Making our services accessible to disabled people – Lyric Theatre

Making our services accessible to disabled people – Lyric Theatre


The approach of the Lyric Theatre to make the facilities accessible to disabled people comes right from the very top. It’s about a way of life and a way of thinking within the Lyric Theatre. It’s important to the business because we value every single one of our customers. It doesn’t matter to us whether a customer has a disability or doesn’t have a disability. They’re all equally important, they all have a right to be here, they all have a right to enjoy our products and they all have an interest in what the Lyric theatre does. From the outset of preparing for the new
construction of the theatre, we recognised the need to be able to prepare for
customers with disabilities as well as customers without disabilities. So we engaged a consultant who would look at access issues. The obvious ones for start are physical access. How do we ensure that everybody can get into the theatre? and that goes right through from disabled parking bays on the street and to level access from the street into the theatre. For elevators up to all the different levels and for ways into the auditorium, for lower counters at the bar, at the customer service entrance. There are a number of facilities
available for disabled customers that allow them to enjoy our shows as much as people without disabilities. For example, there are audio enhancement services. That will include everything from a necklace that is worn around the neck, an induction loop, that allows wearers of hearing aids to set their hearing aid to a special setting and allows them to pick up the audio from the stage in the theatre. There are headphones that will amplify the audio from the stage and transmit it into a headphone on their on their headset. We also have captioning
services for people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing so they can actually
read the text from the play above the stage. There’s audio description which is where somebody who is visually impaired or blind can put on a headset
and listen to a description of the action on the stage. “She goes to return it to the holster but drops it and hauls it back by its cord, putting it safely back
in the holster. Then she takes a mobile phone from the locker and poses in front
of the locker taking a selfie”. What we recognise is that there are customers with disabilities who need somebody to help them bring them to the theatre or
facilitate their access to the theatre. What we call a carer. We believe it’s important that the person with a disability who requires the carer isn’t financially disadvantaged because of that, so what we say to the customer is you pay the price of a ticket but the person who you need to
bring you to theatre comes absolutely free of charge. It’s then about the people in the building. It’s making sure the people are ready for it because there is no point in having the physical environment ready and the services ready if the people
themselves aren’t brought into the idea of receiving customers with disabilities
and ensuring that their time is as good as everybody else’s. I find when I come into the Lyric that they’re very welcoming. They will ask do I want assistance and take us up to our seats in the auditorium. I come down here with my other half and he’s totally blind, so the staff are most accommodating and most helpful and are always taking into consideration our needs. In terms of policies and procedures the
most important policy in the organisation in respect of people with
disabilities is the Equality Policy. That then drives other policies. So for example, our Recruitment Policy will be affected by the Equality Policy. The Customer Service Policy is also affected by that because it affects the way that we deal with our customers with disabilities. So there are a number of
different policies that are influenced but it all stems from the parent policy
of equality. The legal background to accommodating people with disabilities is largely driven by Disability Discrimination Act. That’s something that people have to do and it’s certainly something that we meet
the standard of but it’s important for us that we don’t do it because we have to do it. We do in the Lyric Theatre because we want to do it. The facilities of the theatre are well
used by customers with disabilities but I think they could be used more often. So it’s important for us that we try to communicate to those customers that their experience will be a good one, that we will take care of them, that we will recognise the needs of their disability and if we can do that better and more often than we will see more people come. We sought advice and information and
support from a number of organisations. Adapt NI is a very good example who
focus on making arts venues accessible for people with disabilities. They were
very supportive give us a lot of information. We have a disability
advisory group made up of customers who have disabilities who we consult with
and talk to and when we have a problem we go to there and we talk to them about
it. My top three tips are to value every customer because that sets the tone throughout the organisation. The other point I would have is consult and take advice from every organisation you can and I think then to keep talking and
to keep consulting, to keep taking advice because things change over time. I think we’ve become an example of a building that is doing it right and that’s because we got up right in the planning and the execution.

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