Last November, Broadway Inbound attended TDF and The Broadway League’s first-ever Accessibility Summit, and we shared with you some of the technologies being implemented on Broadway to make theatre more accessible and improve the theatergoing experience for those with specific needs.
This month, The Shubert Organization was proud to lead a presentation at the Broadway League’s Spring Road Conference. Titled “Radical Hospitality: Technology Solutions for Audience Inclusivity,” the session focused on new initiatives that are making Broadway more accessible for everyone both in New York City, and soon on the Road.
There are currently 56.7 million people in the U.S. living with some type of disability—19% of the population. It’s also accepted that 35% of people over 65 have some kind of hearing loss, which equates to almost 600,000 Shubert audience members each year who could benefit from closed captioning or assistive listening.
The first speaker was Lisa Carling, Director of Accessibility Programs at TDF, who reminded the audience of presenters, producers, and managers that TDF has been offering general accessibility to theatregoers since 1980 and have made recent strides to be even more inclusive by offering autism-friendly shows and bringing veterans to the theatres.
Next up was Betty Siegel Esq., Director of VSA and Accessibility at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, who led a lively presentation highlighting social and legal reasons for making Broadway more accessible, such as shows that are dementia-friendly and offering free or discounted tickets for personal aides. After sharing her deep knowledge of civil rights legislation and ADA requirements, Betty noted that human diversity of age and ability has never been greater and is expected to increase steadily over the next 40 years.
Kyle Wright, Digital Projects Director at Shubert, shared an update on Shubert Audience Services, which now offers on-demand closed captioning, assistive listening, audio descriptions, and language translations at every theatre through the free GalaPro app. To date, GalaPro is available at performances of Dear Evan Hansen, School of Rock, A Bronx Tale, Come From Away, Chicago, The Phantom of the Opera, Anastasia, Hello, Dolly!, and The Band's Visit, among others. As of June 1, all shows on Broadway will offer some sort of on-demand access services.
After prompting everyone to download GalaPro, he reassured everyone that the app only operates on a dark setting, on a closed network, and in airplane mode (so users won’t receive phone calls or texts during the performance).
The three speakers then answered some thoughtful questions from the audience on a number of topics. They left the Spring Road Conference attendees with the key takeaway that inclusivity cannot be a sometimes thing; we must make strides towards ensuring that every performance be accessible to everyone.