Between 17 May and 16 August 2021, VocalEyes, Stagetext and the Centre for Accessible Environments ran a survey of UK theatregoers who use access facilities, services or support. Over 500 people responded and shared their views on using public transport, getting vaccine passports and a range of other factors that would influence their decision to return to theatres. They also told us about their experiences of digital theatre, access services online, the accessibility of various online platforms, and whether they would continue to seek out and pay for theatre online in future.
Alongside the survey findings, the report also provides an access guide for theatres, key theatre website access information, a directory of access and disability arts organisations and recommended reading.
The report is available in PDF and text-only Large Print version (Microsoft Word) from the Downloads section at the bottom of this page.
“This essential and timely report makes it clear that access in theatre is not an optional extra – it’s the only way deaf, disabled and neurodivergent people can engage, contribute and lead. Disabled theatre-lovers aren’t missing, access to theatre is. The pandemic has only heightened disabled inequality and invisibility, and online culture has failed to fulfil its access potential for many. The Theatre Access 2021 report is a call to everyone involved in theatre to take stock, think deeply and commit once and for all to real equality for disabled people. Return and reopening offers a moment to change: we can’t afford not to take it and disabled people like myself are depending on it.”
Joanna Wood, Chair of Trustees, VocalEyes
“As a wheelchair using, clinically vulnerable person with Tourettes, my access requirements for theatre and live performance spaces are complex and have only intensified during the pandemic. At the same time, the way disability and culture are talked about in the media seems to have become much more divisive. I don’t yet feel safe to return to theatres and I feel less visible in a world that has more barriers, both environmental and attitudinal. Theatre Access 2021 comes at a crucial moment for disabled people, whether as artists, audiences, workers, or industry leaders. I hope it challenges the sector to take meaningful, sustained action.”
Jess Thom, Touretteshero
“This report truly represents the passion that disabled people have for theatre, and the many ways in which this industry repeatedly lets us down. We feel forgotten and ignored, and the Covid-19 pandemic has only added to this. It’s so important that as an industry we recognise that even though theatre has opened back up, it hasn’t for everyone. Pre-existing accessibility problems remain, and new barriers have been created since, with very little action being taken to rectify this. In particular, continuing to provide online theatre options is so important, we must hold ourselves accountable when we say that “theatre is for everyone”, because right now there are many disabled people out there that don’t feel this applies. This report clearly demonstrates that we must hold ourselves to a higher standard, offering the bare minimum is simply not good enough.”
Shona Louise, UK Disability & Theatre Blogger (ShonaLouise.com)
“This is an incredibly important and insightful report for the sector. It really highlights where progress is being made and where as an industry we need to make a step change in our provision. The time is now for us all to join together to look at how we can genuinely build back better.”
Sarah Brigham, Chief Executive and Artistic Director, Derby Theatre
Please contact Matthew Cock, Chief Executive, VocalEyes with any questions about Theatre Access 2021, the latest in VocalEyes’ series of annual reports into access at UK arts and heritage organisations, undertaken since 2016 in partnership with our sister sector support organisation Stagetext and other access organisations and professionals.
Image description: Theatre awning with the words “Stay Safe Beloved Community”, photo of In The Heart Of The Beast Theatre in Minneapolis, Minnesota by Lorie Shaull from St Paul, United States. Wikimedia Commons.