Broadway’s New Tech for Impaired Audiences

The Cast of Deaf West Theater's production of Spring Awakening (Joan Marcus).

Broadway theaters are investing in new technology to better serve audience members who are deaf or experience hearing or vision loss by more closely synchronizing services to live performances.

These new services, in addition to currently available assistive listening devices, are being provided to theatergoers free of charge.

They use vocal recognition, closed captioning and audio description via mobile devices and headsets to seamlessly synchronize technology with live action on stage.

If an actor pauses in real time, for instance, that pause will be reflected in the new closed captioning and audio description, according to the Broadway League, which is helping coordinate these efforts.

“The advent of on demand closed captioning on Broadway is a true game changer,” Barbara Kelley, executive director of the Hearing Loss Association of America, said. “I anticipate our members who had given up on live events because they could not understand dialogue and lyrics will happily return to Broadway.”

Some Broadway theaters are currently equipped to provide the new services and the majority of Broadway theaters will be offering the new services by January 1, 2018, according to the group.

Prior to every performance, a representative will be available to demonstrate how to activate and use the technology with additional information available online at

“Improved closed captioning and audio description services are the latest advances in an ongoing effort to meet the needs of every theatergoer,” Broadway League Chairman Robert Wankel said.

The programming and installation of the new technology begins following the opening night of a Broadway production and typically takes a month to complete.