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How Idaho theaters accommodate audiences with disabilities

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Whether transported to Roaring Twenties Harlem or medieval Denmark, live theater evokes an immersion that’s hard to describe in words.

When the music blares on the stage in front of them and the dramatic scenes take shape, it can be difficult for some spectators to get involved in the action. .

That’s where accessibility features like subtitles and interpretation come in to provide a better experience for people with disabilities in theaters, cinemas, and concert venues.

LaVona Andrew, coordinator of the Idaho Shakespeare Festival’s Signing Shakespeare program, said:

Accessibility features aren’t new to large production companies, she said, but they’re giving smaller companies like the Idaho Shakespeare Festival access to places that didn’t exist before. .

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the job prospects for sign language interpreters will increase by 24% nationwide by 2030, making them one of the fastest growing professions in the country. BLS predicts he will create nearly 20,000 interpreter jobs over the next eight years.

A quick look at your favorite entertainment spots reveals that many venues have implemented these features for most of their shows.

“Signing Shakespeare” began in 2010 and added new access points for some viewers. In 2018, the festival added real-time captioning to its theaters.

The festival is currently working on introducing sign language interpreters and real-time captions to all shows.

However, due to staffing shortages, the COVID-19 outbreak, and difficult seating arrangements, it may not always be possible to deliver these features to your audience. This problem peaked during a recent performance of the musical ‘Ain’t Misbehavin’.

“We don’t have the ability to do interpreting performances because we’ve already filled out the sections we normally hold so that the deaf and hard of hearing audience can see the interpreters and really enjoy the experience,” said Hannah Reed-Newville. Said., Festival Marketing Director

under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990theaters need to make some effort to accommodate the deaf, hard of hearing, blind and visually impaired.

Most venues meet the requirements, but often not enough to make the experience fair.

Steve Snow, executive director of the Idaho Council of the Deaf, said: “I think the industry generally doesn’t realize that access isn’t universal, something that really has to be considered.”

In theater, this is especially true of older plays where early English words have not been accurately translated into modern sign language. Shakespearean words such as “ere,” “bawd,” and “forsooth” are not used off stage, so they are not translated directly into American Sign Language.

Additionally, creating an interpretation requires a lot of planning ahead of time, including those who need the service.

Attendees wishing to use services such as interpreting and captioning are often rushed in, putting theaters in a bind. If the service is not universally provided, it may be.

“”[Theaters] You have to find those resources, prepare the scripts, and give the interpreters time to prepare.“” Snow says.

Audio description services for blind viewers often require similar preparations, said Beth Cunningham of the Idaho Commission for the Blind.

However, such accommodations are not just for people with disabilities. People who are deaf or blind can benefit from accessibility services.

“There are people who buy season tickets for nights with interpreters and sit a little further away. I do it because I feel it,” said Andrew. She said no additional gains were planned. It’s just a coincidence.

Accessibility features vary from venue to venue, but making live entertainment accessible to everyone brings the world of people of all abilities a little closer.

“The deaf community, like members of the hearing community, likes to participate in all kinds of entertainment,” said Snow.

“I think if it’s accessible for some parts of the community, it should be accessible for everyone.”