Promoting access at New Wolsey Theatre

case studies, 2016, wheelchair users, stage & screen, Suffolk, England

Promoting access at New Wolsey Theatre

The New Wolsey Theatre strives to be one of the most accessible theatres in the country, with a wide range of access tools, shows and great staff training, it seemed only natural for them to get involved in Disabled Access Day. With some great pre-planning and thinking on their feet, the team at New Wolsey theatre delivered a successful event. We caught up with Amy Nettleton, Agent for Change (People) at the theatre, to find out how what they got up to on 12th March.

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What did you do on Disabled Access Day?

We held an access information afternoon from 4pm to 5.30pm. Visitors were invited into the auditorium to listen to a series of talks from different members of staff involved in access and disability. We also did a behind the scenes tour and brought out props and mini sets as well as our visualise sets for our visitors that are visually impaired or blind.

We also held a Q and A session and had tea, coffee and biscuits in the café. We ensured we had one of our regular BSL interpreters as well as myself who also signs, plus enough people to offer sighted guiding for those that needed. 

We had a very young wheelchair user, he was taken on his own tour to keep him busy as some of the information was not as relevant to him but was to his parents.

What feedback did you get from visitors on the day?

We had great feedback, many people had never been to our theatre due to bad experiences at other venues. They commented on how accessible the venue was and how much information was available for a wide range of visitors with physical, sensory and learning difficulties.

In fact, one visitor wrote a blog about their experience on the day and commented: “All in all I’m seriously impressed. The team have gone above-and-beyond the basic needs of most disabled people. The addition of so many staff members with disabilities has (in my opinion) made the entire team much more accepting and open-minded about disability. Even the website goes the extra mile.”

What impact has your involvement had?

It had a significant impact, we had many immediate bookings for future shows and three people that attended offered their time and experience to join our Access Forum – where members of the public with a range of disabilities support us with new ideas, information and support in continuing in making our theatre even more accessible.

What advice would you give to organisations considering getting involved in Disabled Access Day?

To plan ahead! We went out on to main high street and spoke directly to people, this is vital in pulling in new people to a venue, we also emailed out to all of the main charities and support groups. There is worth in contacting groups you already know but to pull in new audiences you need to go out and find people!

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If you’re interested in taking part in Disabled Access Day, you can register your interest and sign up on our get involved pages.