Under the Customer Service Standards of the AODA, service providers must make their goods, services, and facilities accessible to customers with disabilities. This article will outline accessible customer service for performance venues, such as movie and live theatres. Accessible theatres allow viewers of all abilities to enjoy performances of all kinds together.
Theatres that are accessible show they’re welcome for patrons using assistive devices when they have accessible structural features. Theatres should also have accessible seating at multiple levels. An “accessible seat” can mean different things to different people. For instance, it can mean a seat:
- Someone can reach without climbing stairs
- Near the front so that someone can see or hear clearly
- On one side of the theatre for someone with sight in one eye or hearing in one ear
Theatres must ensure that their staff are trained to interact with patrons who have disabilities. Staff should understand how to communicate with patrons, both in person and remotely. Additionally, staff should know where all the accessible features of their buildings are, including seats offering different kinds of accessibility. Similarly, staff should know about any accessibility equipment or services their locations have. Staff need to be aware of where physical items are stored and if there are any guidelines patrons should follow to borrow them, such as where to return them. Staff who are aware of their locations’ accessibility features can answer patrons’ requests promptly and knowledgeably.
Likewise, staff should know whether services are available for certain events. For instance, staff should be able to tell patrons whether certain movies or performances are captioned or described. In addition, staff of chain theatres or multi-theatre organizations should know if other locations have the features a patron needs, in case the patron would prefer to travel to a location they could use more independently. However, a performance may sometimes be showing only at a location lacking the features a patron needs. In this case, staff should be prepared to find ways to make the patron’s experience as accessible as possible. For instance, if a performance does not have captioning, the theatre could waive the fee for the patron’s companion, who can act as their support person and interpret at the performance.
Tickets and Other Purchases
Moreover, accessible theatres should allow patrons to purchase tickets in multiple ways, such as:
- By phone or teletypewriter (TTY)
- In person
If a patron finds one way of buying tickets inaccessible, they should be able to buy in another way. In addition, staff should be available to assist patrons purchasing from popcorn concessions or gift-shops.
Patrons with disabilities, as well as their loved ones, will want to watch performances together. Therefore, accessible theatres should make the public aware of all the accessibility features and services they offer. For instance, venues can make patrons aware:
- On signs
- In person
- Through their websites
- Remotely, through messages on their automated phone-answering systems
Moreover, venues’ websites can explain how to access features, equipment, or services. For example:
- Which performances have captioning or description
- Where accessible parking, entrances, and washrooms are
- Which seats are wheelchair accessible
- Whether patrons need to book accessible seats or parking in advance, and how to do so
- Whether theatres waive or reduce prices of support persons’ tickets
Finally, accessible theatres should provide multiple contact methods for patrons to get in touch with them, including:
- Phone and teletypewriter (TTY) numbers
- Email addresses
- Accessible websites, including performance listings, ticket purchase, and contact forms
Accessible theatres can come in different forms. Our next articles will outline different accessibility features for movie and live theatres.