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Fewer than half of theatres programme for the visually impaired, finds survey

VocalEyes is seeking responses from theatres across the country. Photo: Aerogondo2 VocalEyes' survey revealed fewer than half of theatres have audio-described performances. Photo: Aerogondo2
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Three in five theatres are inaccessible for people who are blind or visually impaired, according to new research.

A survey carried out by theatre audio description charity VocalEyes revealed only 40% of theatres have presented an audio-described (AD) performance in the past three years.

Subsidised theatres were marginally more accessible, with 44% of publicly-funded companies having presented an AD show, compared to 39% of commercial theatres.

In the same three-year period, AD customers bought approximately 10,500 theatre tickets, bringing in nearly £190,000 for the sector.

Theatres that provided AD services did so for an average of seven productions a year. London theatres were more likely to offer AD, averaging 13 shows a year, while theatres outside the capital offered an average of six.

The research by VocalEyes and arts consultants Purple Seven also found that AD performances are attended by an average of 11 blind and partially sighted customers.

Discussing the data, VocalEyes chief executive Matthew Cock wrote on ArtsProfessional: “While there has been significant growth since the 1990s when AD for theatre first emerged, the fact that 60% of UK theatres are effectively ‘dark’ to blind and partially sighted people – who require AD to experience a performance – demonstrates how much further we have to go.”

Nearly 2 million people in the UK are living with some form of sight loss, while 360,000 are registered as blind or partially sighted.

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