Monday, 17 December 2012

Our Essential Guide to Disabled Access at London Theatres

Theatre is accessible to everyone, and many theatres can now cater for disabled, visually and hearing impaired audiences. This guide aims to explain how theatres can adapt to help you or someone you know.
Firstly, we should point out that every theatre has a varying amount of access, but theatres are adapting all the time to accommodate those who need assistance.
It is best to contact the theatre directly before you book your tickets, as they can tell you exactly what they can offer in terms of accessibility and assistance.
Access to the Theatre
Street access varies from theatre to theatre. Many have ramps and lifts that can allow disabled audience members to comfortably enter the theatre’s foyer. Some may only have steps, which could cause disabled customers some inconvenience. The theatre’s staff will be able to assist anyone in need of help whilst entering the theatre. 
Disabled Toilets
Nearly every London theatre has disabled toilet facilities, many of which are situated on multiple floors of the theatre.
Access to the Auditorium
Once inside the theatre, you will notice just how many levels there are! This is to accommodate the large amounts of people in the audience. Disabled audience members shouldn’t worry, as many theatres have lift access to all floors.  If they don’t offer lift access, you would be seated on a tier on a level to street access, most likely the stalls. This means not only will you have easy access in and out of the auditorium, but probably a very good view too! Again, contacting the theatre ahead of the show will prepare both you and the theatre for your forthcoming arrival.
Seating for Wheelchairs and Mobility Scooters
This is where you will definitely have to speak to the theatre itself. Unfortunately due to the old buildings and confined space, wheelchair spaces in the auditorium are often limited to a certain number and this can vary depending on the theatre. To ensure you and the rest of your party get seats, you will have to book this space in advance, and with the theatre itself.
For the Visually Impaired
Everyone deserves to enjoy the wonder of the theatre, and thankfully for the visually impaired there are different ways a theatre can help. Many offer infrared headsets which play an audio description of what is happening on stage. Reserve yours before you go so you don’t miss out. (It is worth noting that most theatres ask for a small, refundable deposit for the headset.)
Guide Dogs are also allowed into most theatres whilst others can arrange for them to be looked after by theatre staff while you enjoy the performance.As well as audio descriptions through headsets, there are also performances scheduled for just the visually impaired and their carers. Revolutionary ‘touch tours’ are also available to a limited number of shows which allow the audience to feel the set, the props and the actors, enhancing their theatre experience even more! 
For the Hard of Hearing
Shows regularly schedule performances that are signed using British Sign Language. The theatre will have the specific times and dates of these performances so check ahead of booking. 
Extras Theatres Can Provide
Letting a theatre know of your specific needs can mean some very helpful and unique extras! Some can send CDs and braille versions of programmes, including character and set descriptions.
Remember -
1. Check ahead with the theatre for their specific accessibility information
2. Explain your needs as much as possible to ensure they know what you need
3. If needed, book wheelchair space, headsets, signed or audio described performances and touch tours in advance. 
Useful websites
Hopefully these tips will make your theatre trip that little bit easier and avoid any disappointment or inconvenience on the day!

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