The State of Theatre Access report, produced in partnership between Stagetext, VocalEyes, and Include Arts, visited 659 UK theatre websites to discern the level of access information being presented by each venue.
The report, which shows only 72 per cent of UK theatres provide even the most basic access information, breaks down theatres by regions and focusses on whether a website contains information on audio-described, British Sign Language (BSL), captioned, and relaxed performances.
The production of the report is based on the premise that the lack for clear access information contributes significantly to low theatre attendance by d/Deaf and disabled audiences and aims to highlight the need for improved information on theatre websites.
Dr Jonathan Hassell, Accessibility Director at Open Inclusion and Chair of Stagetext’s Board of Trustee, said: “For nearly 12 million people in the UK who have disabilities, physical access to the theatre and access services like captions or audio description is essential to avoid them being excluded or frustrated from enjoying performances.
“We know that theatres and performances are increasingly being made more accessible, so it is essential that theatres clearly provide this information on their websites so that more people with access needs know what is available and theatres can attract more of this underserved audience to their productions.”
The main findings from the report show that:
- 72% of theatres provide access information on their website
- 25% mentioned that they provided audio-described performances and/or touch tours
- 25% mentioned that they provided British Sign Language performances
- 21% mentioned that they provided captioned performances
- 17% mentioned that they provided relaxed performances
Cassandra Chadderton, Head of UK Theatre at SOLT, said: “Making sure that useful information about access is clearly available is a great indication that a venue takes this seriously, and that you’ll be welcome. It’s great to see that so many theatres are doing this. Let’s make sure that the figure is even higher next time, and that even more people are able to enjoy what theatre has to offer.”
The report, which is the first of its kind for UK Theatres, is based on a similar piece of work produced by VocalEyes in 2016 looking into access information on the websites of UK museums.
Melanie Sharpe, Stagetext CEO, said: “The release of the report is very timely as it’s being published the week before Captioning Awareness Week, and supports the campaigns objective to encourage those involved in bringing captioning to wider audiences.
“The campaign, which runs from 6 – 11 November, includes a call to action for all venues to improve their communications regarding their captioned performances in order to better support those with access requirements, an objective which has been reinforced by our findings in this report.”
Jackie Elliman, Legal & Industrial Relations Manager at the Independent Theatre Council and Stagetext Trustee, said: “As this report shows, access is improving, but it’s not improving fast enough and it’s not always shouted about loudly enough by the theatres.”
Stagetext and VocalEyes plan to continue researching the access information on websites within the arts sector, with updated reports on both theatres and museums to be produced in alternate years.
Download the full report v1.2 (pdf – 2.9mb)