By Codi Jacques
Theatre has the remarkable ability to transport us to different worlds, evoke powerful emotions, and connect us with diverse stories. However, for individuals with disabilities, experiencing the magic of live performances hasn’t always been easily accessible.
Fortunately, the global movement towards inclusivity has led to significant improvements in accessibility, making theatre shows more welcoming and enjoyable for everyone. In this blog post, we will explore the importance of accessibility in theatre shows, with a particular focus on British Sign Language (BSL) performances and other inclusive practices.
With theatres and theatre companies really expanding their inclusivity, performances across the Liverpool city region are more accessible than ever. With many shows at notable venues offering relaxed performances and BSL signed performances, amongst other offerings; maybe it finally is your time to enjoy some theatre in a way that works for you!
The Significance of Accessibility In Theatre
Accessibility in theatre removes barriers that prevent individuals with disabilities from fully engaging with the performances. It allows everyone to participate in and appreciate the art form, promoting a sense of belonging and inclusivity.
Theatre plays a crucial role in reflecting and shaping society. By embracing accessibility, theatre shows can portray the diverse experiences and stories of disabled individuals, fostering understanding and empathy among audiences.
How Theatres Are Becoming Accessible & Inclusive
British Sign Language (BSL) Performances
Bridging Communication Gaps
BSL performances provide a platform for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals to engage fully with the production. With skilled BSL interpreters translating the dialogue and songs into sign language, the performances become accessible and inclusive for the deaf community.
BSL performances not only benefit deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals but also raise awareness among the wider audience about the importance of accessibility. This helps break down social barriers and encourages a more inclusive society.
Assistive Technologies and Services
Audio description is a service that provides individuals with visual impairments or blindness with a live or recorded narration of the visual aspects of a performance. Through detailed descriptions of actions, expressions, and scenes, audio description allows these individuals to fully engage with the show.
Captioning and Subtitling
Captioning and subtitling services are vital for individuals with hearing impairments or those who may struggle with accents or language barriers. By displaying the dialogue and sound effects in real-time, captioning ensures that the performance is accessible to a broader range of audience members.
Theatre venues are increasingly focusing on making their spaces physically accessible, ensuring ramps, elevators, and seating areas are designed with mobility and accessibility in mind. This enables individuals using wheelchairs or mobility aids to navigate the venue easily and comfortably.
Some theatre companies offer sensory-friendly performances designed specifically for individuals with sensory sensitivities, such as those on the autism spectrum. These performances often involve reduced volume levels, adjusted lighting, and designated quiet spaces, creating a more inclusive and comfortable environment for everyone to enjoy.
Accessibility & Inclusivity Within Liverpool Theatres
Within the Royal Court, Liverpool Empire, Everyman and Playhouse theatres, accessibility has developed vastly post-covid. At all these venues, there are disabled seating that is wheelchair accessible, and many touring shows and in house shows now offer at least one BSL signed performance per run. During Panto seasons, events such as relaxed performances are offered for those with tendencies to overstimulate in typical performances. A recent YEP performance (Young Everyman Playhouse), This is Not a Crime, the performance contained a screen that was a transcription of the entire performance. This was just like having subtitles on for your TV, but in a theatre setting. I hope more performances adopt this for all shows in future.
The directors of This is Not a Crime were the Liverpool based company Ugly Bucket Theatre, whom have strived for accessible theatre and inclusivity in all of their works. Their performance of Stuffed provided audiences with a pre-show meal, and even offered noise canceling headphones amongst other accessories for those who needed them. No one was forgotten by Ugly Bucket in creating an accessible show, and there was no separation for the people who need accessibility. A true definition of inclusion.
Unity Theatre offer Unity Online, a platform filled with the theatre’s top picks and more, meaning getting to the theatre doesn’t have to be an impossible task. Continuing this platform post-covid means that those who cannot travel to the theatre can still appreciate the magic from home.
It is typical for theatres to have a dedicated page on their websites for accessibility, making all information easy to find when needed:
Everyman and Playhouse Theatres
More info: https://www.atgtickets.com/access/
Royal Court Theatre
Hope Street Theatre
More info: https://hopestreettheatre.com/accessibility/
By embracing accessibility in theatre shows, we foster a more inclusive society where the magic of live performances is accessible to everyone. Through initiatives such as BSL performances, assistive technologies, inclusive design, and community engagement, theatre companies can create environments that celebrate diversity and promote a sense of belonging for all audience members. So let’s continue to support and advocate for accessibility in theatre, ensuring that the transformative power of the performing arts is available to everyone.
Therefore, accessibility in Liverpool for theatre is becoming more common, making theatres less daunting for those requiring access needs. Always check for accessibility before booking tickets for a show, as there very well may be a performance more suited to you, making your experience of the magic of theatre even better.