How to Make Your Theatre Show More Accessible
Accessibility in theatre means considering and identifying what barriers your production might pose to audiences and what actions you can take to remove those barriers.
Things to consider:
- Audience and participants who are deaf or hard of hearing
- People who are blind or have low vision
- Wheelchair accessibility and seating for those with mobility access requirements
- People with an intellectual disability or mental health needs
- People facing language and/or other communication barriers
- People facing financial hardship
The first step in making your show more accessible is to not get completely overwhelmed by all the possible options and end up doing nothing at all.
If this is your first time attempting accessibility, pick something that you feel is achievable and works well with your show and have a go. Be kind to yourself and learn from your experience.
Below are some ideas that you might want to explore.
- Have a dedicated person who in charge of Access e.g an Access Officer
- Include Access costs in your production budget. You can apply for an Access Grant here.
- UMSU Disabilities department holds regular workshops and talks. Introduce yourself to the Disabilities Office Bearers.
- There are a lot of resource available at Arts Access Victoria
The Australian Network on Disability has created these handy docs:
Physical Access to Venues
- Perform in an accessible venue. Both the Union and Guild Theatres are wheelchair accessible for audience members. Unfortunately, the Union Theatre is not wheelchair accessible for performers.
- Hold your auditions and rehearsals in an accessible venue. The Level 2 and Level 3 rooms in Union House are all wheelchair accessible. The Des Connor Room and Workshop Rehearsal Space are not.
- Provide seating in foyer for patrons who cannot stand up for long periods of time
- Provide an allocated welcoming space for guide dogs, and have a water bowl available in case it is needed
- Reserve Seats for your accessible performances, e.g. to ensure your deaf audience members can see the captions clearly during the performance
- Provide information on accessible parking on campus to your audience
- Use the relevant universal access symbols on your marketing material and social media posts
- Use plain English in your marketing material and social media posts
- Do targeted marketing e.g if there is an Auslan interpreted performance of your show, make sure you promote the event to deaf networks.
- List your show’s content warnings on the ticketing website and Facebook Event. Have a copy at the Box Office and brief your ushers/Front of House Manager in case audience members ask them for more information
- List your show on the Australian Accessible Arts Directory: chooseart.com.au
- Offer a ‘Pay As You Feel’ or 2-for-1 ticketing scheme for a selected performance
- Offer discounts for preview performances and concession card holders
- Offer multiple ways to book tickets e.g online and over the phone
- Union House Theatre are affiliated with the Companion Card program for people with significant permanent disability who are unable to attend community events without a companion. Someone who shows a Companion Card at the box office is able to purchase two tickets for the price of one. Promote this on your Facebook event and ticketing website with the sentence: “We accept Companion Cards” and a link to http://www.companioncard.org.au/
- Captions (also called surtitles) are screened or projected text descriptions. They display words (dialogue), tell us who the speakers are, and describe sounds.
- Captioning benefits everyone: people who are deaf or hard of hearing, older people experiencing hearing loss, people who don’t speak English as a first language, in understanding accents or fast speech.
- Captioning should be integrated into your set/lighting/AV design. It shouldn’t to be an after thought.
- Promote your captioned event through targeted promotional channels such as Deaf Arts Network, Arts Access Victoria, VicDeaf, Better Hearing Australia
- Smart Phone App Go Theatrical! makes it easy for people to have captions on their mobile phone, tablet device or iPad.
For more information – www.artsaccess.com.au/captions-facts/
- Auslan (Australian sign language) is the first language for many people who are deaf or hearing impaired.
- Please come and talk to Union House Theatre about your Auslan requirements as we may be able to support you.
- Set a date for the Auslan performance and book the interpreters as early as possible.
- Seek interpreters who have specialised theatre interpreting skills. Two interpreters are usually required.
- Allow for interpreters to attend rehearsals and provide them with scripts in advance, if possible.
- Think about where the interpreters will be and incorporate this into your blocking and lighting.
- TurtleApp is an online last minute booking platform for Auslan interpreters and clients
For more information: www.artsaccess.com.au/auslan-facts/
- Audio description (AD) refers to an additional narration track for blind and visually impaired audience members. It consists of a narrator talking into a radio transmitter throughout the performance, describing what is happening on the stage during the natural pauses in the audio. Audience members have an earpiece that receives this information.
- Union House Theatre owns an Audio Description System which is available for use on request.
- Please come and talk to Union House Theatre about your audio description requirements as we have a partnership with Will McRostie at Description Victoria and may be able to support you with students who have been trained as Audio Describers.
- Set a date for the audio described performance and promote it through Vision Australia
For more information: www.artsaccess.com.au/audio-description-facts/
Touch / Tactile Tour
- Touch tours allow audience members with limited vision to explore props and costumes of the production. Where possible, a tactile tour can also include access to the set on stage.
- Set a time for the Touch Tour before or after the show, if possible on the same day of the audio described performance
- Promote the show through your usual networks as well as disability arts networks and blind and low vision organisations – such as Arts Access Victoria and Vision Australia
For more information: www.artsaccess.com.au/touch-tours-facts/
- A relaxed performance is intended specifically to be sensitive to and accepting of audience members who may benefit from a more relaxed environment, including (but not limited to) those with autistic spectrum conditions, anyone with sensory and communication disorders or learning disabled people.
- Most importantly, a Relaxed Performance is a true judgment-free zone. Instead of the traditional expectations that audience members sit still and stay silent, everyone is free to respond, move, speak, or self-sooth in whatever way they need to enjoy and experience the performance.
- Slight adjustments to the production in sound and lighting elements will include the reduction of any loud or sudden sounds and lights focused on the audience. The auditorium lights will be dimmed but remain on during the performance so that audience members can come and go as required.