While it is in the law for arts and cultural organizations in Australia to be accessible to people with disabilities, student theatre has often neglected this side of the deal.
There were many firsts for me in my theatre performing experience this year with the UHT Macbeth production. I not only performed my first Shakespeare play, but I also got to experience being in production where accessibility was provided to audience in need. The UHT has made amendments to their administration this year, and one of the major changes is to include accessible performances for people with disabilities. As the University has a disabilities department on its own, it is a given that the UHT would want to cater to people with disabilities that longed to catch a show at the Union Theatre or Guild Theatre. For the Macbeth production, UHT had made special posters and promotional images for the accessible performance times that was subsequently posted on the official Facebook page, event page, UMSU website, and other promotional sites like StudentVIP, Arts Access, and the Australian Stage to reach out to as many audiences as possible.
Aside from having captioned and relaxed performances, they also reached out to the unsighted with the inclusion of a tactile tour and audio described performance. While there are a whole range of factors that can motivate or prevent people with disabilities from attending a production, it is important to give out good first impressions and allowing them to trust you with what you’re doing. Posters and brochures posted online had to be clear in their delivering messages, which meant that disability icons had to be implemented along with access information that will allow them to understand better.
With the emergence of the Internet and social media, information is made more accessible, even for people with disabilities as they are now able to obtain a sizable amount of information that wasn’t previously readily available to them. However, you have to be careful when promoting your production through digital marketing, taking into consideration that your target audience segment may not be able to read your marketing message clearly as some of them may suffer from visual impairment.
Below are several things to take into consideration when planning on marketing your accessible production appropriately:
- If you have a company website and have full control over content, you may want to check your website’s accessibility by making sure the colours and font sizes are at an appropriate size and colour hue so as to not stress out your vision impaired or low vision audiences, at the same time not distorting the format on different range of browsers.
- It is also important to include transcripts, captions, and audio descriptions when marketing your production on your website or social media platforms as people with hearing or vision difficulties may not be able to engage with your content.
- A sign language option can also be considered when marketing planning for people with hearing difficulties, the deaf, or people whose first language is not English.
- Making sure that your promotional messages are clear and easy to understand so as to not leave out people with learning difficulties or non-native English speakers.
In the end, theatre does not discriminate and is all about including people in conversations and the best way to earn the trust and respect of your kay audience segment is an important path to take in order to achieve success.
Attachment image source: UMSU | Disabilities Department