NYC to help make theaters more accessible for hearing, visually impaired
Hearing- and visually-impaired audience members will soon have a difference experience when attending New York City theater performances with GalaPro.
New York City theater shows are about to become more accessible to the hearing- and visually-impaired communities thanks to a partnership between the city and the mobile app GalaPro.
The Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME) announced on Wednesday a partnership with GalaPro to install the company’s software in qualifying off-Broadway, not-for-profit and independent New York City theaters.
GalaPro is already available in some Broadway theaters, and the app makes the performances more accessible for deaf, hard of hearing, low vision and blind attendees by providing audio descriptions or readable captions via their smartphones.
MOME will provide up to $100,000 to cover the cost of installing GalaPro software in qualifying New York City theaters. The software uses voice recognition technology tailored to live performances in order to display real-time closed captioning, amplification and translation to smartphones and tablets (as well as audio descriptions for visually impaired audience members).
The city says that this technology will “revolutionize the theater-going experience.” More than 185,000 New Yorkers are hard of hearing, according to American Community Survey data.
“New York City is world-renowned for its theatrical offerings, from Broadway to off-Broadway to off, off-Broadway,” said Julie Menin, Commissioner of Media and Entertainment, in a statement. “We are delighted to partner with GalaPro and the City’s theatrical community to ensure that the theatre-going experience is available and enjoyable to all New Yorkers, regardless of their abilities.”
GalaPro has already been installed in all 17 Shubert theaters, all Roundabout theaters on and off Broadway, Lincoln Center's Vivian Beaumont Theater, the Lyric Theatre, and some Nederlander venues. Playwrights Horizons will be the first theater to participate in this city-backed initiative.
New York City theaters will continue to offer special performance dates for the deaf and hard of hearing communities, which use American Sign Language interpreters.
For audience members to use GalaPro in a New York City theater, they will have to be on their cell phone during a performance. The company says this won’t be too much of a distraction to other patrons, though, because the app emits no backlight (the captions appear in either pink or gray) and the smartphone or tablet device must be set to airplane mode and use a dedicated closed WiFi network.
GalaPro also offers language translation as part of its goal to break down “language, cultural and even physical barriers” so that live performances can be enjoyed by anyone. Audience members who use the GalaPro language translation at a New York City theater, rather than just the free closed captioning or audio description, will need to pay a small fee.