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Deaf people in France enjoy music concerts thanks to vibrating vests

The goal is for those who are hearing-impaired to join in with everybody else, says an association which supplies the vests for events

The vibrating technology in a Subpac vest allows deaf people to feel the music at concerts Pic: Les 400 Coups / bbernard

Deaf and hearing-impaired people can now enjoy live music, thanks to an innovative vibrating vest.

“Our association aims to allow disabled people to access cultural events on the same terms as everyone else,” said Christine Azaïs, president of Les 400 Coups, based in Montauban (Occitanie). 

“We aren’t interested in supplying specially adapted culture to disabled people. 

“We want to enable them to join in with everyone else.” 

Read more: French cinema finds way for deaf and hearing viewers to share films

Originally developed for gamers

The association, formed in 2020, raised €8,500 to buy five of the Subpac vests.

“Obviously, we tried them out, wearing special headphones to block out the music. It’s an extraordinary sensation, feeling the music through the vests.”

The technology was originally developed so that gamers could feel on-screen actions such as sword blows. 

It was quickly realised it would open up an entire new world to deaf people.

Read more: French gaming event raises record €10million for Action Against Hunger

“The vests work up to a kilometre away, so people nervous of crowds can also use them.”

The association is in discussions to provide the vests at future events in Tarn-et-Garonne and Tarn. 

They were used at the Técou en Blues concert in November.

Proving popular

“The Toulouse mairie has 25 of these vests and each time they are made available, they are all fully booked,” said Ms Azaïs.

The association also aims to help disabled and elderly people, as well as sick children, enjoy cultural offerings. 

“The vibrating vests can help certain people on the autistic spectrum, and with Down’s Syndrome, depending on their needs.”

Free for users

The biggest challenge facing the association now is getting the word out. 

“Deaf people are not used to going to concerts. Our job is to show that there are more and more events where the vests will be available.”

Event organisers are asked to pay €100 to cover insurance, but the vests are free for users. 

For more details, email associationles400coups@gmail.com 

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