Going to the theatre. Media accessibility project in the north east of Portugal
1st International conference on didactic audiovisual translation and media accessibility
Media Accessibility in Europe originated in varied contexts – e.g. in the UK, it started in the theatre, at the Robin Hood Theatre, in Averham (ITC, 2005), whereas in Germany it was in TV. In Portugal, the state-owned channel, RTP, was also at the forefront of accessibility, having started with subtitling for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, via teletext, in the mid 1990s. In terms of performing arts, the first experiences in theatre and dance date back to 2009 and 2010, respectively. Since then, much has been done and, in the two major Portuguese cities, theatre events have been gradually and regularly made accessible with the offer of live audiodescription, subtitling and interpreting in Portuguese Sign Language. Following this growth, an association in Portugal, named Acesso Cultura, created a website where information about accessible events is collected and made available to potential audiences – Cultura Acessível. However, little happens in other cities around the country and recently a new network was created – Rede de Teatros com Programação Acessível [Theatre Network of Theatres with Accessible Programming] – that seeks to take accessible theatre events to other places around the country outside of Porto and Lisbon. Although Bragança is not part of this network, the Bragança City Theatre did have one first event where audiodescription was offered, in May 2019, by a team made up of a professor and master students of the Polytechnic Institute of Bragança (Casca, Baia & Martins, 2020). It was in this beneficial context that the project “Culture for All Bragança” saw the light in August 2021 and, among the expected actions and results, the scientific team is expected to make a set of 6 theatre events accessible to people with hearing and visual disability. The team in charge of the theatre accessibility action includes one IPB professor and 4 junior researchers, two of whom are still Translation master students. The aim of this paper is to describe the process we followed in making theatre events accessible and identify strengths and weaknesses, as well as other obstacles we encountered. Moreover, I also wish to ponder on the possibilities this project, and others that may occur in the future, may hold for higher education, both in formal and in informal contexts.