For the first time a theatre performance from the Centro Dramático Nacional (CDN) (The National Center for Drama) has featured live subtitles, enabling hearing impaired individuals to also enjoy the play. The key is a new subtitling system created by the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) in collaboration with the Centro Español de Subtitulado y Audiodescripción (CESyA) (Spanish Centre for Subtitling and Audio Description).

The performance took place on March 15 at the María Guerrero Theatre in Madrid, where the play “Woyzeck,” by Georg Büchner could be enjoyed in the version by Juan Mayorga, under the direction of Gerardo Vera. This accessible staging has been promoted with the collaboration of the CESyA and the CDN, which for the first time ever in their theatres programmed a subtitled function for hearing impaired individuals, thanks to technological support from UC3M though a subtitling system, UC3MTitling.

This system carries out subtitling in the real time of events for an audience, without the need for highly qualified personnel. Its area of application is live events based on a pre-established script such as theatre, conferences, ceremonies, etc., which allow the synchronized broadcast of any accessibility element for a live event as it unfolds, and at a low cost. For that purpose, a technician is in charge of previously generating all of the accessibility elements (titles, sign language video and audio description) and afterwards synchronizing and carrying out their broadcast as the play is performed.

Advantages of the system

The main advantage of this system is that the technician can carry out the synchronization of the elements without actually having to be in the theatre where the performance is taking place, explained the UC3M Full Professor, Ángel García Crespo. "Thanks to communications tools for making Internet calls (VoIP), the performance can be followed anywhere,” the researcher noted, who also collaborated with CESyA.

In this way, once the technician begins broadcasting the accessibility elements, they can be broadcast in the theatre by different channels depending on their features: texts for titles, audio for audio description and video for sign language. In addition, because of the high degree of compatibility of the chosen formats, the play’s audience can simultaneously consult them from different devices: mobile phone, PC tablet, PDA, etc

UC3MTitling is a tool which incorporates the necessary procedures to control, on site or at distance, the synchronized projection of accessibility elements (subtitles, video for sign language and audio description) through the different channels associated with the theatre where the play takes place. "In a nutshell,” professor García Crespo concluded, “this subtitling system not only allows individuals with impaired hearing or sight to able to follow such events but the rest of the audience can also benefit from them, thereby achieving complete integration for disabled persons and conditions on par with the rest of the audience.”

This accessible function for persons with hearing impairments through subtitles has been the first in this framework of collaboration whose aim is to set up functions of this type on a regular basis during the 2011-2012 season of the of CDN programming. This agreement is within the framework of social awareness and action for accessible culture that the CESyA is carrying out, as it has done with other entities such as the Academia de Ciencias y Artes Cinematográficas (The Academy of Cinematographic Arts and Science) or different museum organizations.