Many of London's theatres are historic buildings with varying floor levels, staircases and narrow aisles. Their status as listed buildings restricts any improvements in accessibility at these older venues. Newer venues like the National Theatre tend to have good access for wheelchair users.
The Society of London Theatre has compiled extensive information on access facilities at London's theatres as well as access maps for major theatres. This information includes wheelchair accessibility, adapted lavatory and bar facilities, sound amplification systems, admission policy on guide dogs, public transport and parking. For more details, as well as access maps of London theatres, go to OfficialLondonTheatre.com/Access or watch the video below:
DisabledGo is a good way to find information on accessible entertainment venues in the city. See the website details below.
The Society also has current listings of assisted performances (audio-described, captioned and sign language-interpreted performances) in London. The different types are explained below.
For information on upcoming assisted performances, visit: OfficialLondonTheatre.com
Audio described performances
Audio description is a live description of the characters, their expressions, actions, costumes and the sets, which is relayed to patrons over personal headsets. This happens unobtrusively between the lines and offers patrons who cannot see the stage assistance in sharing the visual aspects of the programme. Touch tours are also sometimes available for people with visual impairments.
At a captioned performance words are displayed on a screen at the same time as they are spoken or sung by an actor, thus enabling people with a hearing loss to understand everything. The process is similar to subtitling. It aims to offer deaf and hard of hearing people the same experience, as far as possible, as a hearing audience.
Sign Language interpreted performances
A British Sign Language (BSL) theatre interpreter will stand on or at the side of the stage, in a place clearly visible to the audience, and interpret the spoken and heard aspects of the show for deaf and hard of hearing patrons who are British Sign Language users.
Theatre access facilities contacts
Society of London Theatre, tel: +44 (0)20 7557 6700, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Shape Arts offers a fully accessible ticket booking service, and organises Access Assistants for those who need help getting to and from the venue.
For more information visit shapearts.org.uk
Some theatres offer concessions to disabled patrons. Visit the theatres' individual websites for further details.
DisabledGo provide an online national guide to accessible buildings, venues and services. Their experts audit each business to collect the information.
Visit the DisabledGo website for comprehensive access information on entertainment venues in London.