Blind and partially sighted people are potential theatregoers – we just need to persuade them that our events have something to offer. With 15% of VI people reluctant to engage with a leisure activity outside of the home, you’re going to have to work hard to get the message across.
What people have said …
“I don’t want to be a burden to anyone.”
“I can’t enjoy theatre anymore – I can’t follow it.”
“It’s too difficult to find the right information.”
“I can’t just shut my door and go out – I rely on others.”
“I can’t see, I never will see, and I want to be able to experience the play in my way.”
Going to the theatre needs to be seen as something enjoyable, not hard work.
Some younger blind or partially sighted people will have limited experience of live theatre, while others may be regular attenders and artists themselves.
Some older people may have been keen attenders who now, later in life, are having difficulty following the action and think theatre is something they can no longer continue to enjoy.
You need to target blind and partially sighted non-attenders separately to existing theatregoers, and this may include answering questions such as “What is live theatre like?”, “Will I enjoy it?” and, very importantly, “How will it work for me?”
During the See a Voice project the staff team ran specific venue open days called Discover Theatre for local blind and partially sighted people to find out more about what theatre, and theatre audio description, is all about. It gave participants an introduction to the venue, the services available, ways they can participate and a chance to meet the staff who are there to make their visit an enjoyable one. This sense of familiarity and safety is particularly important to someone with a visual impairment.
What you can do …
- Consider what some of the barriers to attendance are and how your marketing strategies might help overcome them:
- Get to know your VI patrons and build a mailing list of anyone interested in attending audio described performances.
- The personal touch works – try offering to ring round people on your AD mailing list to let them know there’s a performance coming up.
- Train frontline staff in welcoming and offering assistance to blind and partially sighted patrons.
- It’s useful to have the same staff scheduled to work on the day of an audio described performance, or dedicated AD ushers.
- Let groups know about any discounted tickets you may offer.
- Provide information in advance on travel options and recommended taxi firms.
- Provide directions on how to get to your venue, including any distinguishing landmarks, on your website and pre-recorded notes.
- Make sure your brochures and websites have clearly identifiable sources of information in a range of formats.
- Advertise your audio described performances to EVERYONE.
Going to talk to local groups, social clubs and blind societies or at events, such as local information fairs, is a great way of generating word of mouth. You can use it as an opportunity to introduce audio description, explaining what it is and how it works, as well as promoting your forthcoming productions. Understanding the particular needs of your customers and building good personal relationships between local groups and your venue is the key to developing and retaining an audience. Why not invite a local group to hold an event at your venue or offer to give them a backstage tour?