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Seatplan Helps Find Accessible Theatre Seats

June 7, 2018

This is a guest post by Laura Kressly.

People from all sorts of backgrounds and demographics enjoy going to the theatre, and theatre tries hard to bring in audiences from all sorts of backgrounds and demographics. But sometimes all the good intentions in the world are thwarted by theatre buildings.

Most of London’s West End theatres date to the Victorian or Edwardian era, and some are even older – Theatre Royal Drury Lane was completed in 1812, which is 7 years before Queen Victoria was born. Attitudes towards disabilities were very different back then, and access was not something architects considered. Now many of these buildings are listed, with measures that would more easily facilitate access unable to be carried out due to planning regulations.

That said, the theatre industry is waking up to the need for improved access. Companies are increasing their access provisions, including access performances, outreach and staff trained in Disability Awareness. Buildings are adding portable ramps, additional entrances, induction loops and low-level service counters at their box offices and bars.

This isn’t always good enough, though. Theatres may have brought in access measures, but not all of them are very good about making this information available. A survey conducted by charity VocalEyes found last year that 72% of UK theatre websites they surveyed had access information, but this varied from a few sentences to detailed descriptions of their provisions. That means 28% of theatres had no information displayed at all. This just isn’t good enough.

Though some owners have several theatres in their property portfolios, others are independent. This means there’s a lack of an industry standard for what access content is published online. There are also few third party sites that provide information for the whole of London’s West End theatres.

Luckily, goes some way in filling that gap. This theatre website contains individual pages for each of the major West End theatres, complete with accessibility pages. On these pages you will find details about things like the number of stairs, wheelchair spaces and most importantly, contact information for each theatre’s access team.

These theatre staff will be able to provide up-to-date details about access performances and provisions that may not be advertised, answer any questions customers may have, assist them in booking suitable tickets and services. They will also be able to advise theatregoers of all the information they will need for their visit, including arrival times, entrances and who will be on hand to assist them.

Though it’s clear that the commercial theatre industry is trying to change in the face of financial and architectural restrictions, there’s still more to be done. Sites like SeatPlan go some way in making the process of going to the theatre as a disabled person easier, but theatres need to do more to up their game. Luckily, change is coming even if it’s slow to be implemented.

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