Accessibility in Theatre and at the AR

One of the most crucial changes our recent refurbishments have brought is the development of our venue accessibility. Finding the balance between preserving the theatre’s history and prioritising our audiences and their needs was a key focus of the project, and one that has undoubtedly improved our theatre as a whole.

With a high percentage of theatre being based in venues that are often centuries old, this is a forever prevalent and challenging issue. London’s oldest venues by a number of years are Sadler’s Wells (1683), which has been completely re-vamped multiple times, most recently in 2015, and the Theatre Royal Drury Lane (1663), which is currently in the midst of its 2-year refurbishment. What we can conclude from this, then, is that these ancient venues no longer cut it for current audiences and standards.

The view from our accessible balcony

Indeed, whilst the issue is by no means completely resolved, the majority of theatres across the UK have adapted to the needs of all possible patrons. Subsequently, a survey conducted by Purple Seven, who work with 200 theatres in the UK to improve theatre attendance and accessibility, found that across 45,000 tickets for 6,500 productions, the number of audience members with a disability has increased from 5% to 7%.

Whilst this is, of course, far from an astounding number, it is certainly an improvement, and also a study taken the best part of 5 years ago. Since then, awareness of the necessity for improving accessibility in theatres has undeniably grown. The National Theatre, for example, have adopted the Young Vic’s initiative to have relaxed and sensory adapted performances.

As we hope our recent refurbishment shows, we are certainly trying to do our bit. Below is all the practical information on accessibility in the Assembly Rooms. Of course, if you require any more information, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

  • The most significant addition to our main theatre space is the accessible balcony, above the main auditorium, where wheelchair users will be seated for all of our performances. Our newly installed lift gives patrons access to the balcony, disabled toilet and bar.
  • There is an accessible entrance to the left of the main entrance doors, which is accompanied by an intercom help button. However, we ask that patrons with accessibility needs contact the theatre in advance of your visit, where possible, so that we can be ready to greet and give you access to the building at minimum inconvenience to you.
  • Guide dogs are welcome in all parts of the theatre. Again, we ask that you contact the theatre in advance of your visit, if you can.
  • All signs in the theatre have braille alongside for patrons with visual impairments.
  • The theatre is installed with an induction loop system to assist hearing aid wearers with the acoustics of the theatre. We also have a Deaf Alerter to ensure all patrons are made aware of an emergency.

We hope to see you soon!

By Elvira Parr