Access Virginia was recently covered by WAVY news for expanding its efforts to provide open captioning and audio description at live theatrical performances in the greater Williamsburg area. The nonprofit was started in 2012 by Lois Boyle, RMR, a freelancer and agency owner in Newport News, Va., who currently serves as executive director and is a 40-year veteran of court reporting. Boyle was inspired to act after a hard-of-hearing individual whom she was providing CART for desired to see a Broadway show in Norfolk, Va. after being locked out of theatre for twenty years.
“We introduced open captions for theatre in 2012 in Hampton Roads,” said Boyle “The late-deafened community desired to see more shows at smaller local theatres who would find paying for the service a hardship, so I started the nonprofit Access Virginia to cover some of the cost by grants and community donations and sponsorships.”
When asked what the biggest obstacle is for expanding accommodations in Virginia, Boyle said, “[L]ack of understanding by public venues on what open captions are, what CART is, the varied ways to provide effective communication for varied forms of sensory loss and the necessity of accommodations.” Boyle continued by saying that inclusion in our communities is vital and adds to quality of life for persons with hearing loss as well as vision loss.
If businesses or venues are interested in expanding access for hard-of-hearing or visually impaired patrons, Boyle recommends providing assistive listening devices, a loop system, American Sign Language interpreters, and, of course, captions and CART services similar to what Access Virginia provides. For vision loss, they can offer an audio description, which is a narration of the visuals given.