Accessibility in theatre means considering and identifying what barriers your work might pose to audiences and what action 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
Below are some measures that you might find want to explore for your next production:
Captions are on-screen text descriptions. They display words (dialogue), tell us who the speakers are, and describe sounds.
Captions fit with the images or action taking place on stage, on the screen, or in lectures. This means that the people watching who are Deaf or hard of hearing can understand the speech and other sounds.
Captioning benefits everyone.
Apart from people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, captioning makes a big difference to every older person as they experience age related hearing loss.
Captioning is also very useful for people who don’t speak English as a first language, in situations where someone speaks with an accent or in a dialect that is difficult to understand. If someone speaks quickly, captioning is a way of keeping up with what is happening. Frequently parts of a speech or a song can be missed.
How to arrange captions for your event
- Talk to someone at UHT Office about captioning
- Include captioning costs in your budget up-front.
- To organise captioning contact any of the suppliers on Arts Access Website
- Make sure you have the necessary phone and internet links. You also need a suitable screen or other viewing platform.
- Promote your event through targeted promotional channels such as Deaf Arts Network, Arts Access Victoria, VicDeaf, Better Hearing Australia, disability arts networks and disability service organisations, as well as your regular channels.
- Always display the open captions or closed captions icon with your promotion information whether online or printed.
- Don’t forget to promote your event on social media. Many people who are Deaf or hard of hearing use Facebook and other social media.
- Plan your seating. If you are using a public screen, make sure you set aside dedicated seating that provides clear sight lines for the person. Get advice on the best ‘sightlines’ for viewing.
- Widely promote that captions are provided. In your booking process, make it clear that seating is set aside for people who would like to see the captioning.
- Some people prefer to book online. Make sure your booking page is clear and easy to use and indicates the best seats for audience members using captions.
- Include an email address and an SMS number for enquiries.
- Train ushers to provide a high level of customer service. Ushers should know how captions work.
- Smart Phone App – The Go Theatrical! smart phone app was developed by The Captioning Studio, one of Australia’s leading innovators and service provider. Go Theatrical! can be downloaded as an App to a smart phone. Some venues provide an iPad at the front desk for patrons to use. The app makes it easy for people to have captions on their mobile phone, tablet device or iPad. Go Theatrical! is made for use in theatre lighting conditions. This means other audience members aren’t distracted by its use during a performance.
For more information visit – https://www.artsaccess.com.au/assets/Uploads/Captioning-Updated-18-May-2017.pdf
Please come and talk to UHT about your Auslan Interpreting Requirements as they have a partnership with Auslan Stage Left and may be able to support you realise this access measure.
The engagement of Auslan interpreters by the Victorian arts sector—for example at events, festivals, theatre and stage productions and exhibitions—is slowly increasing, however people who have Auslan as their first language remain a largely untapped audience. One in six Australians have hearing loss and Auslan users enjoy participating in the arts with family and friends. Auslan interpreter services provide equal access to arts and entertainment for people who are Deaf , their friends and families and fulfill an organisation’s obligations to Australia’s anti-discrimination legislation.
It is vital to include access services in your budget from the outset. Include the cost of access services (Auslan interpreters) in all funding applications.
To arrange an Auslan interpreted performance:
- Set a date for the Auslan performance, usually once or twice in a season.
- 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 or earlier performances to familiarise themselves with the show.
- Provide interpreters with scripts and videos of the show/event in advance, if possible.
- If you are planning a public social event after the show, book interpreters to interpret social chatting and networking.
- Consult with the specialist interpreters or Deaf advisors on the best location for the interpreters to allow optimum viewing by audience members who are Deaf (‘sight lines’).
- Reserve seating that allows a clear view of the interpreter, and include the Auslan reserved seating in your booking process.
- Telephone booking can be difficult for people who are Deaf. Online booking, if clear and user friendly, is preferred.
For more information: https://www.artsaccess.com.au/assets/Resources/Auslan-factsheet-2015.pdf
A person who is trained as an audio describer uses a small transmitter to describe what is happening in a performance or movie or how something looks at an exhibition, such as a painting or sculpture. People receive a personal listening device enabling visitors who are blind or have low vision to sit in most parts of any theatre and fully participate in the performance.
Live performance Vision Australia offers limited access to trained, volunteer audio describers. This is a free service. www.visionaustralia.org/living-with-low-vision/learning-to-live-independently/sport-recreation-and-thearts/audio-description.
Description Victoria is a private, fee paying service run by highly qualified audio describer, Will McRostie. www.descriptionvictoria.com.au
Come and talk to Union House Theatre about Audio Description as some students have been trained to be able to audio describe shows – we also may have the audio description equipment that you need.
Planning audio described events
- Include an audio description service in your budget.
- Set a date for the audio described event (some theatre companies/galleries provide one or two audio described performances/tours in a season).
- Audience members may need to contact the venue or audio description provider to arrange the required equipment in advance. If so, this instruction should be included in all of your booking information.
- Check that your technical set-up works with the radio transmitters.
- Audio describers can describe from within the auditorium, in the bio box or from a separate room. If separate, the event is relayed to them on a video. The audio describer will make a decision about the best location in a theatre.
- Promote your event through your usual channels as well as disability networks. Use the audio description symbol so visitors can see at a glance that the service is available.
- Vision Australia promotes audio described events, described by its own volunteers on its online events calendar.
- It is best if the audio describer attends a dress rehearsal, early performance or tour to become familiar with the production.
- The audio describer will bring radio transmitters and earpieces to the event.
- Some people using audio description prefer to use their own earpiece.
Tactile / Touch Tour
Touch, sound and smell connect us all with the art we enjoy; they are powerful ways to bring the arts to life. Planning and providing experiences that enable this engagement is vital to building diverse audiences. People who are blind or have low vision enjoy arts and cultural events and tours in museums and galleries. For many people, touch is the main way they access a work of art, allowing the visitor to form a picture in their mind of a particular art work.
Notes about the show can be sent out by email or post before the performance.
Include descriptions of the set design, costumes and more. In live theatre and operas touch tours are often given when an audio described performance is staged.
Touch Tours can be offered at selected shows at a convenient time prior to the performance. One audio described show is generally offered per season.
Create a Touch Tour before a performance
- Set a time before or after the show, on the day of the audio described performance
- Choose what you would like to have as part of the tour. Generally this involves a guided tour of the stage in which people can touch sets, props and costumes. Sometimes performers will take part, in costume.
- Make sure the person who is leading the tour is able to answer any questions about the performance.
- When you promote your show, include the date and time of the tactile tour
- 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
- A script of the show could be sent out to an audience member in advance. This means that audience members will have more understanding about what is happening on stage
For more information: https://www.artsaccess.com.au/assets/Uploads/Touch-Tours-Updated-24-July-2017.pdf
A Relaxed Performance is a performance in which certain production elements such as light and sound cues are adjusted slightly to even out or soften the sensory experience of the show, or removed altogether. A relaxed performance may also offer accommodations outside of the show itself, such as a relaxation/quiet area, an activity area, family/non-gendered bathrooms, a live-feed of the show in the lobby, and online pre-show materials like a social story (a sort of story-book for individuals with autism about what to expect in seeing the show) and FAQs for parents and caregivers. Ushers for these performances receive some special training, and often autism specialist volunteers are on hand in the house and lobby to support families who need it. Audience members are welcome to bring snacks, toys, and fidgets (objects that can help soothe and focus individuals on the autism spectrum) into the theatre with them, and are welcome to exit and return to the theatre whenever they need to.
Most importantly, a Relaxed Performance is a true judgment-free zone. The theatre staff models that everyone is welcome and released from the traditional expectations about sitting still and staying silent. Everyone is free to respond, move, speak, or self-sooth in whatever way they need to enjoy and experience the performance.