Spotlight on Accessibility

A guide to local theater access for guests with disabilities
Alicewonderland15
Photo courtesy of Jeannine Borzello
Raleigh Little Theatre's production of Alice @ Wonderland featured a sensory-friendly performance.

Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act, most public places are legally required to provide all individuals — regardless of disability — access to services, seating areas, elevators, restrooms and paths of travel. A few theaters in central North Carolina have gone above and beyond to involve individuals with disabilities in the creation and enjoyment of the performing arts.

Here are some of the supplemental accessibility services offered at Triangle theater venues for special needs audience members.


Cary Arts Center – Cary

  • American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters
  • Assisted listening devices (FM, T-Coil)
  • Audio description
  • Large print and Braille programs
  • Pre-performance script checkout

Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts – Raleigh

(Home of North Carolina Theatre, North Carolina Opera, Carolina Ballet and North Carolina Symphony)

  • Assisted listening devices (FM, T-Coil)
  • Audio description services
  • Courtesy wheelchairs
  • Parking shuttle service
  • Related social stories (on website)

Durham Performing Arts Center – Durham

  • Aisle seating for service animals
  • Assisted listening devices (FM, T-Coil)
  • Audio description services
  • Bariatric and large-sized seating
  • Braille concessions menus
  • Open captioning
  • Parking shuttle service
  • Sensory-friendly performances

North Carolina State University’s University Theater – Raleigh

  • Assisted listening devices
  • Audio description services
  • Large print programs
  • Live captioning (smartphone/tablet access)
  • Pre-show descriptions

Playmakers Repertory Company – Chapel Hill

  • ASL interpreters
  • Assisted listening devices: FM
  • Audio description services
  • Courtesy wheelchairs
  • Large-print and Braille program
  • Open captioning (live, screen provided)
  • Tactile set tour

Raleigh Little Theater – Raleigh

  • ASL interpreters
  • Assisted listening devices (infrared, T-Coil)
  • Audio description services
  • Inclusive/adapted camps and classes
  • Pre-performance script checkout
  • Sensory-friendly performances

Seed Art Share – Garner

  • Alternate child educational program during performances
  • Alternate/adapted paths (for moving productions)
  • ASL interpreters
  • Audio description services
  • Cued speech transliterators
  • Inclusive/adapted camps and education programs
  • Pre-show walking path and set tours
  • Read-along scripts
  • Sensory-friendly performances

Theatre in the Park – Raleigh

  • Audio description services
  • Large print programs
  • Sensory-friendly performances

Women’s Theatre Festival – Raleigh

  • Limited sensory-friendly performances

Special Considerations

“Sensory-Friendly”

This is an umbrella term several local companies use. It applies only to select performances (often once per run) that are pre-scheduled. This showing typically includes a “lights up, sound down” model that decreases the likeness of sensory overload. Staff and patrons are also typically given a heads-up that some patrons may react to the performance in unexpected ways and families might be moving back and forth to the lobby as needed. Some theaters openly permit audience talking during these performances.


Making Requests

Most venues require between two- and four-weeks’ notice for requests for ASL interpreters and/or audio description services (unless these services are already on the theater’s performance calendar). Theaters will typically accommodate all the needs they can, so never assume that your family’s needs cannot be met. Always contact the theater well in advance to discuss other potential accommodations or services.


Ordering Tickets

Some ticketing sites have ADA seating listed as a ticketing option, but most do not. Always contact the box office to attach this information to your ticket order.


Arts Access

This North Carolina-based nonprofit provides live audio descriptions for patrons with visual impairments at no cost to the patron. In anticipation of patron requests, the organization typically schedules and announces audio-described performances well in advance. Most theaters mark this date on their ticket purchase web pages. Arts Access serves professional and community theaters, large-scale touring shows, youth productions and film screenings across central North Carolina.


Dustin K. Britt holds an M.A. in special education from East Carolina University. In addition to classroom teaching, he is the performing arts editor for Chatham Life & Style and his writing has been featured in IndyWeek and Triangle Arts & Entertainment.

 

Categories: Cultural, Education, Education Guide, Education Guide Resources, Lifestyle, Special Needs, Things To Do

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