This week Hearing Loss LIVE! welcomes Natalie Keezer, Accessibility Coordinator for the Salt Lake Acting Company (SLAC), as our guest.
Natalie Keezer has a Master of Arts Degree in Theatre from Idaho State University and is a graduate of The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre Training Program in Los Angeles. She relocated to Salt Lake City in 2014 and is inspired by the amazing theatre community in Utah. Natalie loves working at Salt Lake Acting Company and is incredibly grateful to be involved in the important work that is being done there.
If anyone is interested in attending an open-captioned performance at SLAC, you can email Natalie at firstname.lastname@example.org and mention Hearing Loss LIVE! for tickets.
Chelle: My husband used to go to the Salt Lake Acting Company (SLAC) plays before we got together. We tried once after I moved to Salt Lake but it was not a good experience without captions. When Vicki Turner of Turner Reporting & Captioning let Hearing Loss LIVE! know an upcoming play was going to be captioned last November, I jumped at the chance to go. Another Hard of Hearing friend went with me.
It was wonderful and such a fun play with lots of laughter. Because the captions are so close to the spoken word, we laughed when everyone else did. We had full participation!
If you didn’t see our podcast with Vicki in November, watch it to learn how theater captioning is done. A lot of work done before the show makes the show the best experience for those of us with hearing loss. You will see why it’s so close to spoken word.
Natalie Keezer of SLAC joined us for a podcast to talk about their new accessibility features. She explained the pandemic shut down had hidden blessings. While closed to the public, they researched grants to make the theater more accessible and attended various training sessions on disabilities. They had included ASL performances in the past, with reopening last fall, they included captions, audio descriptive and sensory performances as well.
When we asked her how many came to the accessible performances she said they don’t count that. It’s not about how many come because that would be asking people to disclose their disability. They provide accessible performances through grants and donations so it’s there for the people who want to come. That gives me goosebumps. How we wish other theaters/venues thought this way! We think SLAC is a model for accessibility.
Watch our podcast with Natalie available on March 21st. Share this podcast with your local community theater and see if they might become more accessible too. If they want to learn more about how theater captioning works, share the Vicki podcast link above with them too.
In February, Julia and I watched the play Egress together. This play was a little more on the serious side but had its laughs too, with me laughing alongside Julia. I’ll get a season ticket, they make it so easy.
Michele: Often, finding accessibility information on websites is like navigating a maze. Looking around the Salt Lake Acting Company website, I appreciate that they feature an Accessible to All link right on their homepage. In addition, there are two other locations where you can click on links that take you to their Patron Accessibility page. There, you will find an Upcoming Accessible Shows section with a button to View all accessible shows. Each show has a Details button that tells you exactly what date, time, and type of auxiliary aid is offered—Open-Captioned, Audio Described, Sensory, or ASL Interpreted Performance.
I agree with Chelle, it is awesome that SLAC offers such a variety of accessible performances and doesn’t track how many people with disabilities attend. With movie theaters, their complaint has always been that they provide captioning devices and no one uses them. I think this might be the first time I’ve encountered a venue making accessible performances available simply because they want to include everyone. Of course the more people with disabilities that take advantage of the opportunity to attend an accessible performance, the better.
I love this statement on the SLAC website: “SLAC is committed to ensuring accessibility for people with disabilities and removing all barriers to ensure our theatre is a welcoming space for every person.” It inspires me to approach my local theatres again to encourage them to become a welcoming space for every person.
Julia: Let me offer a few questions to consider on being accessible.
- What state and federal grants can you apply for to assist with disability accommodations? Not just building accommodations, ALL accommodations.
- Do you have a patron you can collaborate and fundraise with (like Amberlee Accessibility Fund that helped SLAC)?
- What is your tax benefit to offer better AND equal accommodations?
- Have you made room to grow your audience. This is not a question, by the way. I put a period because, c’mon man, I’m a business owner and we all know there is always room to grow.
- Have you requested accommodation access for your disability?
- Can you help set up a fundraiser?
- When a venue is accessible, do you share with friends and family far and wide so they too can experience and share with others?
Salt Lake Acting Company is proof that if we all work together equal access for all is a reality.
Watch our companion podcast with Natalie Keezer of Salt Lake Acting Company.