ACT introduces Figaro MobiTxt to help people with hearing loss

A riddle: What looks like an iPad, shows only words, and sits atop a goose-neck holder? It’s a Figaro MobiTxt captioner, helping people who are deaf or who have a hearing loss understand, follow, and enjoy the performances at A Contemporary Theatre (ACT).ACT MobiTxt

In large venues, many people—both with and without hearing loss or hearing aids—struggle for complete understanding of the dialogue during live theatre. Rapid speech, accents, and dialects make comprehension even tougher. Some theatres use large captioned screens or scrolling digital text placed next to or above the stage, but that didn’t work well for ACT’s space.

“In the past when we had a captioned show, our patrons would have to sit in a specific section and choose from looking up at the captions hanging from the grid or from looking down at what was happening on stage. It was a frustrating experience for our patrons, and it made it practically impossible to enjoy our shows for those who need captioning,” says Jeremy Rupprecht, ACT’s Audience Services Manager.

Rupprecht explained that they’d been looking for a solution for years, and once they found one with privacy screens to eliminate glare and a detachable goose-neck arm to position the caption device where it’s needed, “everything started falling into place.”

I had the opportunity to test the Figaro at a performance of Tribes. It took a little getting used to, but the Figaro helped my comprehension tremendously. The staff at ACT have listened closely to their audience and incorporated their suggestions. For example, ACT removed the lock screen so that when the MobiTxt is switched on, only one button is visible with the name of the show. “The goal is to make it as useful and as easy to use as possible,” says Rupprecht.

The MobiTxt will bring many people with hearing loss back to the world of live theatre. “Theatre is an art form that can only exist with a community, and it is important to ACT to include everyone in that community. We have patrons who have been with us since the beginning, people who have supported us and helped build ACT into what it is today, and who have had to stop attending shows because they can no longer hear what is happening on stage. The Figaro MobiTxt devices make our community accessible to them again and opens our doors to people who have never had the chance to experience the magic of live theatre,” says Rupprecht.

Patrons can use one of the fifty Figaro MobiTxt devices from any seat in the theatre for mainstage shows every Tuesday and Friday night and every Thursday and Saturday matinee. Reserve a device in advance to have it waiting for you at your seat.  Printed instructions and a quick tutorial are available, though the MobiTxts advance on their own at the pace of the show. No outside devices are allowed due to glare and sound concerns.

For a list of captioned shows and a demonstration video, visit

–by Cheri Perazzoli

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Help people at SeaTac Airport hear

Understanding clearly in airports can be challenging, even for people with good hearing. Competing noise, echoes, and reverberations combined with accents and dialects can cause confusion, fatigue, and stress–not to mention misheard instructions, unheard gate changes, missed flights, or an inability to follow emergency or safety instructions. But for Seattle travelers, communication is about to improve.

Passengers at Sea-Tac's Concourse A, 19 May 2011.

The Port of Seattle aims to make SeaTac Airport the most accessible airport in the country, in time to welcome the Special Olympics to Seattle in 2018. You can help by sharing your experiences navigating SeaTac with a hearing loss, including how you fare on the light rail and at security, gates, and check-in.

SeaTac Hearing Access Meeting
Thursday, April 20, 2017
1625 19th Ave, Seattle

CART and ASL provided.

If you can’t make the meeting, send us or Laura Gramer (laura at gramer dot com) your comments. And watch our website and social media for updates.


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Hearing the sacred through a loop

It’s hard to say how many folks have given up going to church because of their hearing loss. But even one person who sits at home on a Sunday morning when they’d rather be in fellowship with their neighbors is one person too many.

Many church buildings suffer from the same poor acoustics that other large venues with high ceilings do. Microphones help with comprehension, when they’re used consistently and correctly. But lots can happen to distort words–even words of inspiration and worship–on their way from the microphone through the PA and to our ears. This is more true for people with hearing aids or cochlear implants, for whom echoes and reverberation are amplified.

Loops have been called a godsend, and perhaps this is literally true in churches. Wisconsin in particular has several looped churches, and New Mexico is increasingly connecting parishioners to services via  loop as well.

How about Washington State? Northlake Unitarian Universalist Church in Kirkland was one of the first local churches to become looped. Northlake UU also hosts a looped Meaningful Movie each month. Logo

In West Seattle, you could visit Fauntleroy Church to hear through a loop. Head up the hill to Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood for the loop at Bethany Presbyterian Church.  Also in Seattle is the University Congregational United Church of Christ, who installed a hearing loop in 2015.

Head east to use Lake Sammamish Foursquare Church’s or St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church’s loops in Bellevue. Further east yet is Covenant Presbyterian Church‘s loop in Issaquah and Redmond’s Episcopal Church of the Holy Cross. Bremerton has two looped churches, Holy Trinity Catholic and Peace Lutheran.

Meanwhile, south Puget Sound folks can attend looped services at Saltwater Unitarian Universalist Church in Des Moines or First Christian Church in Kent. Outside the Puget Sound area, visit Grace United Methodist Church in Walla Walla, Unitarian Universalist Church in Spokane, or St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Sequim.

What better way to welcome people with hearing loss into the fold? We honor these churches for creating inclusive, welcoming spaces for everyone.

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A looped Lincoln Theatre? You can help.

Lincoln Theatre in Mt. Vernon, Washington, is fundraising for a new sound system…with a loop!

You can donate to this wonderful community theatre and help them reach their goal. They plan for enough microphones for each individual performer, so their new sound design will help everyone understand better.

Thank you to our dynamic duo,HLA-WA’s Jerry and Joanna Olmstead, for their persistence in helping make this drive happen.


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The Rep wins WAF award

The Washington Access Fund will award the Seattle Repertory Theatre its 2016 Best Practices Award at the WAF awards dinner on November 3, 2016 at Bell Harbor Conference Center.


The Rep has invested time, energy, and heart into making their performances extraordinarily accessible. This year, they raised funds for and installed a hearing loop for the Bagley Wright and Leo K Theatres. And that’s just the one star effort among the Rep’s many inclusive practices…

  • Ticket booths, the refreshment area, and the concierge are also looped, so that patrons can hear clearly throughout the venue
  • Each production includes an open-captioned performance
  • Audio-described performances help people with reduced vision understand and enjoy the performance
  • American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters translate dialogue for people who are deaf
  •  Large-print programs are available
  • Both theatres are fully accessible for people with mobility concerns
  • Pay What You Can performances remove financial barriers

The Rep allowed us to work closely with them to ensure the loop works. Sound design is not always straightforward or easy, but the Rep listened to our feedback and continually modified the system. Composer Richard Einhorn, who has experienced hearing loss, consulted with the Rep to help perfect the sound. The loop earns raves from patrons, and some have told us they haven’t heard so clearly in years–or ever.

We were exceedingly pleased to nominate the Rep for this award. We watched them leaping over tall buildings and stop speeding bullets in order to make people with hearing loss feel included and welcome. And we do.

You’ll see us at the WAF awards. With bells on and much gratitude.

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