Tips for effective ways to engage visually impaired audiences with theatre...

October 12, 2016

I caught up with one of our consultants, Jacqui Fortnum to chat about the evaluation she has recently completed of The Chairs, a performance delivered by Extant, supported by ACE strategic touring funding.

Research indicates that there are many passionate and committed visually impaired theatre lovers who are hungry for opportunities. Through this evaluation Jacqui was able to offer some key tips that other organisations could consider.

Offer touch tours to deliver a holistic and inclusive experience: Audio description can be expensive, but touch tours are less costly and are offer something unique to both visually impaired and sighted audiences. All venues in The Chairs tour offered touch tours before performances, providing a tactile experience to explore the sets and costumes, giving wider context to the show. The shared nature of these tours meant visually impaired audiences did not feel isolated or stand out.

Consider wayfinding – a simple thing that makes a big difference: Wayfinding to seating may seem obvious, but it makes a huge difference to visually impaired audiences. Avoid using pop-up signage, de-clutter routes to seating, and where possible remove steps.

Ensure audio-described experiences are not limited to your quieter times: Whether this is the reality or not, there is a perception among potential visually impaired audiences that the offer for them can be limited to quieter times such as matinees or mid-week. To feel valued, audiences want to be able to visit on Saturday nights too.

Lucie Fitton, Head of Learning and Participation