Meeting the access needs of D/deaf or hard of hearing visitors

Black woman using British sign language with a black deaf child

Deaf awareness

One in five adults in the UK is deaf or has hearing loss. Over 45,500 children in the UK are deaf.

Every day, you’re likely to meet someone who is deaf or has some level of hearing loss. There are 12 million people affected in the UK, and they all face different communication challenges that can lead to frustration and loneliness. So, if you meet someone who is deaf or has hearing loss, ask them what you can do to make communication easier.

How to communicate with someone who is deaf or has hearing loss

British Sign Language (BSL) is the language of the Deaf community in Great Britain, which has its own set of social beliefs, behaviours, art, history and values. People in the Deaf community describe themselves as ‘Deaf’ with a capital ‘D’ to express their pride in their Deaf identity.

BSL involves a combination of hand shapes and movements, lip patterns, facial expressions and shoulder movements. It has its own grammar and is structured in a completely different way from English.


Fingerspelling is the BSL alphabet. Certain words – usually names of people and places – are spelled out on fingers. Fingerspelling alone isn’t sign language, but it can help you to communicate with someone who is Deaf.

You can quickly learn the fingerspelling alphabet with this free fingerspelling card. Download your free fingerspelling card (PDF)

For more information visit the Royal National Institute for deaf people (RNID)

Your staff may decide to invest in learning British Sign Language but there are also many practical changes you can make to your onsite and digital offer that include captioning. There are some links below to guidance on how to do this.

Stagetext are a deaf-led charity and passionate about making the arts a more welcoming and accessible place.

Stage text best practice checklist (PDF)

Digital subtitling guidelines (PDF)

Digital access training: who benefits from subtitles?


Other helpful resources are: engaging deaf and disabled young people with heritage (PDF)

and the Kids in Museum guide on welcoming families and young people who are D/deaf or hard of hearing