After contacting the PNR last week about disability seating at the Charlie White Theatre, Lindy Deas says she’s happy with the response she got from the theatre.
Deas, who has multiple sclerosis and uses a scooter to get around, contacted the Mary Winspear Centre asking if more accessible spaces could be created.
In their reply, theatre manager Philip Sutton said staff could actually increase wheelchair seating from 4 to 6 if required by removing some chairs. In addition, they are considering engineering additional wheelchair seating in the front row, but it would take some time. They offered her two tickets to an upcoming performance for sharing her concerns. Deas was pleased her concerns were heard.
“When I moved here a dozen years ago, I was one of the very few in a scooter,” but now “they are everywhere,” she wrote.
In an follow-up interview, Sutton said there are many ways in which the Charlie White can accommodate patrons, including those with portable oxygen systems, and that staff would work to ensure anyone could see the shows they want to, regardless of any physical concerns. While the accessible spaces can also become conventional seats, he said they are not sold until every person with mobility concerns is accommodated first.
“Every inch of the Mary Winspear Centre is accessible by wheelchair,” said Sutton, including the Charlie White, all the rooms, both stages and backstage, and he has heard praise from wheelchair users. However, Sutton said management welcomes feedback from their patrons and are always looking at ways to improve the Mary Winspear, saying “we have always been very good at adapting on the fly.”
Currently, the accessible seats are on metal plates to make them easy to move, and staff are consulting with engineers to see if it is cost-effective and practical to convert other seats to make them movable in this way.
“We do whatever it takes to make things right,” said Sutton.