Our first meeting was held on Wednesday 2 March, at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff, with our second at Sherman Theatre Cardiff.

Please check back here next week for all the minutes and ideas raised in each session - you will need to scroll to the bottom of the page to get the most recent minutes as I post them in full and as a downloadable file

Any questions, drop me a message!

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Access Forum / Notes


Access is a process starts at the beginning – it shouldn’t be an add-on

It’s part of the creative process, but for the audience it starts from the minute you see a poster.


Are the symbols big enough to be noticed, for example?


Sometimes it feels like a bolt-on – esp. and audio described performance

Often it’s a Tuesday matinee – not much use to us! Or when the rugby’s on.


Can we share kit and expertise in Cardiff to bring down the costs?


An app is in development for visually impaired audiences – v exciting.


Next session – let’s talk about a specific element.


Dates for programming, booking – we should make sure there aren’t clashes, as happened to our Christmas show (SK was same day as WMC’s).

LM – Shape has an access performance clash list. Might not still be doing it, but it might be worth checking.

The companies and venues should be sharing resources, equipment and information a bit more.

Practically, Wales should be doing better at sharing resources.


Being able to choose which performances will have access provision earlier on.

It takes us a bit of time (when working on site-specific shows), but we need to make choices earlier in order to meet print deadlines etc.


It would be better to be able to give more than one option to our audiences.

The dream is for all performances to be fully accessible, but maybe we can provide ipads to all, or find some other way to get there.


Relaxed performance – what is it?

If we’re aiming to make them accessible to children on the autism spectrum rather than just (ahem) more boisterous children, maybe we should be more specific.

Let’s think more carefully about what language we’re using – does the term ‘access performance’ mean what we think it means to our target audiences.


Finding a wider audience is a major challenge. It’s not necessarily seeing people coming through the door in the right numbers yet. How can we make it more exciting and inviting to disabled audiences?


Backstage areas in venues, and making them more accessible for performers with disabilities. A lot of work goes into programming and FoH, but we need more thought about backstage.


Cost is a big issue and is the main barrier. Sharing kit can be useful, but if you’re putting on multiple performances, the costs are massive, so is there a way of sharing funding too?


V important not to make it an add-on – e.g. if you’re going to caption, do it every perf.


Some access issues conflicts with others – e.g. the needs of an audience with dementia might be different from people with wheelchair access needs.


There are a lot of apps being developed or are available now – it’s hard to keep up.


Making buildings accessible to audiences.

Making the script accessible eg on larger print script


There aren’t enough opportunities for disabled actors.


Theatre companies need to be aware of their obligations for audio captioning, audio described etc – not just their options.

We must take them into account without sacrificing the intent of the show.


We need to bring theatre to Deaf community more, and bring them to us!


We need to train FoH BSL more.


Anecdotes about a Deaf crew couldn’t hear warnings – needs to be addressed.


Importance of budgeting for access from the start, so that it’s not an add-on, it’s part of it all.

This process needs to be sustainable – how can we develop this work and make sure it’s lasting.


DAC has a regular bulletin on when access performances are – but they rely on companies to tell them when they are.


23% of the population of Wales are disabled (and most of them have a carer), so they’re a massive target audience. All the more reason to make sure they’re all well-represented.


DAC is doing a survey – please take part!



What happens next?

Specific topics would be good, and to know in advance what they are

2 hr sessions next time?

Move them around if we can – Chapter are happy to offer a space, NTW will pay for interpretation, Caerphilly also


Future meetings


Key Themes to discuss:

  • Funding
  • Programming
  • Sharing of resources & technology
  • Scheduling and Clash Calendar facilities
  • Front of House – Training, support, facilities
  • Backstage and production
  • Marketing and Communications to people with access needs

- Language we use, how we communicate
- Symbols – what do we use, phrasing




  • Rhian to write up a suggested agenda template for future, including what’s on, what’s been seen, what’s coming up, then key theme
  • Rhian to create Community group
  • Rhian to invite suggestions of what theme to start with, any additional themes – post on community group
  • NTW to suggest next dates, and poll group
  • Rhian to invite key individuals / companies to talk at next session
  • Promote next session


Hello everyone,

Here are the minutes from the last meeting below and as a file attached:

Access Forum #2: Agenda

Sherman Theatre, Cardiff


Chair: Sara Beer, Disability Arts Cymru


Greeting from Sara Beer (DAC)


Speakers – Theme of Technology


Jonny Cotsen

Jonny will talk about his background, the difference between BSL and captions, projects he’s worked on, the different types of captions and their relevance to the production


Background – qualified teacher, art and photography all over south wales. Facilitator for drama, and creative learning team, with youth theatre.


Community workshops and drama – accessible inclusive workshops, and a little bit of performing, passionate about access, and does some consultancy work for theatre and small organisations.


Jonny discusses the difference between hard of hearing and hearing impaired – doesn’t like the term, but doesn’t see himself as needing to be fixed. Relies on lip reading, captioning, uses an interpreter / communicator when he teaches, especially when teaching because of people who mumble


Gets lots of emails from theatres, we have a BSL interpreter, would you like to come, put it out to your networks, important to get deaf people to come to the theatre, but BSL is not JC’s language. Why aren’t they contacting me saying it is captioned? Other than Sherman, only one recent request for captioning to be advertised.



BSL – audience member will only understand about 35% of what’s going on as they want to watch the show as well as understand what’s going on. Another fact, there are 45,000 people with severe hearing loss in Wales, 751 people use BSL in Wales. So huge margin, so why are we trying to get things interpreted?


BSL is a beautiful language, but why?


Is it because it’s cheap? Is it because we’re ticking a box? Captioning is expensive – technology, there needs to be a way we can help those 45,000 people to come to the show.


Before I worked at the Sherman, I was constantly pissed off about things couldn’t happen, why cant they caption every single show, but now I know why. I understand the barriers.


There are different types of captioning:

Stage text: personally I love stagetext, can be distracting, but you get the full experience of watching theatre, rehearsals take place and the captioner takes a lot of time making sure everything is in sync. I can enjoy what’s going on on the stage. Pros and cons.


Mobile captioning: iPads and iPhones. Loved it on Candylion, had the freedom to move around the venue, big text and I was able to follow the play. Jem and Ella, had something similar, really worked for me, Jem wanted it to be fully accessible, and the play is about intimacy and it worked to have something in your hand rather than up on the stage. Deaf / Blind friends loved Jem and Ella, it was so close to them, and they could see the iPhone/iPad – stage text is too far away. Hard to know where the captioning is going to be.


Worked with Mr and Mrs Clarke, called FEAR, didn’t have any money or know how to make is accessible, so chose to make it accessible to people who were hard of hearing through movement and eye contact – put powerpoint up when he put a mask on, took a long time to put it together, talked about type setting and font, and projected on a black board, fitted in with the show. Hearing people afterwards were talking about the scripting behind the performance and how lovely it was.


Yuri – Powerpoint again, a lot of hearing friends said it was out of sync but I’m not that bothered by it. Difference between Stagetext and powerpoint, not as professional but it is cheap.


Immersive Captioning – Wendy Hoose was the first time I saw this. They actually immersive the words as part of the play around them. Hearing people lovely to see the worlds, put on the door frame. Need to have a trained technician to do this.


Script captioning – emails producer and asks for the script. JC is quite happy to have the script on his phone and read it while it’s going on in front of them. Quite surprised that if you offered it, they may take it. Issues with copyright, but cheaper.


Contacted by another theatre, Avant, found something called Swipe.to – free software similar to powerpoint, set up template, put script non it, don’t need to down load anything, send link to phone. Captioner will programme it, seen it at Cardiff Fringe Festival.


People ask me lot of things and say it is too expensive – Taking flight take on 3rd year students to help with captioning as part work experience


Think of what’s suitable for the venue


I don’t know the solution, but I know technology is evolving and it is about arts to find it and try it


Wanted to watch NTW Before I Leave, but not enough performances for me to go and see – why can’t we have the flexibility to go and see shows whenever we want? Hard for me to listen to people talking about a brilliant play, that I couldn’t go and see.


How can we work together better to make things more accessible? Talk to people and approach other people.


Jacob Gough

Jacob will discuss NTW’s work in access provision, including captioning via iPad’s

Brief description – this is to demonstrate what we developed for Candylion – a way to share a PDF script with multiple devices, working with Erika to ensure it was suitable and worked i.e text big enough etc. Meant a person could sit anywhere in the auditorium and access the captioning from wherever they were, made it very easy. What it didn’t do, was make the work before / leading up to the show that much easier – maybe that shouldn’t be the case – still need the experience and the knowledge for this to make sure it is as good as it can be.


It did mean we could run – rather than 1 or 2 shows – every show as captioned.  What we are aiming for, is that not just captioned, but AD too, is captioned and AD as default, so you know at an NTW show that it is Captioned and it is AD – A lot to do, but it is about having that objective and working towards it. Same as over the years ensuring there is wheelchair access, it has been very relevant and pushed, it should be the same for captioning and AD.


We’re on a journey of trying to find technological answers to the problem – lot of issues to make sure access is part of the show from the very beginning, will help with costs if it is right there at the beginning and factored in. I think that way we can reduce costs, better planning. JC brought up a lot of brilliant points, I.e student grads, don’t want to bypass skills or knowledge that goes into it, captioning operator is someone who can fix it and make it work.


Working together – jc mentioned it – guiding principle of this forum is to do this with people who have the interest and desire to push access forward.


This captioning equipment is actually for conferences, it’s for someone to pass out so people can see it, but it does the job. It can be taken in to what we want to do. We can adapt it. Find those bits of money to put into the research, and find the bits that work for us.


We went through attempts – tried it on 150 bilingual show – Sibwrd was the start, developed by TGC, used that to simultaneously captioning, huge performance area, trying to have one screen usually doesn’t work for us and does distract unless it is built in. It becomes an extra thing. So we bring things in and make things easy as we can. Sibwrd wasn’t quite right for Candylion, but Conference app was, simple to use, 1 ipad sends the info to all the others.


Biggest problem – script is always a very difficult one, directors / writers / actors anyone really like to change them – it is a continuous process right up until press night, so it is important to have the one person working on it. Tight time frames can be a problem. Tried a few things to make sure the wifi worked well, fairly easy to overcome issues that are techy. Expensive router was bought, but this could be overcome with smaller cheap ones. Stable wifi is needed and tested by lots of people – with lots of ipads. Other problem is building audiences – come with time as we need to make sure people know about it, in the future people will just know if we’re doing every show as it is the default. Still quite haphazard, like b4il which wasn’t captioned. We need feedback from people – we need input and the more audiences we can get the better we can make it.  Challenge is then how we do captioning and AD into the same system – is it even possible? Is it like sound and lighting operating? This is the development we are going through.


App NTW have used for iPad captioning is called Conference Pad

The team from UCAN will discuss and demonstrate their app UCAN GO – which can be downloaded before their talk for free from the iTunes Store


Demonstration -  tech was helping build our confidence, we would go to the venue with google maps but once we were there, we wanted to create the solution to our problem. We hoped technology would do this. Awarded digital grant with Nesta, we created our app UCAN GO – Indoor navigation app, allows visually impaired people to go the theatre without needing GPS or anything else


Only available on Apple ios a the moment – through the R&D we paired with WMC and Torch – first function is the overview allows you to listen to a descripton of the different spaces – WMC does all the theatres and bars – both voices and written. Hearing a human voice was a lot nicer than Siri or a robotic voice. Underneath each space there are hints and tips for what’s there – i.e access – it was really important to us to give people information that might inhibit people from making the choice to go, so that brand new customer can go


We didn’t just want to put people in sections – people have varied needs, so we stripped it back so people can find all the info they need, things like lighting, stairs and lifts, fire exits, people need to know.


To make the app as accesible as possible, everyone with sight loss has completely different needs and requirments, we have completely different conditions, but we both like white or yellow wiritng on black background but some people like black on white background, we can also alter the contrast. A lot of venues are very big, and not always in the same place, toilets can be in very different places, route takes you to the places you need.


Although we’re saying it is for people with sight loss, it works for a lot of people. The route function works with Siri, which lots of people are used to. The app asks you if you can use stairs, if you say no it takes you to the lift, also asks in metres or feet, whichever you work best with. Route function allows you to walk around the venue independently with confidence. Gives you detail of the space around you – i.e pillars in the space, if the space is changeable.


We go into the venue and map it – we find the nodes / landmarks, when you choose your destination, it gives you little landmarks along the way to break up the journey.


During R&D, Meg and I are both registered blind – this project was really unique and it was user led with actual people with sight loss. It is what made it special and successful. It wasn’t just us, we set up a steering committee and did a lot of user testing. We wouldn’t have the app we have without that, someone said they wanted to know where the fire exits were so we knew to include it. We wanted to create a solution to our own problem. We know it is actually beneficial, my dad even wants to use it so he doesn’t have to talk to people!


We are in the process of creating a new venue – Hackney Empire in London. We’re adding it in, so that will be there soon.  Came up with a line Download it, Use it, Review it. Please do, reviews help us know what works. Free to download!


Sara: This is to share ideas, solutions and ask questions, we don’t want it to be a moan about how difficult things are. So please bear that in mind. One of the things we all need to think about is audience development, everyone is so desperate to make things accessible, but still not making their websites accessible or their information accessible. So I wanted to start with that – it doesn’t matter how excellent your show is, you need to get the word out well.


Suggestion: UCAN – would be great if you could collaborate with FOH staff, maybe it would be interesting to see how this could work by connecting with people on the ground.


UCAN -  Can’t really do it unless staff are involved. WMC were really enthusiastic – same with Hackney – all builds in and helps. In terms of handing over responsibility, we need to make this scalable, and create another application for funding to employ more visually impaired people, so need to be able to update it and make changes.


Lewis – Quick question – do you see future potential in including AD into the app? Or is this separate?


UCAN – Not something we’ve thought of, but it potential


Could be a one stop shop for all things AD.


People need absolute confidence in what they’re using and it needs to work. Must be a robust standard.


It would be ideal for it to be accessible and unique to each user.


It is very clear how highly individual these apps need to be – the fact you can turn things off and it is multi layered is great


That’s the thing with accessibility – one thing won’t suit all, so need to give the user the option is the easiest way. Give people back the control.


Development and costs for Android – Apple and ios was the most difficult, and Apple was most accessible.


Erika = Full time access provider. Captioning – want to raise a couple of points. Not all captioning suits all venues, it may not suit your venue or production – sitting next to someone who’s tweeting is irritating, might not be great to have a hand in screen.


Trained Captioner would have an immaculate caption script, grammatically and laid out correctly – it needs to be easy to read. That is where the captioner comes in, needs to be easy to read. Money comes in – can take 40-50 hours to create a correct captioning script – people will complain! iPads and so on, work fantastically for promenade and outdoor, keep that in mind.


Sharing of scripts – things aren’t ironed out with copyright, Im happy to share my captioning script, but must understand the copyright lies with the person that wrote it.


Jacob – JC likes getting the script, Jacob learnt that the other day about Snapchat and apparently it deletes after a certain amount of time – could this be a technology we use that we provide scripts for a certain amount of time? Able to access during the show but it’s deleted after.


Lewis – could there be a central point where we know where everything is and what’s available? Similar to stage text.


Guidelines for websites from RNIB

Hynt also holds a lot of information


Jake – Worked with Taking Flight last year, is the system useable? Does it work? Integrated AD. Characters are in the play, and do Stage Management, and they Audio Describe.


Romeo and Juliet is one of their best. TF had an idea of using a 1960s screen, and gave some training, but outdoor with the glare it didn’t work. Loads of respect for TF and what they use with integrated access. You can’t always make something integrated or accessible to everyone. Jonny is always happy to look at something on a mobile.


Julia – point about exploring new technologies, but there is a massive piece of work to do with communicating with audiences. Going back to ucan, anything within the app that can show what’s coming up and how best we can spread the word?


UCAN – at the moment, nothing is live, but there is more about accessible performances and info about what the venue does in general. There is a link to the website, and a phone number. Would be a good option to add in timetables. People just need to know where they can go to find the information rather than searching for hours.


Jacob = Is there any website that collates?


Hynt – explanation



In Sept, as part of Roald Dahl Centenary weekend called COTU – Takes a steer from Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected


Huge undertaking – Saturday, animate the city to make it unexpected with interventions, performances, stories etc. happening right across the city. The stories will move through the city. Sunday, there will be lots in Bute park, picnic and pyjamas, stage for performances, installations.


One of the other big aspects is mass participation – around 6000 people taking part everywhere around Cardiff. There will also be readings in interesting locations.


Access: What we want to achieve and if people think that is appropriate, if there are suggestions, or if anyone wants to offer help.


We want to have audio described journeys, people will be able to sign up in advance and have clear information and signposting / ushering so people can follow them. There isn’t a lot of script, so there won’t be much to caption, but there will be BSL interpretation on big screens. All visual, no script in much.


There will be raised platforms dotted around the city. There will be large crowds, so these can be used for a variety of reasons.


We want to have touch tours, so people can interact with the performance.


Advice, help, all is welcome.


Palantyping? What are you doing for people who don’t understand BSL? Live captioning – speech to text would need to happen. But there isn’t a huge amount of text – what text there is could be captioned or palantyped.


Incorporated into the design? What are the most important bits? Could they just be up in a certain designed way? Could it be part of the narrative / whole?


Use text system for access messaging? Use BSL and captioned videos to describe where things are? Use social media to direct people? Signpost where the AD is and how to access it.


Find creative ways to AD – make it exciting and something everyone might listen to, incorporate it into the show. Embed the AD into the body of the script.


Is it possible to give a picture of where things are? Treat it like a treasure hunt? Make it fun and exciting.


With personal devices, most people have adapted their device to help them access it so most of the time people can access what they’re sent.




If anyone has any sparks or thoughts, or would like to talk further please contact Jacob – jacobgough@nationaltheatrewales.org


Please share what’s on, report back on it! Give us feedback and share the learning.


File here incase you can't find it through scrolling down


Hi all,

Here are the notes taken during the Jo Verrent Access forum. These were quickly scribbled by me, so apologies if anything doesn't make perfect sense!



Here is the transcript for the Dementia Friendly Access Forum on 18 October

Hope you all find it useful!

For further info on being Dementia Friendly, chat to Blackwood Miners' Institute, Dementia Friends, Alzheimer's Society, or download West Yorkshire Playhouse's Dementia Friendly Performance Guide.




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