Top accessibility services to consider at performance venues

By: Sara Thielman, Assistant House Manager, The Smith Center for the Performing Arts

Individuals of all ages look forward to an evening out at a concert or theater production. Some might think they aren’t able to share in this kind of outing, however, if they experience conditions such as failing vision or blindness, hearing loss, declining motor abilities or if they rely on a wheelchair.

Fortunately, it’s possible for them to enjoy shows as much as anyone else.

A wide variety of services and tools are available to accommodate individuals with these conditions, to ensure audiences of all ages and abilities experience live performances.

Many venues, including The Smith Center for the Performing Arts in Las Vegas, offer comprehensive accessibility services to people of all ages at no extra charge.

Listed below are highly recommended accessibility services to explore at future shows and concerts.

Wheelchair Access
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires for places of public accommodation and recreation facilities to be accessible to individuals with disabilities, which includes a mandate for wheelchair accessibility seating. Many even provide wheelchairs on site.
The Smith Center, for instance, provides wheelchairs upon request to guests’ car doors, and will assist if guests bring their own wheelchairs. The facility is also fully ADA compliant, including special wheelchair seating at all price points, which can be booked online or by phone.

Parking Lot Assistance
At some venues, just the walk from the parking lot to the front door can be a bit of a hike. This can pose a challenge for some. That’s why various venues, on top of providing accessible parking, offer assistance. At The Smith Center, a several-seated golf cart patrols the parking lot before shows, to provide a free ride to the front door to any who need it.

Audio Descriptors
Many live venues increasingly offer audio descriptors, professionals who describe all of the visuals in a performance – including set pieces, costumes, dances and more – to audience members who are blind or visually impaired. At The Smith Center, which offers this service for Broadway shows, guests can listen to the descriptions through a special earpiece.

Handheld Closed Captioning
Hearing impaired individuals need not worry about enjoying live shows, thanks to handheld closed captioning that allows them to follow along with every word. Many venues offer this with a wireless device that provides verbatim closed captions in real time during live shows. Available at The Smith Center’s Broadway shows, this handheld device displays dialogue, lyrics and even sound effects.

Assistive Listening Devices
Individuals with hearing aids may want to ask venues if they offer hearing loop systems, which magnetically transmit sound to hearing aids and cochlear implants. The Smith Center also offers an infrared assistive audio system, which enhances all sound emitted through a microphone to individuals with hearing aids.

Open Captioning
Open captioning can further accommodate the hearing impaired. This service displays a live production’s words and sounds on a large screen for viewers to read. This often takes special preparation. The Smith Center, which provides this service for Broadway shows upon special request, utilizes a court reporter to type the live text with immediate precision.

ASL Interpreters
Many live venues offer American Sign Language interpreters for specific shows and events, or will provide them upon request. The Smith Center offers this for specific showings of Broadway productions, for instance. Venues often recommend for patrons to express ahead of time if they wish to use this service, so they will be seated in close proximity to the interpreter.

For more information about accessibility services at The Smith Center, visit or call 702-749-2000.


The above article was contributed by The Smith Center for the Performing Arts in Downtown Las Vegas.


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