Sydney Opera House launches expanded access strategic plan

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Friday, 4 March 2016 10:19am

One of the world’s leading arts venues, the Sydney Opera House, has launched a significantly expanded access strategic plan, covering all elements of disability access for the venue and its productions.

Opera Australia's Luke Gabbedy performs with Auslan choir conductor and actor Alex Jones at the 2016 Access Launch. Image credit: Daniel Boud

The three-year Access Strategic Plan focuses on five key areas: the building, workplace, operations and customer service, performances and experiences, and community leadership.

The plan was launched by NSW Minister for Disability Services John Ajaka MLC, who described the NSW Government’s approach in “ensuring that people with a disability have the same access to all aspects of the community”. He sees the Sydney Opera House’s approach as a “forward-thinking plan and program [that] complement this”.

The access section of the Sydney Opera House website outlines the range of programs and services that it offers to support accessibility.

The plan is managed by Accessibility Manager Jenny Spinak, who has significantly expanded the range and scope of the program. Particular areas of development beyond customer service and making information accessible include the involvement of the resident companies and looking at new audiences to engage with.

An example of this is the Dancing Connections series, which is a collaboration between Dance for Parkinson’s Australia, the Opera House and the Australian Ballet. It allows people with Parkinson’s disease to attend a dance workshop and then see a related dance performance.

The Opera House also runs special programs for children with an intellectual disability, physical disabilities and other accessible performances.

Media Access Australia CEO Alex Varley commended Sydney Opera House on its leadership role.

“Jenny Spinak and her team have moved far beyond captioning, audio description and alternative format information, and properly integrated all of the Sydney Opera House’s functions and users into a full access program.

“The pioneer and world-leader in this area has always been The Kennedy Center in Washington DC. I think Sydney Opera House is definitely in that league and a good example of what can be done with the proper support and backing at every level.”

The launch featured a number of sample performances, including a duet from The Barber of Seville between Opera Australia’s Luke Gabbedy and Auslan choir conductor Alex Jones. Jones also collaborated with the Sydney Philharmonia Choir in a fully-accessible performance of Handel’s Messiah that was presented by the Sydney Opera House and live streamed last December.

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