Breaking Barriers to Broadway: New Accessibility Site

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accessibility programsWhen visiting New York City, theatregoers with disabilities now have a helpful resource at their fingertips to make their trip more positively memorable. This new website describes its target audience and mission:

Those who are hard of hearing or deaf, have low vision or are blind, who cannot climb stairs or who require aisle seating or wheelchair locations, who are on the autism spectrum or have other developmental or cognitive disabilities now have one great place to find out everything you need to know to choose a show, buy tickets and plan your trip to Broadway.

Centralized Information

Launched in the spring of 2016 by Theatre Development Fund (TDF) and The Broadway League,Theatre Access NYC is a website designed to assist theatregoers with disabilities in finding accessible Broadway performances. Before this new website, people seeking these services did not have a centralized web resource to help them plan their Broadway visit.

There were already a number of services available to people with disabilities who want to attend Broadway shows, but information on these services was not aggregated. Some of these services were provided at the theatres, often using equipment from Sound Associates (assisted listening devices, I-Caption wireless visual aid, etc.)

accessibility programs

Courtesy of Theatre Development Fund

TDF’s Leadership

For years, not-for-profit service organizations such as TDF also have been providing many services for theatregoers with disabilities. TDF started its own accessibility programs in 1980, with services including open captioning, audio describing and autism-friendly performances.

TDF started Autism Theatre Initiative (ATI) in 2011, supporting the belief that theatre should be accessible to anyone who would like to attend. ATI provides approximately four sensory-friendly performances of Broadway shows each season. This program has since been replicated at theatres both internationally as well as across the United States. (Last year we wrote about sensory-friendly performances at the Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis.)

TDF also hopes to expand its young audiences program serving grade- and middle-school students who are hard of hearing, deaf, with low vision or blind, providing them with access to Broadway shows that are open-captioned, sign-interpreted and audio-described.

Teaming Up

Charlotte St. Martin of The Broadway League (the trade organization for Broadway) and Victoria Bailey of Theatre Development Fund (the not-for-profit service organization known for access, education and their TKTS Booths) launched Theatre Access NYC as a clearinghouse for theatregoers’ accessibility programs and services.

They realized that creating a unique website was the best way to serve this population. The New York City’s Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities was involved, to ensure this new site would be easy to navigate, no matter what the person’s disability may be. The site has been linked to all of the major Broadway theatre sites as well as to organizations whose constituents require these special services.

Just last week, as part of a celebration marking the 26th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), TDF received NYC’s ADA Sapolin Public Service Award, given to an organization for upholding the ADA and the protections it provides under Title II.

While this new NYC site is unique, at least two other major cities offer similar resources:Chicago’s Cultural Accessibility Consortium and the not-for-profit Society of London Theatres (SOLT).

Your Role?

How is your facility and/or community reaching out to serve people with disabilities? We’d love to tell your story in a future blog!

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