The Sun Life Performing Arts Access Program was officially introduced to Creative Trust members last year at a festive Launch on November 23, 2009, at 215 Spadina Avenue. This pioneering program, a partnership between Picasso PRO and Creative Trust, was designed to open up the city’s theatres to Blind/Low-Vision and Deaf/Hard of Hearing audiences through a pilot series of live audio described performances for Blind/Low-Vision patrons and American Sign Language [ASL] interpreted performances for Deaf/Hard of Hearing patrons.
It’s been an incredibly exciting, jam-packed year since then, starting with the training of a core of Audio Describers in the art of live description, which brings sets, lighting, costumes, and action alive for Blind and visually impaired audience members through a wireless transmitter to an earpiece worn by patrons.
We also pulled together a support team of Deaf Theatre Advisors, Deaf Masters and Interpreters, to assist companies offering American Sign Language interpretation as an integrated component of the onstage performance.
From there, to the stage! Our pilot performances are starting later this month at Factory Theatre, who will be presenting their very first audio described performance with the assistance of Picasso PRO and Creative Trust, and will be continuing on to a number of other Creative Trust companies. Our hope is that these will enable patrons requiring communications access to fully enjoy performances while enabling theatre, music and dance companies to immediately become more accessible – even if their facilities are not yet barrier free. (We’re working on that too: more news to come.)
Picasso Pro, Creative Trust, and the Performing Arts Access team owe grateful thanks to the wonderful folks at Sun Life Financial, without whose generous sponsorship this important and necessary program would still be “in development.”
We’re hoping to hear from artists and arts organizations who are working towards truly opening our theatres to everyone, regardless of their abilities. Please tell us your stories.