“We work with theatres like the Abbey Theatre, visual art galleries like Butler Gallery, Kilkenny, and cinemas like the Irish Film Institute to support them to provide audio description for their audiences”, says Amie Lawless. “Arts & Disability Ireland actively promotes inclusive experiences for audiences with disabilities and we do that by working in partnership with many venues and arts organisations across Ireland.
Amie explains, “Our longest standing partnership for audiences with disabilities is with the Abbey Theatre. Although the list of theatres that we work with around the country grows every year. Audio description is delivered live for theatre. The audience is given a headset at box office and the audio description is delivered by our two experienced audio describers Bríd Ní Ghruagáin and Máirín Harte. They give audiences information about what’s happening on stage in between the dialogue during the performance. Beforehand the audio describers will read programme notes that describe the set, characters and costumes. Sometimes we get the chance to give touch tours before performances. A touch tour is guided tour on stage where an audio describer will walk people around the set and give them props or costumes to explore through touch”.
In partnership with the Butler Gallery, A&D Ireland worked with Discovery Pens to make exhibitions accessible to visitors who are blind or visually impaired. On arrival, the staff at the Butler Gallery show visitors how to use the Discovery Pens and can guide people around the space if they wish.
The pens scan labels on the walls of the gallery and play audio through a speaker that gives visitors audio descriptions of the art works and texts on display. Alongside this, visitors can hear the artist and curator explain how they make their work and where the ideas for the exhibition come from.
Sometimes A&D Ireland gets the chance to work with visual artists before their exhibition opens to gather touch materials that can be made available to visitors.
From May 2016 the Irish Film Institute have been programming audio described cultural films where possible. They aim to programme one film with audio description per month. Headphones are available at box office and staff at the Irish Film Institute are happy to show you how they work. These specially designed headphones receive a narration of the film which describe the visual elements of the scenes on screen.
“We’ve ended up in the most unusual situations preparing our audio described events for audiences”, says Amie. “From audio describers rifling through costume departments to picking set designer’s brains. From recording visual artists in the tower of a castle, to squeezing into unusual nooks and crannies of venues to find space to deliver. From dangling equipment out of tech box windows to make sure it works, to touching lifelike elephant head masks on stage. From explaining unbiased descriptions such as ‘middle aged man who is slightly overweight and balding’ for the actor in question, to quizzing technical managers about sealed windows in tech boxes. Ultimately it takes hours of studious and diligent preparation to level the playing field for audiences who find the service useful. Our greatest reward is when you laugh along or gasp with the rest of the audience, at the same time!
“As you can see we enjoy working in partnership with people to produce audio described events. With the support of Arts Council we will continue to review how we can provide better access for audiences. If you have any feedback for us on any of the audio description services we provide we’d love to hear from you”.
How can I find out about audio described events?
The ‘What’s On’ section of our website is the best place for information on audio described events. www.adiarts.ie/whats-on/
You can subscribe to our monthly email newsletter by emailing email@example.com.
Or you can subscribe to our text update service. Text ACCESSARTS to 51444 to receive free SMS text information about upcoming performances. Please include your full name and ‘audio description’.
Upcoming audio described events in Dublin*
Theatre: Anna Karenina at the Abbey Theatre, Saturday 14th January, 2pm.
Visual Art: A Different Republic at The LAB, Foley Street, runs until 5th February.
Cinema: Monthly screenings at the IFI are announced here
*Events do happen outside of Dublin, please check our website for updates!
For more information about our audio described events contact: Amie Lawless, Artist and Audience Manager, Arts & Disability Ireland on firstname.lastname@example.org or 01 8509006.