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Accessibility At The Heart Of ANZ Funding At BATS

Live art is for everyone, and thanks to ANZ, access to live art at BATS is going even further.

Those who are d/Deaf, blind or have low vision, or who can’t physically make it into the theatre, can now enjoy even more live art via live streaming, captioning and audio description thanks to funding from ANZ Staff Foundation.

With this generous support BATS will work with up to ten productions between May and July this year. BATS wants to do better to support disabled artists and their community, not only increasing accessibility to creative work but by championing work made by and for d/Deaf and disabled communities.

BATS CEO, Jonty Hendry, expressed enthusiasm about the project, saying, "Theatre has the power to unite and uplift, and it is our responsibility as artists to ensure that the live theatre experience is accessible to everyone. With the support of ANZ, we are proud to take a significant step towards creating a more inclusive and diverse cultural landscape."

Broadcasting theatre in real time and on demand helps to bring a sense of closeness and connection to those who can't be physically with us. It also breaks down barriers to inclusion through accessibility issues. The BATS Digital Delivery has shown us that live theatre can be inclusive and it can get to everyone given the right equipment, specialist skills and support.

For those who are d/Deaf or hard-of-hearing, BATS is committed to providing a comprehensive experience through real-time captioning. Depending on the production, live captions will be displayed on stage or over live streaming. To make it a comprehensive experience the captions allow viewers to follow the dialogue and the action of the live theatre show simultaneously.

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Helen Vivienne Fletcher is a disabled Wellington based writer and theatre artist. Helen will be bringing her production Confessions of a Sleepwalking Insomniac to the BATS stage in June. The show will not only have a New Zealand Sign Language Interpreter but because of the ANZ funding audio description and live streaming with captioning will also be included. “The disability community is a close-knit group. As a disabled theatre practitioner, it can be really hard knowing that your production might exclude your friends. With tight budgets, you can end up having to choose which group to exclude, as you can only afford to provide for one type of access needs. Finding out about the ANZ Staff Foundation funding was such a joy. I’m so excited to create this show knowing that everyone will be able to attend.” Helen says.

Recognising the unique needs of the blind and low vision community, BATS will also be including some audio described performances. Audio description is a narrated commentary for blind and low vision audience members. The audio describer gives descriptions of the visual elements. In a live theatre show, in between the dialogue or songs, the audio describer narrates what’s happening on stage like the costumes, the set design and where it’s set, body language, facial expression, movements on the stage by the performers. The audio describer’s narration is transmitted to wireless receivers and headsets worn by the audience members. It doesn’t impact the experience for other audience members.

This exciting initiative has been made possible through the generous support of the ANZ Staff Foundation. Their commitment to accessibility and inclusion has empowered BATS Theatre to make a firm commitment to redefining what is possible in the world of live theatre.

BATS invites audiences, both local and global, to join in this accessible experience. Keep an eye out on the BATS website for all the shows that include audio description and/or live streaming and captioning.

For more information, here’s a page with additional info about the Foundation:

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