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September 9, 2003

New Device Makes Live Theatre Accessible to Deaf Patrons

From: Press Release - Sept 9, 2003


New Device Provides Access To All Performances …From Any Seat In The House

New York, NY, September 09, 2003 -- Until now deaf theatre patrons have had access to live theatre limited to a few signed or captioned performances, possibly restricting their ability to attend.

To make all performances accessible, Sound Associates, Inc. has developed the Personal Captioning Systemâ„¢ a hand-held wireless, color monitor that displays dialog and lyrics in text in real time from any seat in the house. It's already in use in Broadway's "Big River."

"The PCS offers deaf theatre patrons the option of following onstage dialogue and song lyrics conveniently and unobtrusively," said T. Richard Fitzgerald, president of Sound Associates, Inc. and designer of the system. "We're committed to expanding access for everyone to enjoy live theatre and the Personal Captioning System is another tool to achieve that goal."

The Personal Captioning System (PCS) was introduced to the public for Deaf West and Roundabout's Broadway Musical "Big River" at the American Airlines Theatre, and will travel with the touring company of the show. It displays dialogue and song lyrics word-for-word as the play progresses. In theatres with the PCS system, patrons merely request the device in the theatre lobby and take it to whatever seat they happen to have. Thanks to a polarized filter, nearby patrons are not distracted by light or moving text.

The PCS features the Captionerâ„¢, a 4" X 4" wireless color video monitor contained in a leather case that can be used in any seat by patrons unable to hear the performance. The captions are automated and synchronized with the show's lighting cues to accommodate pacing variations from performance to performance.

T. Richard Fitzgerald received a 1980 "Tony" for his design of the widely used Infrared Listening Systemâ„¢ to aid hearing impaired patrons. He designed the sound for numerous Broadway shows including "Annie; 42nd Street; Zorba; The King And I; Beauty And The Beast; Peter Pan" and the current production of "Little Shop Of Horrors. "

Sound Associates, Inc. was founded in 1946 by Thomas Fitzgerald, a pioneer in the field of sound and sound design, who was posthumously awarded a Tony for 'Outstanding Theatrical Achievement'.

His legacy continues today through the work of his sons, Peter and T. Richard Fitzgerald, both Broadway sound designers. For over fifty years Sound Associates has been supplying sound equipment to the performance industry, offering the best in assistive listening for professional or personal use and is synonymous with infrared listening as it is known today.


Note to editors: PCS photo available. Richard Fitzgerald available for interviews. Reporters, crews are invited to a performance of "Big River" to experience using the PCS.