Stage Door News

Toronto: Toronto Fringe prioritizes accessibility in 2019

Friday, June 28, 2019

Ontario’s largest theatre festival is entering its 31st season this year and is making the festival more accessible than ever for its 90,000+ patrons. With increased box office accessibility, website tools, comprehensive venue accessibility information, a communications overhaul, and changes to staffing and hiring practices, Fringe’s goal is to better reflect our commitment to independence and dignity for all, including Deaf, Mad and disability-identified patrons.

Working with Accessibility Ontario document expert, Barbara Moody, Fringe has published its first fully accessible, screen reader-friendly Assisted Performances Supplement. The Assisted Performances Supplement, a companion to our Fringe Program Guide, highlights the 35 companies offering 84 individual Audio Described, ASL Interpreted, or Relaxed performances.

The Toronto Fringe is committed to creating an inclusive experience for all patrons, staff, volunteers and artists. Fringe continues to work with the community to identify, prevent and remove barriers so a fulfilling experience can be enjoyed by all. Fringe is grateful to the Metcalf Foundation for supporting the organization-wide access initiatives.

What else is the Fringe doing to make a more open, accessible festival?

Fringe welcomes people with disabilities who are accompanied by a personal support person. Personal support workers will be welcomed for free.

Priority seating is available for patrons to ensure good sight lines for ASL Described shows, for those who need a little extra time to get to their seats or for any other access need. Patrons are asked to arrive at least 20 minutes before to ensure early access.

Service animals are welcome in all areas of our venues that are open to the public. If you frequently travel with a service animal, you can now include that information in your Fringe box office account.

Detailed accessibility information will be available on our website for each main venue and POSTSCRIPT, the Fringe patio. Information includes door widths, ramp specifications, and accessible washroom details. General accessibility information for site-specific venues can also be found online.

These guides help patrons get acquainted with a venue before they visit. The guides will be available online for all main venues, some site-specific venues, and POSTSCRIPT, the Fringe patio. They include directions to the venue and information on what patrons can expect when they get there.

These items, including weighted blankets, fidgets, and noise-dampening ear muffs, are available for anyone that needs a little extra support processing all the excitement at POSTSCRIPT, our busy Fringe patio.

All points of service at the Fringe are now equipped with magnifying tools as well as pen and paper. At performance venues, Fringe staff let patrons know that seating is beginning through visual signage as well as an audio call. Staff and volunteers receive training on serving patrons with disabilities.

Patrons can now update their box office accounts with information about their access needs online or over the phone. This information will be used by Fringe’s Box Office and Front of House teams to better serve patrons with access needs.

Fringe Executive Director, Lucy Eveleigh, says: “For the last few years The Toronto Fringe has made access for all a priority, it is included in our values and our strategic plan. It is very simple – when we say we want our Festival to be inclusive, we mean it. We know that we still have a long way to go and we are open to feedback along the way, but we are striving to find ways for everyone to be a part of our Festival and we will do the work to ensure that can happen.”

A Note About Fringe Venues:

Venues, including main and site specifics, have varying degrees of physical accessibility. 

Some patrons may experience barriers (due to ramp inclines, lack of automatic doors, etc.) even at the most accessible of venues depending on access needs. To better serve our patrons we seek to provide the most up to date and accurate information about our venues so that patrons can make informed decisions. To that end, detailed access information about main venues will be available online during the festival. 

The Fringe is striving to identify and choose the most accessible venue options available in Toronto within our means while also encouraging our existing venues to meet and exceed AODA requirements. This is an ongoing process and we appreciate feedback and suggestions from the public. 

While developing these programs and policies, Fringe has relied heavily on input from Deaf, Mad or disability-identified “Fringers.” Fringe always welcomes and actively solicits feedback, as we strive to make the festival more accessible.

Read the Toronto Fringe’s Accessibility Manifesto here.

Read the Toronto Fringe’s Accessibility Policy here.