In 2006, VocalEyes was awarded a major grant to work with STAGETEXT to radically improve access to live theatre for blind and partially sighted people and for people who are deaf, deafened, or hard of hearing.
This was the See a Voice project, a cost effective response to the objective of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and ACE (Arts Council England) to increase access to the arts for disabled people.
The programme would enable theatres to more fully comply with the statutory requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act 2006 by ‘making reasonable adjustments to the way they deliver their services so that disabled people can use them.’
See a Voice was funded through the Invest to Save Budget (ISB) and by Arts Council England (ACE) through Grants for the Arts. In total, £1.1m was invested from 2006 to 2010 to provide higher quality, sustainable, cost effective captioned and audio described performances through:
- the creation of sub-regional venue networks (efficiency hubs)
- the provision of captioning and audio description equipment for use by the hubs
- the training of additional captioners and audio describers locally
- support, advice and guidance for venues in marketing, box office, front of house, customer care and use of equipment
Over the four year period, See a Voice worked with 26 regional theatres and two touring theatre organisations to deliver substantial growth in the numbers of captioned and audio described performances in England.
Theatre staff and management were provided with comprehensive training and support to achieve higher standards of access in theatres and raise the profile of assisted performances to new levels.
Participating theatres worked collaboratively in hubs to share capital equipment and build partnerships for audience development and 45 captioners and describers were trained to meet the increase in demand for assisted performances. The project also included a national programme of advocacy, research and development.
See a Voice audio-described performances
Audio-described performances at the venues which were part of the project are included in the What’s On section of this website.
While we are not providing the audio-description services at these venues, they have received support and training, and are fully equipped to offer a warm welcome to blind and partially sighted audiences.
A significant element of the support offered to theatres was to advise staff on marketing and audience development strategies, to build closer relationships with deaf, deafened, hard of hearing, blind and partially sighted audiences.
See a Voice Legacy
The See a Voice website has been created as part of the project’s legacy, providing practical online resources for anyone who leads or contributes to building audiences for audio described and captioned performances.
Online learning: This represents See a Voice best practice and will ensure continuity of a quality service over time if venues use it. It is cost effective and requires limited maintenance to be kept up to date and relevant.
Marketing toolkit: The See a Voice team worked closely with audience development and research consultant, Heather Maitland and with the participating See a Voice venues to develop these guidelines.
And in development:
Access coordinator’s toolkit