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Sadler's Wells Access for All Scheme

March 30, 2022

Sadler's Wells Theatre ticket office

We believe everyone should have access to dance. So, we’re making our venues and experiences more accessible to more people!

Sadler’s Wells is delighted to present accessible work through our Access for All Scheme for people with physical, sensory or cognitive disabilities. Since 2019, Sadler’s Wells has made big improvements to our access offering, increasing our access performances massively in 2022.

Sadler’s Wells offers a range of accessible performances including audio described performances, BSL-interpreted performances, relaxed performances and captioned performances across all our theatres; Sadler’s Wells Theatre, the Lilian Baylis Studio, Peacock Theatre and on Sadler’s Wells Digital Stage.

We have a fantastic Access Working Group which is open to all colleagues at Sadler’s Wells. The aim of the group is to support the development of best practice in relation to Access across the work of Sadler’s Wells, to offer high quality experience to all D/deaf, disabled and neurodivergent people. We’re committed to continued learning and upskilling as a team in accessibility best practice, and to testing new approaches.

During the pandemic between 2020-2021, Sadler’s Wells presented 63 access events, including a relaxed performance of Nutcracker! presented in collaboration with Mousetrap Theatre Productions and New Adventures. So far, there are 27 access performances scheduled for 2022, with many more to be announced.

Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker! © Catherine Ashmore

We’re very grateful to all who attend Sadler’s Wells productions and are proud to offer accessible performances. Regular patrons, Janee Hall and Martin Gloverreflect on their experiences of accessible performances at Sadler’s Wells:

Janee Hall said:

I’ve been coming to Sadler’s Wells since the late 80s, I’ve always been visually impaired, and it’s been phenomenal to see how access has evolved and progressed. The AD opportunity makes the experience come alive for me. I also think that the staff are fantastic at Sadler’s. It’s invaluable when we are able to go on touch tours and get an idea of the on stage props, set and get a chance to see what the lighting states will be like. The AD offerings are great because they are increasing. It’s really important to get the diversity across different types of shows. Now I get to pick and choose what I get to see!


Martin Glover said:

I am so grateful to Sadler’s Wells to be able to take part in different dance activities, because usually in our everyday lives we wouldn’t usually be able to. We are encouraged to take part by Sadler’s Wells, and so we do. Whilst some parts aren’t as easily accessible for the deaf community such as the music, watching the dance is brilliant. I’ve seen quite a few different dance styles at Sadler’s Wells, most are great and others not to my taste, but I really enjoy the diversity and variety on what is on offer to us.

Digital Stage & Website

We create and curate a programme of dance performances, films and experiences, so no matter where you are in the world, you can explore world-class dance online.

Since the launch of our new website in September 2021, accessibility on Digital Stage and on the website has been the key focus.

  • All new Sadler’s Wells Digital Stage works are offered with audio description
  • All video content includes subtitles and captions
  • All video content includes subtitles and captions
    We have introduced user-testing on the website and Digital Stage to improve accessibility
  • Has an access filter on the What’s On page, enabling users to easily identify accessible performances/li>

Assisted Performances

Audio Described Performances

During a performance, a professional Audio Describer explains what’s happening on stage. They talk through all the visual information: sets, costumes, facial expressions and visual jokes. You can listen along to the description through a headset.

Touch Tours

Before the performance, you can go on a touch tour. The Audio Describer will take you backstage, or onto the stage itself, to feel costumes and pieces of the set and learn about the production.

British Sign Language (BSL) Performances

Our BSL performances are interpreted by a BSL signer. They use sign language to communicate what is sung and/or spoken by artists on stage. All our post-show talks are interpreted by a BSL signer.

Relaxed Performances

A relaxed performance is a more laidback theatre experience. The environment is made more comfortable for people on the autistic spectrum, or anyone with sensory or communication needs.

To create a more supportive environment, we:

  • Keep the house lights on throughout the performance
  • Lower the sound levels
  • Provide a designated chill out area
  • Create a visual story that includes details about the narrative, characters and what to expect from the performance and the theatre experience. You can find them at the bottom of the show pages
  • Offer ear defenders, available at the front desk
Captioned Performances and Subtitling

A captioned performance includes captioning, which is text that describes what’s happening on stage. At a captioned performance, the text is displayed on LED screens near or on the stage. We use subtitling at our show talks to make sure people who are D/deaf or hard of hearing can enjoy them. A speech-to-text reporter transcribes the speaker’s words so you can follow what is said and join in the discussion afterwards.

The scheme is free to join and offers discounts and information about upcoming shows at Sadler’s Wells Theatre, Peacock Theatre and Lilian Baylis Studio.

Director of Learning and Engagement, Joce Giles said:

We are delighted to have improved our access offering so greatly across the past year. We acknowledge there is still lots more that can be done, and we look forward to developing our skills, offering and equipment further to ensure as many people are able to enjoy dance.