Followers of this blog will know I am a huge fan of the theatre company Open Clasp and the inclusive ethos behind their work. I’ve been following them online during coronavirus lockdown and have been super impressed by what they are doing for the community, including volunteering on soup runs to vulnerable residents from their HQ, Newcastle’s West End Women and Girls Centre (part of the centre’s Scran 4 the Fam initiative).
This week, the company is marking Deaf Awareness Week – which raises awareness of acquired deafness – with the release of a BSL interpreted version its filmed play on coercive control, Rattle Snake.
There have been many necessary conversations around the d/Deaf* and disabled community since the crisis kicked off, since it has thrown into stark relief existing inequalities and shown that often, measures to even the playing field – allowing people to work from home, making more resources accessible digitally, etc – have always been possible, there just hasn’t been the will to provide them when it was only the disabled population who required them. (Even now, the d/Deaf community are having to lobby to get a BSL interpreter at Government briefings). The film and theatre world are also, rightly, pointing out that even with many productions going online, d/Deaf and disabled actors are still being excluded from projects (and disability is still so often left out of conversations about diversity).
Domestic abuse is also a huge concern during lockdown, with many charities and organisations pointing out that it creates a perfect storm of the conditions in which it thrives (included increased stress and alcohol consumption), while often further isolating victims as they have few, if any, options of escape. D/deaf victims are, according to some sources, twice as likely to suffer from such abuse.
So it’s great to see Open Clasp recognise and react to this need both in the short and longer term (as well as this project, the team are doing an online BSL course during lockdown, and working to make future projects more accessible).
Image credit: Keith Pattison
*I’m using d/Deaf as this seems to be the most respectfully inclusive term for both those born Deaf and part of the Deaf community and those with acquired deafness or becoming hard of hearing. I’m not an expert though, so my apologies if it isn’t.