Arts News Singapore

More Accessibility Features at Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay as it celebrates its 20th anniversary

Making sure that the arts is accessible to and embraced by diverse communities in Singapore, is always at the heart of Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay’s work. This October, as the centre celebrates its 20th anniversary, it will roll out a series of new accessibility features to welcome patrons of all ages and abilities.

Esplanade will pilot Relaxed Environment (RE) performances at Octoburst! 2022—a fun-filled day of performances and activities for little ones in celebration of Children’s Day on 7 Oct 2022. Unlike the usual house rules that require audiences to remain as quiet as they can during performances, patrons attending RE performances can make a noise, leave and return to their seat or access the toilets during the performance. This year’s line-up places a greater focus on providing access to children with mobility challenges. There will be self-guided hunt for the ever-loveable PIP around the centre which utilises wheelchair-accessible locations and a follow-along dance performance at the Esplanade Concourse during which children who require the use of a wheelchair will be able to participate along as well.

From January 2023, we will progressively introduce RE performances at all Esplanade Presents programmes that are targeted at children, families and seniors. This is in addition to all our daily free performances at public spaces like the Concourse and Outdoor Theatre, which have generally been presented as RE performances since the centre’s opening in 2002. From 2024, Esplanade aims to have a majority of Esplanade Presents festivals and programmes as RE performances.

Said Ms Grace Low, Head, Customer and Community Engagement and Lead, Accessibility Taskforce, The Esplanade Co Ltd, “Esplanade’s vision to be a centre for everyone has continued to guide us as we make our next steps for accessibility. Being a venue where persons of all abilities feel welcome and are comfortable is important to us. We recognise that introducing a Relaxed Environment for indoor performance venues will take some time for general audiences to get used to, but we believe that the arts and Esplanade can play a bigger role in embracing inclusivity and engaging those who face challenging circumstances in life. As we continue our journey to becoming even more accessible as an arts centre, we look forward to the continued support from our patrons, the arts community and social service agencies to advocate greater accessibility and inclusion in the arts for people of different abilities, especially among our young and seniors.”

During a Relaxed Environment (RE) performance, audiences are able to leave and return to their seat or access the toilets during the performance. This would most benefit patrons with dementia, anxiety, Tourette’s, bowel and bladder conditions, an autism spectrum condition, or a learning disability. RE performances have no modifications made to the performance. All RE performances at Esplanade will allow for free-and-easy entry and exit into the venue, so patrons who arrive after the performance has started can also enter the venue at any point. Pre-show announcements, signage at the door and advisories on our website will also reflect and explain what RE at Esplanade will entail. Esplanade staff including ushers, security officers and volunteers will also receive the relevant training and briefings on how to manage RE performances.

At the brand new Singtel Waterfront Theatre (SWT), which will officially welcome its first audiences from October, considerations have been made in the design of the theatre to support hosting of persons with disabilities including patrons on wheelchairs. The provisions made in accordance to Singapore’s code and standards for building for accessibility. The seats in this mid-sized, multi-format theatre can be removed for wheelchair positions, many of which will be located at the main auditorium level that will have barrier-free access from street level. Assistive Listening—audio input or any electronic sound source feeds into an infrared transmitter and the signal is picked up by the patrons’ infrared receiver—is also available at SWT.

Where feasible and appropriate, captioning, sign language interpretation, assistive listening and more will be actively considered and applied for Esplanade Presents performances. Recently, productions at The Studios featured Audio Description (AD), Singapore Sign Language (SgSL) and Open Captioning (OC). In November, The Donmar Warehouse Production of Blindness which takes place on the stage of the Esplanade Theatre will also offer Audio Description (AD). This performance is also Wheelchair Accessible (WA) for patrons who require the use of a wheelchair.

Launched in June this year, Esplanade’s revamped website is guided by key accessibility principles (colour contrast, text size and consistent navigation) of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Level AA. Individual listings of programmes that have accessibility features are reflected as Access Symbols. Wayfinding and access guides will also be made available on the Esplanade website for patrons to view and prepare in advance for their visit.

Since November 2021, Esplanade has been working closely with SG Enable, the focal agency for disability and inclusion in Singapore, on several areas of partnership regarding accessibility. SG Enable will be training Esplanade staff and volunteers on providing disability-friendly customer service as a public education effort under the i’mable initiative, sharing tips and resources on organising inclusive events. Esplanade has also worked closely with SG Enable to gather feedback on accessible facilities and programming, as well as on e-accessibility user trials involving SG Enable’s accessibility team, prior to the launch of the new website.

Said Mr Ron Loh, Assistant Chief Executive, SG Enable, “In line with the Enabling Masterplan 2030 recommendations, we believe physical and social environments ought to be accessible and inclusive for persons with disabilities as they are integral members of society. We are glad to embark on this partnership with Esplanade, and welcome other like-minded partners to join us in building a more inclusive Singapore.

Other access partners that Esplanade works closely with include the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC), Dementia Singapore, Singapore Association for the Deaf (SADeaf) and more. To commemorate World Alzheimer’s Day, Esplanade will be one of the landmarks that will be illuminated in purple and yellow on 21 Sep 2022. This light-up is in support of Dementia Singapore’s efforts to raise awareness for the condition of dementia and the people impacted by it.

Since December 2021, Esplanade has been the first dementia-friendly arts venue in Singapore and a Dementia Go-To Point. Dementia Go-To Points (GTPs) are touch points within the community that serve as resource centres to provide information and useful resources on dementia and link those who need help with the relevant dementia-related services. GTPs also serve as “safe return” points where members of the public can bring persons with dementia who may appear lost and are unable to identify themselves or their way home.

All Esplanade Presents programmes that offer concessions have ticket concessions for persons with disabilities (PWDs), including but not limited to those with developmental, intellectual or physical disabilities. This concession for PWDs can also be utilised by one accompanying companion.

A priority queue for seniors and PWDs is located at the Esplanade Box Office and Information Counter at the Mezzanine level of the centre. Besides offering priority access to those who require it, the wider lane provides more comfortable access for persons who require a wheelchair.

All of Esplanade’s PLAYtime! series are Relaxed Performances (RP) and calming spaces/huts are set up either inside the performance venue or right outside at the foyer, for patrons who need to take a break. An RP provides a welcoming and relaxed environment for children who are on the autism spectrum or have sensory sensitivities. Special modifications are incorporated into the performance to make it relaxed. Similar to an RE performance, audience members may also freely enter and exit the theatre space during an RP.

Visit www.esplanade.com/accessibility for more information on the centre’s services and accessibility efforts. More details on ticket concessions available here Reach out to Esplanade’s Relationship Management team at partners@esplanade.com if you would like to come on board to support the centre’s accessibility initiatives.

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