Ashley Smith-Hammond

Our collective goal as cultural organisations is to provide events for a the full spectrum of people living in and visiting Scotland. Access remains an area for continous improvement.

In this miniseries we’ll be taking a look at some tips for improving accessibility for disabled people in various different venues. Even if you’re doing a great job already, perhaps some of these ideas will help make things a little easier for both you and your visitors. First up, improving accessibility in theatres.

Market your theatre as disability friendly

We’ve seen a number of theatres make a huge effort to provide excellent facilities and accessibility assistance for disabled people but then fail to tell anyone about them!

Be honest about what you can and can’t do. People understand that, especially in older historic venues, you may have limitations as to what you are able to provide in terms of physical access. Publish what is in place.

If the information isn’t available on your website or marketing materials then disabled customers are much less likely to visit. Best practice is to have a page on your website dedicated to the accessibility details of your theatre. Consider providing large print programmes and captioned video trailers online too.

Don’t forget theatre tours and backstage access

Think above and beyond the minimum and ensure all of your opportunities are available to your disabled visitors. This is not always easy in old Victorian theatres, but a good theatre excludes no one. Have a think about the pathways and routes you will take on the tour as attendees might like to know corridor widths for wheelchairs and power chairs. Lighting level information should be made available also.

Serve your audiences with hearing loss who are not signers by making sure you’ve got a working induction loop system, a well trained staff and captioning for shows. If you are able to programme relaxed, signed or audio described performances, make sure you get these into the Access Scottish Theatre Guide.

Help with transport

This really shows a considerate and customer focused theatre. We’ve all seen the long lines waiting for taxis after a performance. For disabled people, public transport isn’t always an option, and not every taxi is wheelchair accessible. This is a key reason for disabled customers not visiting their local theatres. So providing pre-booked transport is a really practical way you can support your disabled patrons.

Have you recently undertaken extra work to improve the accessibility of your theatre? We’d love to hear about and share your efforts. Get in touch here.

For more detail of what you can do to remove barriers for disabled visitors download our Disability Population Profile.

Many of the suggestions in this series are not art-form specific. Check out the other articles on cinema, festivals, museums and galleries, and gigs.

An earlier version of this article didn’t mention induction loops or captioning live performances. Thanks to Ann Thallon for feeding in on the good practice that matters to her!

Main image credit: Ceiling at King's Theatre by Jimmy Baikovicius (CC BY-SA 2.0)