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How to Tell Your Customers About Your Access Performances

Recently, there’s been a much needed drive towards making the arts more accessible. Everyone should be able to enjoy the same experience, and not just in your venue but also when buying online, regardless of any access requirements a customer may have.

In this post, we’ll be talking about how to make buying tickets easier for captioned performances in particular. Theatre captions are similar to television subtitles and give people who are deaf or hard of hearing access to live performance. Stagetext is a registered charity in the UK, who provide captioning and subtitling services to theatres and arts venues across the country, making live and online cultural activities accessible, similar to the Theatre Development Fund in the US. They have helped us on advising best practice for making online booking as easy as possible.

Over thirty-eight million people in the United States are deaf, deafened or hard of hearing, and over four million people in Canada. With statistics like these in mind, the case for extending easy online ticket-buying to caption users is clear. We’re going to be using caption-specific examples, however these features can be extended to other accessible performances your venue may have. With a few easy to implement ideas you can start providing the same service to all.

Let your customers know about your venue’s Access Facilities

It’s not enough just to make your venue accessible; you need to tell people about it. It’s a great idea to have an ‘Accessibility’ section on your website. Useful information to display here might be the accessibility of your venue; for example, do you have a induction loop? Can people bring their service dogs? Is your building wheelchair accessible? The more information you put on here the better.

The Royal Court theatre also divided their Accessibility page into further sections, including information specifically on facilities for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. They’ve also included information in a variety of formats, including a signed and captioned video of their upcoming performances.

Make your accessible performances easy to find

You can also list any accessible performances you have available in your accessibility section. If your website uses an API integration, like the Spektrix API, you should be able to link through to the performance straight from this page. This could also include information signage, for example the New Wolsey use the CAP sign to highlight a captioned performance.

But what about once customers are already looking at a performance? You want to make sure it’s really clear that it’s an accessible performance by adding specific information against the show. In Spektrix, you can do this by adding text to your seating plan background image.

Make it obvious where the accessible seats are

The next question is where to sit? If you have a caption box, it’s useful to highlight where in the auditorium the best view of the theatre captions will be - no one wants to be craning their neck to see some song lyrics!

How about adding information directly onto your seating plan? Information Overlays in Spektrix allow you to add messages which pop up when customers hover over seats, such as  ‘best view of the captions’.

This could also be used to highlight other seats, for example where the hearing loop would work best or perhaps which seats have level access - the choice is up to you!

Find out who is interested in accessible performances

You’ll probably want to know who is interested in your captioned performances in advance. Many venues will have a option to pick which genre people are interested in when signing up on their website. For example, you might pick “comedy” or “musicals”, but you are also able to do this for accessibility preferences. Derby Theatre is a great example of a venue already doing this as you can see from this screenshot.  

You can then use this information to send targeted mailings about accessible performances to customers. You can also collect data on how many people are using these services by running customers lists of people with these preferences.

Make accessible seats available

You should hold seats off sale for caption users, for example if a show is particularly busy and you want to make sure the seats with the best view of the caption box are there for those who need them.

So if these seats are locked off, how do you enable customers to book them without having to manually contact the box office? Spektrix allows you to set locked seats that are bookable online, so you can lock seats off but enable certain customers to book them, such as customers with access requirements. Once they are logged into their account, they’ll see which seats are held off for them. This feature can also be extended to wheelchair accessible seats or seats with the best view of an ASL (American Sign Language) interpreter. Whatever might work best for your organization.

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These are just a few suggestions of how you can make booking online an easier process, however we’d love to hear if you have any other suggestions, or you’d like to find out how to set these up for your venue. Further details of captioning in theatre can be found on the TDF website.