Chipping Norton Theatre
Disabled Access Policy
For the purposes of this policy, the term disability is used in the broadest sense – broadly speaking: “A physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day to day activities.”
We have applied the term ‘user’ to describe anyone who might wish to work with us, use our services or participate in an activity. It includes staff, volunteers, paying and casual visitors.
This policy pertains to all events hosted at The Theatre. Events produced and promoted by The Theatre at other venues will operate as close to this policy as venue restrictions allow, and all changes will be made clearly visible in promotional material. This policy does not pertain to external events by outside producers where tickets are sold via The Theatre box office. Please refer to Part Four for details of access to our participatory sessions and workshops.
We believe that everyone should be able to access and enjoy arts and culture, and that we should make as much of our programme accessible to as many people as possible. It is our job to make every reasonable adjustment to what we offer and the way that we work to ensure that nobody is excluded as the result of a disability. It is not someone’s impairment that creates barriers, it is the way that society fails to respond to more diverse needs.
This policy is designed as a basic grounding. The point is not to limit access through a rigid set of rules, but rather encourage flexibility and open-mindedness in how we deal with any access requirements we come up against.
This policy is worthless unless it is combined with:
- Good staff training, especially for front of house staff, to encourage best practice in dealing with users with access requirements.
- A helpful and positive attitude where any barrier to inclusion is seen as The Theatre’s shortcoming and not that of the user.
- A determination not just to accommodate the access requirements of the user, but to do so without causing embarrassment or self-consciousness on the part of the user.
- A belief that it is better to welcome someone safely to our venue than to prevent them because they don’t fit our rules, even if this means bending those rules.
The Theatre retains the right to refuse admission to any customer if their admission contravenes the conditions of our license and/or poses a higher than acceptable risk to other users.
An important note on planned changes:
We are developing a new system, with our Box Office providers, that will allow users with Access needs to book online (including wheelchair spaces, companion seats and free carer tickets). This will be an ‘Access Register’ system that allows users, if they choose, to register their requirements on our box office system. This information will be retained and will allow The Theatre to cater more individually to any individual access requirements. We anticipate that we will begin operating this system in Summer 2019, at which point this policy will be updated to reflect the changes.
We are currently undertaking staff training around Disability Awareness, and plan to work with West Oxfordshire District Council towards the achievement of their Inclusivity Award
Part One – Booking Tickets and preparing for your visit
Users with access requirements are invited to book in-person or by phone in order to discuss their requirements with Box Office staff. Our box office is open Mon-Fri 10am-6pm (10-1 on Wednesday) and 10 – 2 on Saturday and can be reached on 01608 642350 during those hours. Wheelchair spaces and their companion seats are not currently bookable online (see note above re planned changes).
As a matter of policy, The Theatre will not ask for evidence or proof of disability status unless specific evidence of abuse/misuse occurs.
The Theatre offers the opportunity to attend a pre visit to familiarise yourself with the building. You will have the chance to view the auditorium including your specific seat, if already booked, as well as our other facilities. There will also be a member of staff on hand to answer any questions you may have. To book a visit, please email [email protected].
If you are unable to make it here in person, you may find our Visual Story useful – visit our website to access.
Booking for Carers/Personal Assistants:
The Theatre will provide a free ticket for a Carer or Personal Assistant when the visitor’s disability or impairment means that they wouldn’t be able to attend the event without the active support of another person. This will apply to all events at the theatre or promoted by the theatre, but not necessarily to external events where tickets are sold via The Theatre Box Office. This does not include parents accompanying children except in the case of access requirements. Free tickets are given at the discretion of The Theatre, and on occasion, we may require proof of disability. Those unable to provide evidence on request will be reviewed on a case by case basis.
Carer tickets are not currently bookable online – please visit the Box Office during opening hours or call 01608 642350.
We will make this access policy available on our website, as well as giving detailed information of each of our access programmes. This information will be kept up to date and accurate. We will work with our website provider to ensure that the website is as access friendly as reasonably possible.
Alternative Brochure Formats:
We will offer a large print and audio format brochure by request to [email protected] These alternative format brochures should be available within 5 working days of the request being made.
The Theatre will provide a ‘Visual Story’ to help users with a variety of special needs (especially those on the autistic spectrum) prepare for their visit. This will be made available on our website, and printed copies available by request from the box office or front of house staff. We may, from time to time, prepare specific visual stories for individual productions.
If you have a food allergy and would like to know more about the products we sell, please email [email protected]. All sweets and ice cream sold are provided by professional suppliers and ingredients are labelled on packaging. As a public building, we also cannot control food brought into the building by other audience members. Some Duty Management staff at The Theatre are trained in the use of epi-pens and similar equipment.
Part Two – Physical Access to and around our buildings
Regrettably, due to its location in a residential street, The Theatre does not control access to any parking, disabled or otherwise. There are disabled parking bays in the town centre car park, Albion Street car park and New Street car park, all of which are only a short distance away.
Access to the venue:
Flat floor access to the bar and auditorium is available via the door directly into the bar (on 4 Spring Street – next door to the main theatre doors). A ramped pavement gives flat access from street level. This door should be unlocked during all public performances – outside of these times a doorbell is provided. Front of House staff will endeavour to man this door when any wheelchairs are per-booked. Any user entering through this door should be offered additional staff assistance to reach the bar, toilets or auditorium, particularly on occasions when the bar is busy.
Flat floor access (small ramp) to the daytime box office is available via the Goddards Lane entrance.
Flat floor access to the stage and backstage areas is via the Goddards Lane entrance. There are some small bumps and a single step, for which there is a fold-out ramp. Box Office and Stage Management staff should be on-hand to put this step in place.
There is a disabled toilet near the bar and stalls in the front of house area. This also contains baby change facilities. We recognise that this toilet is there for all who need it - not all disabilities are visible.
There is an Accessible Toilet next door to the Green Room backstage.
We have four designated wheelchair spaces in the auditorium, each with a neighbouring pair of companion seats. Please note that a wheelchair space does not contain a seat, so anyone booking a wheelchair space will not be provided with a seat. As a small auditorium that often sells out our events, we aren’t in a position to hold onto all of these spaces until the event is full. Wheelchair spaces and companion seats will be released for sale to the general public on the following basis:
- The first 2 pairs will be held until at least 50% of the seats in the auditorium have been sold.
- The remaining 2 pairs will be held until at least 75% of the seats in the auditorium have been sold.
Wheelchair spaces cannot currently be booked online (see part one in this document).
All performances in our auditorium will make allowance for wheelchairs, including in-the-round, cabaret or standing events. Any rare exception will be clearly indicate on the website and in our season brochure. Only the stalls have level access - there are no lifts in our period building, so the auditorium balcony, the gallery, the space and the rehearsal room can currently only be accessed via a staircase.
Our bar and both of our box offices have a lowered counter area for the benefit of wheelchair users. The daytime Box Office in Goddards Lane has flat access with a couple of small ridges. The tightest doorway for access to the auditorium is 96cm wide.
Transferring from a Wheelchair into a standard seat:
We will accommodate users who wish to transfer from a wheelchair to a regular theatre seat on a common sense basis. For their own safety and that of their follow audience members, we ask that anyone transferring from a wheelchair or other mobility aid is able to evacuate themselves safely from the auditorium without use of mobility aids (a walk of around twenty metres). This may include the support of a companion or Personal Assistant if booked in a neighbouring seat. If the customer is unable to evacuate themselves without the help of Theatre staff, we would advise them to book a wheelchair space. Theatre staff will assist in the removal and storage of wheelchairs and mobility aids into the bar area during the event.
To ensure your comfort, we ask that anyone wishing to transfer from a wheelchair to a seat discusses this with Box Office in advance. Generally we would aim to offer seats at the end of a row to make this possible. Please do not book a wheelchair space if you would prefer to transfer to a seat as a seat may not be provided. Deciding to transfer from a wheelchair to a chair does not exclude you from booking wheelchair spaces in the future.
Mobility vehicles and other access aids
Users are welcome to bring Mobility vehicles, though in most cases these will not be admitted to the auditorium itself (except powered wheelchairs). They will be stored outside the front of the theatre or in the theatre bar depending on available space.
Assistance dogs are welcome at The Theatre and can be taken into the auditorium during the performance or looked after by a member of staff. Please advise the Box Office upon booking of any particular requirements you may wish us to make to accommodate your dog. Where possible, we will aim to offer users with assistance dogs an aisle seat.
Part Three - Making our events accessible
From time to time we offer performances or screenings that are offered in a way that may be more accessible to audience members with particular disabilities. Not all of the below will apply to every event at or promoted by The Theatre. When planning, producing or promoting an event with particular restrictions, or in a different venue, Theatre staff should take every reasonable effort to consider access requirements at an early stage, and Box Office staff should always be well informed on the relevant details before that event is promoted.
The Theatre has a magnetic induction loop that connects to any microphones or speakers for the hard of hearing. The loop does not operate effectively in the theatre balcony, so users should book a stalls seat (we are currently fundraising to improve this system). For more information please contact our Box Office Team on 01608 642350 who will be more than happy to assist you.
We offer occasional BSL signed performances of live shows. All signed performances will be advertised in our brochure and on our website.
Our current Access and Inclusion Plan aims to increase the number and regularity of our signed performance offer.
We offer occasional captioned performances of live shows. All captioned performances will be advertised in our brochure and on our website.
Our current Access and Inclusion Plan aims to increase the number and regularity of our captioned performance offer and raise funds for the purchase of our own captioning equipment.
We offer occasional audio-described live performances. These performances use a live narrator to describe the action on stage, as well as describing costumes, set and any visual effects. All audio-described performances in our venues will be advertised in our brochure and on our website.
Our current Access and Inclusion Plan aims to increase the number and regularity of our audio-described performance offer and raise funds for the purchase of our own audio-description equipment.
We offer occasional touch tours for our live performances, allowing blind or partially sighted audience members to engage more fully with the theatre experience. Customers will explore the space, and may like to handle selected props, costumes and furniture. Touch tours usually last approximately 30 minutes. All touch tours will be advertised in the season brochure and on our website.
Our current Access and Inclusion Plan aims to increase the number and regularity of our touch tour offer.
Relaxed performances and Screenings
We offer a range of performances and screenings that are designed for audience members who might find a standard theatre environment stressful or problematic. This might include those living with dementia or autism. For these events the auditorium lights are kept on throughout the performance, the doors remain open, and audience members can feel free to come in and out as they please. We serve complimentary tea and coffee in the bar area, and tickets for carers are free.
Part Four – Making our activities and workshops accessible
The Theatre aims to make as many of our regular classes and workshops accessible to those with disabilities or additional needs, although in some instances we are hampered by the restrictions of our building.
Wheelchair and limited mobility:
Unfortunately, many of our workshops and classes take place in rooms at The Theatre which can only be accessed by stairs. This makes these sessions impractical for wheelchair users as there is no lift access. To discuss access for yourself or another user with limited mobility, please contact [email protected]
A number of our regular classes meet in outreach venues, where wheelchair access is possible. These include Youth Musical Theatre (5+ years and 7+ years,) Street Dance and Chipping Norton Singers.
Learning Disabilities and Autistic Spectrum:
People with learning disabilities are welcome to attend all of our classes and workshops. Users or their families are encouraged to pass on as much information as possible to our Box Office team at the point of booking, ensuring that tutors/workshop leaders accommodate users’ needs when preparing activities. Members of the Take Part team may contact bookers to discuss further. Our goal is to encourage as full engagement and integration as possible, and a comfortable and unselfconscious atmosphere.
Carers and other Disabilities:
In addition, we welcome users with all disabilities not listed above, including d/Deaf and visually impaired participants, though please note that our workshop leaders are not, as a rule, BSL trained. Please discuss any special needs with Box Office when making your booking and we will work with you to accommodate you.
Personal assistants/carers attend the sessions/workshops free of charge, although The Theatre is unable to provide personal assistants or personal care.
Assistance Dogs are welcome at all Take Part participatory events.
Please contact [email protected] to discuss any allergies that might affect a participant of our activities. We will ensure all responsible staff are aware of allergies, and will do our best to make other participants aware and encourage sensitivity around any food that they bring in or share.
Part Five – Training and Feedback
We aim to ensure that all our contracted customer facing staff (Box Office and Duty Management) will have undertaken external disability awareness training within their first year of working with us. We will offer free training to casual staff and volunteers (eg volunteer ushers, bar staff) and ensure that they are properly briefed on this policy by Department Heads.
This is an evolving policy, connected with our Access and Inclusion workplan. We would love to hear feedback on your experiences with us, good and bad, to help us to ensure we are covering everything we should be. Please email [email protected] or call Jo Robinson, Head of Operations on 01608 642349