I am a public educator for the Blind Reintegration for Independence, Development, and Growth for Elders (BRIDGE) Program at the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (MCB). On nights and weekends, I usher at the Boston Opera House also on Washington Street in Downtown Boston. Each year, I see more and more patrons with disabilities come to enjoy live theater, as people become aware of the accessible features of the theater and services for people with disabilities.
Boston Opera House has helpful staff and accessible seating. An enhanced audio system is always available in the main lobby at no charge. More information on accessibility at the Boston Opera House is available online. Boston Opera House is the home of the Boston Ballet, concerts, and shows sponsored by Lexus Broadway in Boston.During the 2013-2014 Season, Accessible performances were offered for Million Dollar Quartet, We Will Rock You, American Idiot, Once, Flashdance, Book of Mormon, and the upcoming Phantom of the Opera. Plans are in the works for more accessible performances in the 2014-2015 season.
For each show, one performance has open captions and American Sign Language. On a different day, Broadway In Boston provides Audio Description for people who cannot see the show. Audio description is a live narration of the visual aspects of the performance broadcasted to visually impaired patrons who wear a small receiver (headset). This narration includes pre-show descriptions of the theatre, costumes and scenic elements, as well as narration of blocking and choreography between the show’s dialogue and musical numbers.
Nina Kagan, children’s services social worker at MCB, is a frequent theater goer. She uses the audio description headsets to listen to performances sponsored through Broadway in Boston:
Having the opportunity to listen to the performances which I cannot see, allows me to visualize what accompanies the dialog performed by the actors. It allows me to participate in a common cultural and artistic experience. I would recommend the audio description to anyone who has a visual impairment.
Nothing quite compares to live theater. Audio description enhances the experience, and allays uncertainty about why other people are laughing, gasping, or applauding. Try it and be welcomed into the growing audience of visually-impaired people who are enjoying theater in a new way.
More information is available online regarding accessible Broadway in Boston performances. If you would like to join an email list for updates on accessible performances, email ADABoston@BroadwayInBoston.com.
Perkins School for the Blind maintains a list of other Massachusetts audio-described live theater, movies, museum exhibits, and television.
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