RNIB Scotland volunteer, Milly Halewood,  interviews Kirin Saeed about audio descriptive theatre and how you can access AD performances at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year.
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Audio descriptive theatre is when a trained describer converts the visual aspects of a performance into audio information using minimum words and maximum information.

Describers go through two weeks of intensive training in order to ensure the listeners have the best experience possible.

Recently, I caught up with RNIB Connector, Kirin, to talk to her about audio descriptive theatre and how it’s impacted on her life.

“My first experience of an audio described performance was truly indescribable. The best words I can use are empowering freedom and ‘my theatre experience on my terms’. I really believe audio description in theatre is one of the most exciting and challenging ways in accessing theatre performances. In fact, I believe audio description should be used in everyday situations it is something I always campaign for. As after all it offers true equality and breaks down so many barriers.”

Theatres do not tend to widely advertise audio description, which is why many people with visual impairments don’t know about it. However, the process of booking a ticket for the audio descriptive performance is sleek and straight forward.

All you need to do is ring up the theatre and enquire about the specific dates. Theatres offer large discounts for audio descriptive tickets and, in some cases, they permit people with sight loss to bring companions for free.

The experience begins with a touch tour: where you are guided around the stage to touch the props and get a feel of the set and, occasionally, meet the actors. After this, you are guided to your seat and given a headset through which you can hear the audio description.

Although the audio description is not always perfect, (there can be rare disruptions to the sound quality) it is a fantastic experience and Kirin has said that audio description has “changed my life”.

“It is an amazing way to meet other people suffering with sight loss as well as get more involved in the community.”

For Kirin, it even gave her unique opportunities to travel around the world working with DADAA and Access2Arts which were accessibility organisations in Australia order to improve the audio descriptive experience for herself and others.

“I contacted them prior to visiting Australia to see family as I wished to discover if there were any accessible theatre shows I could attend during my time there. To my delight they took me up on the offer of working with them, it coincided with a conference they were setting up together with revamping their training offer for their describers. It was an incredible experience. They enabled me to sight see so much more of Australia. The whole experience truly increased my confidence. It made me appreciate all we have on offer in Scotland especially in audio described theatre.”

Kirin firmly believes that the only way to better audio description, is to raise awareness about it and to create more demand, so there are more opportunities for others with sight loss in the future.

Fortunately, this year at the Edinburgh fringe festival, there will be over twenty audio described performances (that is compared to there being only a couple last year). There are tickets available on the website, with most venues offering half price tickets for people with sight loss or to bring a carer for free.

This is an amazing chance to try out audio described performances if you have not before. If you would like to find more information on audio described performances at the Edinburgh fringe festival, click here.