Broadway Rolls Out New Technology to Better Serve Theatregoers with Specific Needs

by Michael Eddy
The Broadway League expands accessibility for theatergoers
The Broadway League expands accessibility for theatergoers

The Broadway League is coordinating efforts of its New York members who are in the process of introducing new technology to provide an improved theatergoing experience for audience members who are deaf, or who experience hearing or vision loss. These new services, in addition to currently available assistive listening devices, are provided to theatergoers free of charge.

Utilizing breakthroughs in vocal recognition technology, closed captioning, and audio description - via mobile devices and headsets - will be seamlessly synchronized with live action on stage. As an example: if an actor pauses in real time, that pause will be reflected in the new closed captioning and audio description.

Some Broadway theatres are currently equipped to provide the new services. The majority of theatres will be offering the new services by January 1, 2018. The installation and availability of the technology industry-wide will be complete by Summer 2018.

Prior to every performance, a representative will be available to demonstrate the ease of activating the new technology. For complete, up-to-date information about services available at a specific theatre, please visit www.theatreaccess.nyc.

"The advent of On Demand closed captioning on Broadway is a true game changer,” said Barbara Kelley, Executive Director of the Hearing Loss Association of America. “I anticipate our members who had given up on live events because they could not understand dialogue and lyrics will happily return to Broadway.”

“Improved closed captioning and audio description services are the latest advances in an ongoing effort to meet the needs of every theatregoer,” said Broadway League Chairman Robert E. Wankel.

The Broadway League would like to acknowledge invaluable input from its Audience Services Advisory Board: Jerry Bergman, Founder and Chair, Hearing Accommodation Task Force of New York; Lisa Carling, Director of TDF Accessibility Programs; Tina Childress, Au.D. Audiologist, late-deafened adult and bilateral cochlear implant recipient; Toni Iacolucci, Hearing Loss Association of America; Beth Prevor, Executive Director, Hands On; Lewis Merkin, CDI, AEA-SAG/AFTRA, Anne Tomasetti; John Waldo, Advocacy Committee Chair, Association of Late Deafened Adults (ALDA).

The programming and installation of the new technology begins following the opening night of a Broadway production. The estimated time for full implementation is one month. For concert presentations, unscripted performances, or productions with scripts designed to incorporate audience input, services may vary.

For complete, up-to-date information about services available at a specific theatre: www.theatreaccess.nyc