Theatre awning with the words "Stay Safe beloved Community"; the Heart Of The Beast Theatre in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Theatre audio description and Covid-safe Touch Tours

People’s safety is of paramount importance, as is ensuring that they are not discriminated against – but receive access to goods and services in accordance with the Disability Discrimination Act. VocalEyes, the Audio Description Association and Mind’s Eye Description had this in mind as theatres re-opened towards the end of 2020. If people were attending shows,  it should be possible  – with some planning – for blind and visually impaired people to attend touch tours and audio-described performances without exposing themselves, their companions, theatre and production staff to any risk additional to that of attending or presenting a show without audio description or a touch tour.

The documents on this page are the result, and aim to help venues, productions and service providers to put mitigations in place so that theatre can be reopened for blind and visually impaired people alongside everyone else. With this aim in mind we were aware that the very words ‘Touch Tour’ would be problematic and considered if it could be changed, because even pre-Covid, ‘touching’ was in fact often a very minor part of the touch tour experience. In the end, it became apparent that changing both the name and how touch tours were run was a step too far, and the extended term Covid-safe Touch Tour gained traction. Inevitably as we all prepare for another re-opening, the situation will change again, and if these documents can be usefully updated we will do so and recirculate them.  In the mean time, if you have experiences or documents concerning the re-opening of theatre you feel others might find useful, please do share them with our Theatre Programme Manager, [email protected].

Image: 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.