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7 March 2013

I honestly can’t remember a time when there have been so many arts accessibility and inclusion projects and developments to let In Touch readers know about. There’s a lot for you to read about in this month’s issue.

Richard Benge, Claire Noble and Wendy YouensIt was great to receive a visit by Wendy Youens, CEO of Able, New Zealand’s television captioning and audio description service based in Auckland and fully funded by NZ On Air. Arts Access Aotearoa is inspired by the standard and capacity of Able’s captioning and audio description services for broadcast.

Interestingly, the Dunedin Fringe Festival from 13 to 23 March will feature the first New Zealand example of captioning for theatre in MilkMilkLemonade. It’s no surprise that the play is directed by leading audio describer Anna Henare. Anna and Experience Access Trust are also driving the captioning.

Dunedin and Auckland have committed teams exemplifying best practice in providing audio description for live performance. Blind patrons of Dunedin’s Fortune Theatre and THE EDGE in Auckland have enjoyed regular performances of plays and musicals in recent years.

Circa Theatre provided an audio described performance of Mother Goose in 2013In Wellington, Toi Whakaari: New Zealand Drama School and then Circa Theatre have presented audio described performances but there’s no pool of professional describers in the capital.

However, that’s about to change. Thanks to a grant from Wellington City Council, Arts Access Aotearoa is offering a three-day training workshop to develop audio describers, beginning this weekend at Toi Whakaari.

The New Zealand Festival 2014 in Wellington until 16 March has made great improvements to its accessibility in this festival. Its website and programme have clear access information about venues and facilities and excitingly, there are six sign interpreted events. Read more about the festival's accessibility.

"A fantastic initiative"

MP Mojo Mathers has added her appreciation, commenting that NZSL interpretation in the 2014 festival represents an important step towards full accessibility. “This is a fantastic initiative. Providing interpreters across a range of shows is an inclusive move that provides much more choice for the Deaf community.”

Auslan tutors Alex Jones and Della Goswell In February, THE EDGE hosted a workshop aimed specifically at upskilling Sign Language interpreters in interpreting for theatre and musicals. In building the capacity of interpreters, there are more options for Deaf audiences to enjoy live theatre.

Congratulations to Suzanne Cowan, Auckland choreographer and dancer with Touch Compass, who has won three awards recognising her research and work in the fields of contemporary dance and disability. Suzanne’s work, "Pharmakos", featured in the New Zealand Festival programme: another tick for the festival and a plus for audiences who got to see this Touch Compass performance on the Wellington waterfront.

Beyond the code

Good news out of Christchurch is that the Isaac Theatre Royal is set to open in October. Completely rebuilding the auditorium has given the theatre’s management and architects the opportunity to go beyond the code in providing access. For the first time, patrons using wheelchairs will have access to two levels of what will be a stunning theatre for Christchurch.

It’s clear that accessible projects and events are happening all around New Zealand. It’s a buzz because of the many champions who have worked steadily and strategically over a long time to get to this point. Momentum doesn’t just happen: it builds.

One final thing. The annual Big ‘A’ Awards have a new name – the Arts Access Awards. Hope you like it.  It was time to change the name to align them more closely with Arts Access Aotearoa and its purpose – increasing access to the arts. You have until next Friday, 14 March, to submit your nominations. More information here.

 

 

Accessibility all around New Zealand

 
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