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Audio description of classic NZ play

6 October 2010 Blind and visually impaired people in the Wellington region get the chance this month to experience a performance of one of New Zealand's iconic playwrights.

An audio description of a performance of Bruce Mason’s The Pohutukawa Tree by students at Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School is being provided at Te Whaea Theatre on Wednesday October 27 at 6.30pm.

Audience members will hear a live commentary of the performance through wireless one-ear receivers linked to a describer in a soundproof box at the rear of the theatre.

Production manager Sarah Adams said the initiative is in response to approaches from the Wellington branch of the Association of Blind Citizens New Zealand for theatres to make productions more accessible to visually impaired people.

“We did a lot of research into the best way to provide an audio description and received valuable advice from Mary Schnackenberg, who is very experienced in the field.”

Mary worked for the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind for more than 35 years, managing talking book studios and transcription services and introducing adaptive technology services.

The audio description system being used for The Pohutukawa Tree is similar to the translation technology used at international conferences.

Sarah said the Wellington branch of the Association of Blind Citizens has been very helpful, and will be providing advice during rehearsals.

“We’re having to consider lots of things I wouldn’t have thought of without their help, such as how to publicise an event to blind people, how to get visually impaired audience members into the theatre, and how to accommodate guide dogs.

“The programme will be read out before the performance, and we’re also hoping to have it printed in Braille.”

 
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