How Broadway Is Becoming More Accessible for People With Autism

For people with autism, theater performances can be an overwhelming experience. But since 2011, The Autism Theatre Initiative has been changing that. The program is dedicated to making theater performances a more welcoming experience for people with autism.

The Autism Theatre Initiative’s first show was a modified performance of “The Lion King.” Since that success, it’s worked with many other on and off-Broadway shows. With a team of more than 30 volunteers and autism specialists per show, The Autism Theatre Initiative helps reduce the stress and unpredictability associated with a typical performance. The shows remain narratively intact.

We want [people with autism] to see the same show as their classmates and peers,” Phillip Dallmann, coordinator of The Autism Theatre Initiative told The Atlantic.

These special performances include house lighting modifications and lower volume levels (capped at 90 decibels). They also forgo strobe lights and sudden blackouts. The cast sticks to the script to provide a more predictable experience. Guests can download a narrative of the show so they’ll be prepared for plot twists before arriving. The shows also encourage audience participation and allow guests to move around, play with stress balls and get up throughout the performance.

“Access doesn’t have to be this overwhelming costly endeavor,” Dallmann told The Atlantic.

The Autism Theatre Initiative most recent performance was “Aladdin” on March 8. Visit the Autism Theatre Initiative website for future showtimes and more information.

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