Accessible theatremaking. Let’s do it like they do it in the movies
Media for All 8
Traditional audio description (TAD) has involved describers writing (and in some countries voicing) a description once the AV product (film, play, artwork etc.) is complete. TAD can be seen as exclusive in the sense that it has to be listened to via a headset and is therefore not available to the whole audience. This contravenes one of the principles of Universal Design (U.D.), that a product should “be useable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design” (Mace 1997). In this paper, an alternative to TAD is discussed namely “integrated AD” (IAD) whereby AD is conceived from the start as an integral part of a production, involving collaboration between the describer(s) and the creative team. A similar approach has been adopted in filmmaking (cf. Accessible Filmmaking (AFM) Romero-Fresco, 2013). In this presentation results are reported from the "Integrated Access Inquiry" (Cavallo & Fryer, 2018) a qualitative study into integrated access initiatives in UK theatre and live events initiated by Extant, Britain's leading professional performing arts company of visually impaired people. In the past 20 years, Extant has been keen to experiment with new ways of providing access to visually impaired audiences. At the same time, other companies, both those that are disabled-led and non-disabled-led, have also been working to integrate access into their productions, not just for visually impaired people, but for people with other access requirements too. But do we truly understand what visually impaired people want from access? And do the current models of provision meet the expectations of audiences and of the creative teams whose work AD aims to make accessible? The Integrated Access Inquiry brings together feedback from visually impaired audiences with information from the creative teams charged with providing that access to see if it’s possible to quantify what characterises effective access of live events – and from whose point of view.