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Anne Hornsby delivering audio description training.

Programming an Accessible Performance

Posted: 26 January, 2024

Arts & Disability Ireland supports and encourages arts and culture organisations to adopt an inclusive approach to audience development. Should you be programming an upcoming accessible event or performance, here are elements to consider.

1. What access service, or services, do you require?

Access services include elements such as ISL interpreting, audio description, captioning, touch tours, and relaxed performances to name just a few. Consider your audience and what needs they may have. Identify what element(s) of your event to highlight for your attendees to experience. For instance, if the set or costumes are key to your event’s storyline, an audio described show with a touch tour may be an effective way to share that with your audience. Similarly, if you are running a children’s event, a relaxed performance may be an access service to consider providing for children who are autistic. You can learn more about a range of access services on our Services page.

2. Contact an Access Service Provider and confirm their availability.

Access Service Providers can include but are not limited to captioners, audio describers and Irish Sign Language interpreters. They can operate as independent contractors or as members of a directory, agency or organisation. Arts & Disability Ireland does not employ Access Service Providers directly and as such cannot be responsible for their booking or availability. However, ADI can offer suggestions and contact information for the Access Service Providers, directories, agencies and organisations that we have worked with in the past.

3. Confirm the terms of the Access Service Providers contract and ensure that everyone understand their responsibilities.

It is crucial that the arts space booking the Access Service Provider understands their role. Clarity around roles and responsibilities, as well as work that the Access Service Provider is not responsible for, is extremely important. This is usually outlined in the Access Service Providers contract. Arts & Disability Ireland will be producing best practice guidelines for such contracts in due course. Certain aspects of providing an accessible performance are the responsibilities of the Access Service Provider. However, some are the responsibilities of the venue’s technical team, box office team, the marketing department and others.

In addition, it is important to note that on the day of the performance/event, the technical equipment must be set up and ready to use prior to the arrival of the Access Service Provider. This is the responsibility of the venue staff. A significant amount of time should be given to the Access Service Provider to deal with any possible technical issues after they arrive at the venue and prior to the start of the performance/event.

4. Contact Arts & Disability Ireland to book relevant equipment.

In the case of Audio Description and Captioning for theatre, Arts & Disability Ireland can supply the relevant technology for these access services to take place. Both the Access Service Provider and the technology may not be available at the same time. As such it is crucial that both are booked in close succession to each other. It is not the responsibility of the Access Service Provider to book or supply this technology, booking equipment is the responsibility of the venue. Arts & Disability Ireland test technical equipment prior to every booking to ensure that it is working correctly.

You can book this equipment by emailing adrian@adiarts.ie.

5. Contact Arts & Disability Ireland to promote the relevant performance.

Arts & Disability Ireland can promote any accessible performance taking place in Ireland on our website’s What’s On section, social media channels, and newsletter.

To help ADI promote your event, please email hannah@adiarts.ie with all event details, any revelvant website links or social media tags, and high quality ‘clean’ images (i.e. images without text to allow for screen readers).

In terms of other promotional channels, it is up to each arts space to identify potential audience members. These may include disability groups, community groups or schools. It is not the responsibility of the Access Service Provider to promote the event or find an audience.

6. Schedule a tutorial if needed

If a venue is booking access equipment for the first time, it is important to schedule an appointment with Arts & Disability Ireland to get an in-person tutorial regarding how to set up and use said equipment prior to its usage at a performance or event. Such tutorials can be relevant for technical teams, box office and visitor experience staff. Similarly, if a venue has used the equipment before but has recently had a changeover in staff who will be dealing with the equipment, an additional tutorial is also necessary.

You can view our webinar below to learn more about different kinds of access technology. For any queries, don’t hesitate to get in touch with info@adiarts.ie.

Image: Anne Hornsby delivering audio description training.

Access Technology for Audio Description & Captioning: Supporting an Accessible Arts Programme by Arts & Disability Ireland. This online webinar focused on access technology for audio description and captioning that can support an accessible arts programme.

ISL interpreter at If These Spasms Could Speak by Robert Softley Gale, Dublin Theatre Festival 2014

Access technology can provide numerous ways for audiences with disabilities to engage with a performance or exhibition. There are a variety of ways to do this which can impact on programming decisions and budgets.

Captioning unit in situ in the National Opera House for a performance of The Plough and the Stars

Access Services
Accessible Performance
Audio Description
ISL Interpreting
Relaxed Performances

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