the people who have brought us to this point and to those who carry on our work to make theater accessible to as many people as possible.

Warm wishes,

Ruth D. Bernstein Consumer Advocate

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