Healing Arts Initiative Will Bring Patrons to Broadway's Beautiful | Playbill

News Healing Arts Initiative Will Bring Patrons to Broadway's Beautiful Healing Arts Initiative, or HAI, a non-profit which aims to "remove barriers to arts and culture" for people who are vision impaired, will take a trip to see Beautiful: The Carole King Musical Sept. 9. More than 40 blind patrons will attend the event.

HAI provides audio description service to a variety of Broadway and Off-Broadway shows for free and is only one of a handful of organizations, including the Theatre Development Fund, to provide the service locally.

HAI has recently added the Public Theater, Transport Theatre, New Victory, Primary Stages, Second Stage, Roundabout and Radio City to the list of theatres at which they provide their services. 

Click here to read Playbill's profile of two blind theatregoers who this service is helping. 

In 1981 Dr. Margaret Pfanstiehl of Metropolitan Washington Ear invented the practice of audio description for Arena Stage in Washington, DC. The program Pfanstiehl and her husband Cody developed, which features trained "describers" providing detailed but unobtrusive commentary on everything from the color of a woman's dress to the height of the set's walls, was seen as a major step forward in arts accessibility for the visually impaired. The same techniques would eventually be applied to movies, television and even museums. And, in 2010, President Obama signed the 21st Century Communications & Video Accessibility Act, which mandated that the top four broadcast networks and top five cable networks provide four hours of audio description for their top 25 markets.

HAI's trained "describers" detail the scenery, costumes, characters and action live from the back of the theatre, using a wireless radio. The grant-funded initiative, known as Describe!, even provides discounted tickets and orchestra seating. (Upcoming shows are announced via an email newsletter and on their telephone concierge service. )

For more information, visit HAINYC.org.

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