Accessible Performances and Specialized Performances

Why do an accessible performance or offer a specialized performance?
Creating accessible performances or providing specialized performances is an opportunity to grow your audience.

Quick Facts:

  • 1 in 7 people in Ontario have disabilities
  • The consumer market for people with a physical disability that impairs their mobility, vision or hearing currently makes up about $165 billion or 14.3% of the total Consumer market in Canada. By 2030, this share will swell up to 21%, with spending rising to $316 billion annually (in real 2017 dollars). Conference Board of Canada, 2018

Ontario is the first jurisdiction in Canada, under the AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act) to mandate and regulate accessibility standards for public and private sectors in all key areas of daily living. The purpose of the act is to make the province accessible for Ontarians with disabilities by 2025. This regulation applies to every other person or organization that provides goods, services or facilities to the public or third parties and that has at least one employee in Ontario.

People with disabilities have a right to access, including the right to enjoy and participate in cultural events.

Types of Specialized Performances

Relaxed Performance

Relaxed Performances welcome people of all ages, their families and friends who might otherwise be excluded from a theatrical performance. Included are patrons with an Autistic Spectrum condition, sensory or communication disorder, a learning disability or anyone who would benefit from a more relaxed environment. In a relaxed performance, tech elements such as strobe lighting and loud sound cues are reduced and audiences are welcome to make additional noise and come and go as necessary.

Relaxed Performance Producing Resources:
Access Activators: Access Activators describes all information about doing a relaxed performance and provides additional resources that exist within the community.

Roundhouse Interview with Heather Wildsmith, Cultural Development Manager for the National Autistic Society

American Sign Language (ASL) Performances for Hearing Audiences and Hearing Performances for Deaf Audiences

There are a few ways a hearing performance can be interpreted into ASL for patrons who are Deaf, deafened or have hearing loss. Similarly, performances in ASL can be interpreted for hearing audiences in several different ways.

When it comes to integrated theatre practices where collaboration is required between Hearing and Deaf artists using both spoken and signed languages, it takes a lot of time and preparation to ensure full accessibility to both parties. These methods are not mentioned in the infographics below because we are looking at translation between signed languages and spoken languages, but we do have a page on Working with Deaf Artists that outline these approaches in more detail.

For example, a spoken theatre performance with a sole Deaf character/role may not be an accessible ASL Performance. In the production, the Deaf character is providing some access by using sign language during their role (this can be approached in varied ways), but they are not necessarily responsible for or able to give a Deaf audience full access. Therefore it is important to consider: Will there be interpreters providing access in scenes where the Deaf artist is not present? What, if any, of the content outside of the Deaf actor's scenes will be interpreted to the Deaf audience? By whom or how?

Additional ASL Performance Producing Resources for making Spoken Theatre more accessible):
Deaf Artists and Theatres Toolkit: an initiative by Cahoots Theatre to include Deaf artists and programming considerations through all aspects of production from initial production meetings to stage.
DATT References: a list of resources and sources for DATT, including artistic sign language, signed performances, signed music, and a list of ASL interpreters (at the bottom of the page)

Picasso PRO & Creative Trust created a A Practical Toolkit For Producers and Presenters of American Sign Language Interpreted Theatrical Performances in 2012. Both pdfs are blind-accessible.
Download Part 1 of the Handbook
Download Part 2 of the Handbook

Infographics and Examples

The first page of the %22How to make Spoken Theatre Accessible to Deaf Audiences%22 Infographic Download our infographic on How to Make Spoken Theatre Accessible for Deaf Audiences by clicking here.

The first page of the %22How to make Sign Language Theatre Accessible to All Audiences%22 Infographic Download our infographic on How to Make Sign Language Theatre Accessible for All Audiences by clicking here.

Picasso Pro Sweden Residency Workshop Excerpt - Elizabeth + Anna (also features closed captioning and descriptive audio)
Luminato 2017 Promotional Video about Deaf & ASL Accessibility
Book an interpreter in the GTA area through Deaf Spectrum using this simple google form.

Check out this awesome training video by the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival and Queer ASL containing basic ASL training of common and helpful signs to know when interacting with d/Deaf audience members and artists.

Audio Described Performance

Audio Description improves access for blind and partially sighted theatregoers by providing a live verbal commentary on the visual elements of a production, broadcast through a receiver. It describes action that is essential to the understanding of the story, as well as information about the set, costumes, facial expressions and visual jokes that might otherwise be missed.

Talking Movement Public Performance Excerpts 2012 - Picasso Pro (also features closed captioning)

Creating an Accessible Space

Remember, making your art accessible goes beyond offering accessible and specialized performances. Check out Audience Accessibility for a list of some (but not all) of the considerations you should make when looking at accessibility for your event/production.


So you’ve made your space and production accessible. How do you make sure the community comes out and sees it? It’s important to create an Accessibility Statement for your website, and to include accessibility information in your promotional material.

This page was last updated on July 1 2018
Created by kpalm. Last Modification: Wednesday December 11, 2019 20:07:50 EST by animacy.